Tuesday, October 24, 2000 by David Agnew
The internet – a signifier for progress or simply a rancid melting pot of cyberjunk? If the new Information Age was intended to usher in innovations in mass communication rather more exciting than the flurry of onscreen e-mail chat we currently understand by it, then the idea of a television drama centred around the web is a beguiling concept on paper. Much touted as “a stunning piece of modern new drama really pushing at the boundaries of innovation and experience”, the five episodes of Attachments transmitted so far simply do not encourage such optimism. Whilst the first episode partly indicated that Tony Garnett had found a suitable new idiom in which to rework the successful formulae of This Life and The Cops, subsequent editions have unfortunately given credence to the law of diminishing returns.
Set around a fledgling internet start-up firm, See-Thru, the series has indeed been through something of a baptism of fire – having spawned a site where technogeeks with no conception of dramatic artifice can fulminate against the myriad inaccuracies in its portrayal and generally tear the programme to shreds. Yet for all the programme’s apparent commitment to jargon and verisimilitude – “I could always trace-route her IP” (whatever that means) – the contemporary influence of the internet seems to be a lazy peg on which to hang its dramatic content. Alter the subject matter to say, computer games, and Attachments could quite easily have been set or made in the late 1980’s. The story of young mavericks appropriating values of entrepeneuralism and expertise with an innovative new business venture during those tumultuous years of boom and bust might arguably have made for rather more interesting viewing.
As it is, the narrative thrust of the series as the site founders, Mike and Luce’s, endeavour to secure funding and support for the project has been punctuated by a succession of tawdry set pieces. A sex scene and full frontal nudity in the first two minutes of episode one, a Sapphic coupling in a club toilet, a shot of a filled condom on the floor, tequila-slamming, coke-snorting, dope and webcams in the toilets in equal measure, references to the Queen Mother, porn sites. Far too much of Attachments is principally reliant on opportunistic point scoring rather than the construction of genuinely engaging contemporary drama. Even the apparent innovation of a website accompanying the series, ever changing according to the vicissitudes of e-commerce, has been utterly blunted by a whole summer of Big Brother, rendering this novelty little more than a pointless gimmick. It doesn’t help that most of the archetypal characters, from the requisite bespectacled virgin nerd to the token lesbian, are too vapid and two-dimensional to be taken seriously as genuine human beings, much less to like.
Ultimately, unlike the dreadful Tinsel Town, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong here, it’s just that it’s been done so much better beforehand. The central concept is sound enough, the acting is fine (though there isn’t a budding Jack Davenport or Daniela Nardini in sight) yet too much of the whole feels basically soulless and empty.