Scrambling to fill pandemic holes, TV people searched internationally.
Occasionally, they found winners. NBC had Canada’s “Transplant”; CW has Canada’s “Coroner” and New Zealand’s “Wellington Paranormal.” And PBS discovered a couple four-hour gems – England’s “Us” and now Scotland’s “Guilt” (shown here).
The latter aired two years ago, as the first original project for the new BBC Scotland. Now it runs in two-hour chunks (9-11 p.m.) Sept. 5 and 12 on PBS’ “Masterpiece,” filling a drama dead zone.
This was easy to overlook. It has no familiar stars or characters; occasionally, its accents are a bit much. But beyond that is a sharp script tackled by skilled actors.
“Guilt” seems to start as a comedy-drama. Two brothers are driving back from a wedding. The older one, Max, considers a cash bar to be a Ponzi scheme; both visited that bar too frequently.
Then an old man walks in front of the car and is killed. Jake (who was driving his brother’s car at the time) wants to call the police; Max prefers an elaborate cover-up.
We seem to have a familiar story – ordinary folks, over their heads in hiding a crime. That can be serious (the 1998 “A Simple Plan,” for instance) or fun. But late in the first half, we begin to suspect there are other schemes going on; in the second half, they all collide.
Yes, that gets excessive; “Guilt” is guilty of lots of coincidences. But this is saved by the beautifully drawn central characters.
Max is a lawyer, with fancy office, big house, sleek wife. Jake is single, running a record shop his brother financed; he even writes new liner notes for some of the albums. He needs a new life … and this pretend one – befriending the old man’s niece – is better than anything else.
We like Jake instantly. He’s an innocent (albeit a lying one) in a sea of scoundrels. Even when the plot twists become excessive, “Guilt” is worth watching.