With the sheer amount of high quality programmes airing on TV at the moment, it’s a tough market to break in to. From Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead, Stranger Things to Orange is the New Black, the competition is better than it’s ever been. So to crack the market, to nudge your way in and make your mark, you really have to wow people. Unfortunately, The Collection doesn’t show too many signs that it’s going to do this.
Set in Paris in 1947, the aftermath of WW2, the programme centres around the Sabine fashion house, and its creator Paul Sabine. Working with his brother Claude, a designer, Sabine has been tasked with bringing world fashion back to Paris; New York is trying to steal the title of the home of fashion, and in a post-world war country that needs rebuilding, France believes one of the ways is through fashion. It’s a thin plot at best, and one that is difficult to imagine lasting a particularly long time.
Sabine, played by Richard Coyle, acts very well, and really makes the best of what he’s given, but is let down by a mediocre script. However, it isn’t just the script that’s mediocre – it’s really the entire programme. Most importantly, The Collection doesn’t know what it wants to be. It tries to be dark and sinister, it tries to be light hearted and funny, it tries to be serious and compelling, and it doesn’t really achieve any of these things. The changes of tone from one scene to the next are not cohesive, there’s no flow to them. The characters themselves range from sinister to happy to good to bad, without much rhyme or reason.
Throughout this first episode, there’s too heavy a reliance on clichés. The greatest of these clichés that struck me was a line from Sabine, “everything I do is for this family.” In an age with a programme like Game of Thrones, where we have some of the greatest ever TV families working for the good of the family, to have this line thrown in to something like The Collection is a bit tacky. It doesn’t tie in with the episode, it doesn’t tie in with Sabine as a character, it’s almost as if the writers have simply thrown it in to capitalise on the success of other programmes.
Another thing The Collection suffers from is anti-climaxes – and to be talking about these in a plural sense, in the first episode, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series. The show opens with an unknown body being buried, then we cut to three days earlier (another cliché). Towards the end of the episode we find out who has been killed and is being buried – it’s really no one. A minor character who really has added no value to the episode, and so will not be missed. Another anti-climax centres around an ongoing trial. We first meet Sabine stuck in a taxi in the middle of a protest – there are burning effigies, people chanting for blood. The trial of a French journalist accused of collaboration with the Germans is due to start the following day. Interesting right? Well don’t get too interested, because this is basically it. Aside from a few shots of the front page of a paper covering the trial, this is all we get to know. It’s really disappointing.
All of this isn’t to say that there aren’t parts of the programme that aren’t good. As I said earlier, Richard Coyle plays the part of Sabine excellently, though within tight constraints. The scenes and settings are absolutely fantastic – the style of the programme is great. The Paris of 1947 is really captured brilliantly in the backgrounds, the extras, it’s beautiful to look at. And overall, despite all its flaws it is fairly entertaining. In another lifetime it might be something I’d watch, and enjoy, however in this one I won’t be. The problem The Collection suffers from is that the competition is too strong; there are so many great programmes around at the moment, that not all of them can be watched. This is one I’ll drop in favour of others, and that I won’t be especially sad to.
• The Collection will launch on Amazon Prime in the UK on Friday September 2, with new episodes available every Friday