Jack Chambers (Robson Green) and his wife Kay (Beth Goddard), with daughter Maggie (Julie Mallam) and son Dan (Sean McMahon) in tow, flee the complications of their old life in the city for an American-style new start in the upscale suburb of Hadleigh Corner, where post-dot-com-bust-style yuppiedom is thriving. In Take Me, BBC America’s current vehicle for Robson Green, everyone is throwing herself or himself at the next available neighbor. They can do so because everyone is beautiful, rich, relatively young, and everyone knows how to play the game.
Jack is a venture capitalist by day (when he happens to go to work), winning corporate takeover games with his buddy Kevin Denton (Gilly Gilchrist). Jack is also at war with his father Don (Keith Barron), a retired union stevedore, who takes personally his son’s present corporate “war games” take-over of the shipyard from which he has retired. Buddy Kevin is also having an affair with Jack’s wife.
Back home in the ‘burbs, neighborly house keys are being served in candy dishes—pick a wife, any wife, for the night. Jack has a problem, and hesitates. But why? As everyone keeps reminding him, it’s all “only a game”—just like his work. Meanwhile, the yuppie children are suiting up and going door-to-door, trick-or-treating. Suburban London of 2004 looks a lot like suburban New York in 1954, before Diane Arbus showed up with her camera’s eye.
Each Take Me episode opens with an oddly Mystery-style vignette as establishing shot. Two men, one of whom is Jack Chambers, are seen scurrying across a field in fog and shadow, car headlights cutting across the darkness. Wielding picks and shovels, they surreptitiously dig and hack furiously at the ground. Episode 1 spends most of its energy setting up the master plot of the miniseries. And just when it appears it is never going to take off, Episode 2 floods the viewer with life and wit and wry charm, as well as some disturbingly perverse imagery and suggestive subtext. At times it feels like Stepford Wives with fembots. The sex parties have an edge straight out of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And sending little Dan out into kiddies’ trick-or-treating in a festive vampire costume, black cape, flashing red plastic vampire ears and all, as foreshadowing to an evening of intrigue and ugly sexual jealousies, is spellbinding.
The rapid succession of characters, actively intermingling with each other and with ties outside of the cozy little corner of home county suburbia, can be as confusing as keeping track of the characters in a Tolstoy novel. As soon as characters and their primary relationships are established, the story takes a David Lynch turn, as new subterranean levels of relationships, sexual game-playing, and confidences are revealed. The only thing respectable about Hadleigh Corner is its postal code.
In perhaps the most electrifying scene in Episode 2, Jack and daughter Maggie sit at a red light, regulating flow through an urban road construction site. The camera follows their point of view, out the windshield, wipers slapping, rain pouring down, stuck in traffic-jammed tunnel vision with an unavoidable view onto a luxury hotel parking lot. The pair cannot avoid seeing Kay (Jack’s wife and Maggie’s mother) in the hotel parking lot, as she embraces in a passionate farewell kiss (from an obvious tryst in the hotel) with Kevin Denton, Jack’s friend, from whom Jack is withholding corporate gaming secrets.
The series promises great entertainment, with a fashionable mix of wank and swoon, flash and tack. In a seemingly self-conscious ‘70s parody, the viewer knows everything in this run-away �berconsumer society cannot be “fun and games.” They never were. And, the real fun, it appears, will be finding out if the poor little rich kids will ever grow up.