"Up North" Review: Deep Into Amazon Prime
What The Hell Is Going On?
Up North is a sitcom about two Northern neighbours, one family is posh and the other is 'common'. It's basically about how they live their lives and, to put it bluntly, the strange shit they get up to.
There really isn't much else to say about what the hell is going on, because at times it's very hard to tell what's actually going on, with the premature or late cuts, and awkward camera shots.
I could happily look past the poor production quality of the show, if only the writing was funnier, and a tad more coherent. The writing feels as if each episodes screenplay is a first draft.
Dean Sills, star of "Up North"
Do The Actors Even Know What They're Doing?
Bad jokes can be funny, just look at one-liner comedians who've made whole careers out of cringe worthy Christmas cracker jokes, But due to the quality of the acting in Up North, almost all of the jokes/punch-lines miss their mark.
It's clear to me that most people who participated in the show are in fact non-actors, and that's fine, many good short films have been produced with non-actors, or unprofessionally trained actors. I don't mean to 'toot my own horn', but, look at me for example, I have no formal training in acting or film production, and yet I'm still capable of delivering a well timed, and coherent performance, along with a semi-professionally produced film. And no, I don't have any evidence for the previous statement, so you'll just have to take my word for it. But the point remains that the acting in Up North was not endearingly sub-par, like Tommy Wiseau in The Room. It was just awkward.
Dean Sills plays Mick Smith, a member of the 'common' family, and he's one of the leading characters in the show. Besides Up North, Dean Sills' most notable role is in The Hooligan Factory, a film about football hooliganism, where he simply plays a 'hooligan'. The film got rated a 4.9 on IMDB, and looking through his IMDB page, most of the other films he's been in are rated around the 5.0 mark too. He does, however, have 30 credits and counting, playing mostly extras, but that means he has somehow managed to make a career out of his poor acting. Fair play to the man, it's just a shame when he got the opportunity to show off his acting skills in a leading role, he fucked it up. It's not even that he's a horrific actor, it's mostly just his timing, and timing is probably more important in comedy than any other genre of film.
Carley Motley, plays Rosie, Mick Smiths wife, her performance isn't actually too bad, she's no Judi Dench, but she's probably one of the best actors in the whole show. Her character doesn't get many gags, or laughs, and I think that may be why her performance appears to be so much better than Sills. To be fair to Motley, when her character does get the laugh, she does do a fairly decent job of delivering in the most funny way her capabilities will allow. So, well done to her. She has only 3 credits on IMDB, one of which besides Up North is Tears In The Dust which was produced by the same guy as Up North, so it's clear she has not yet really explored her acting abilities to the fullest. It would be interesting to see what else she could do, but I certainly don't expect to see her in the next big Marvel movie - Maybe she'd have a shot in a DC movie though, their standard aren't very high.
It might seem like I'm being a bit harsh on the show so far, but that's because I literally couldn't wipe the cringe off my face throughout watching it.
Director of "Up North", Steve Call
Steve Call Makes Some Bad Calls
Steve Call is the man who directed, and produced Up North, and he certainly did a shoddy job of it.
The camera work was awkward and uncomfortable, the lighting was forever changing from shot to shot, the audio wasn't properly recorded or red-dubbed, I just don't know what the hell happened. I don't, however, want to get too much into the technical failures of the show, I'd instead like to talk about the way he structured the scenes. I'd specifically like to talk about one scene, and why it could have potentially been funny, but was ruined by poor structure.
The scene took place in the very first episode of Up North, and was situated in The Angel, Mick Smiths local pub. Mick and his group of friends buy a round of pints, and almost as soon as they take a sip of the drinks, they instantly spit it right back out on the floor. I was shocked. This seemed so random, there was absolutely no context as to why they spat the drinks out. The characters point out that the drink tastes absolutely disgusting, but the drink tasting bad didn't feel like it gave the characters justification to spin the drinks out everywhere. It just wasn't funny. Then, after this has taken place, we're given the reason why the drink tasted so horrific. The dopey barmaid, had been spraying polish into the glasses before handing them over to be filled up and served. She did this with out rinsing them out properly, and due to her lack of awareness, she didn't realise this would be an issue.
This scene isn't hugely funny the way it's presented; but I speculate that if we were shown what the dopey barmaid was doing before we were shown Mick and his friends spitting their drinks out first, the joke would have been coherent enough to at least generate a small chuckle from its audience.
There are loads of similar scenes in the show like this, that could have been improved hugely just by switching the structure around.
Up North is a great example of how not to do comedy, and it's definitely worth a watch if you want to learn about all the don't's of comedy, and film making.
Maybe I would have appreciated the show a little more if I were a Northerner myself, because someone must have enjoyed it, as there are two season of the show. I just hope they don't make a Down South spinoff and expose us strange farmers to the world.