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Bugs: Series Three
cast: Jesse Birdsall, Jaye Griffiths, Craig MacLachlan, Paula Hunt, and Jan Harvey

directors: John Stroud, Gwennan Sage, and Matthew Evans

490 minutes (PG) 1997
Revelation DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Thomas Cropper
It's not often that the BBC really go hell for leather for the bottom of the market, popcorn entertainment kind of dramas, but when they do the results are almost always endearingly naïve. They just can't pull it off and keep a straight face - as if they're somewhat ashamed of what they're putting on and hope that if they make it seem like they've only put a moment's thought into it, people will somehow understand.

In the mid 1990s they seemed to have a bit of a spurt of these kinds of ideas. Perhaps it was the result of a practical joke or a late night discussion aided by some nefarious substances, but suddenly the drama department were cobbling together any old idea, slapping a release date on it and shoving it out there.

Bugs was a perfect case in point. The premise was ludicrous, the acting was laughable and the action almost comic, but for some reason it's almost impossible to hate it. Perhaps it's our love for the underdog, perhaps we can't help but admire the sheer balls it takes to willingly put something that crass on our TV screens, but whatever the reason, the show was, astoundingly, a success. This three-disc boxset represents the third series of a show, which should have been strangled at birth.

So why do we have to like this show? First of all, they looked around for their hero and the person they chose was Henry from Neighbours. He would be part of a team of techno types who would fight gangsters, terrorists and generally villains of all kinds wherever they could find them. Secondly there were the villains; in this series there's Leslie Ash, done up like a turkey in leather pants as an evil modern artist, some pantomime gangsters and some Eastern European soldiers who sound like they come from somewhere just east of Kensington.

It's clear that this is an attempt to emulate some of America's successful shows such as The X-Files, but it falls down because, at its heart, nobody really believes in the premise. Actors, writers and directors alike all seem to view it as nothing more than simply a bit of mindless entertainment and so they rattle carelessly through every episode. Had this been American everything would have been taken to the limit. The action would have been bigger, more intense, more... everything. It may be trashed, but they'd be darned if they let you know it. Every line would have been delivered with severe intensity, every shot carefully constructed and every car chase pitched to the maximum and when the girl who's good with computers plucks up a rocket launcher and obliterates the villain as she tries to flee in her Ferrari, they'd have just dared you to laugh.

But for all that it seems unfair to be too harsh. It may be crass, it may be rubbish, but the worst thing of all is that it's very hard to turn it off.

DVD extras: background info, profiles of main characters, notes about allies, foes, and organisations.
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