Matthew McNulty returns to Sunday night costume drama this week as Daniel Bate – an Irish mechanic who’s seen both sides of the manufacturing divide as a committed working men’s organiser and an aspiring entrepreneur.
Daniel has a fierce temper, a keen nose for injustice, and ridiculously long eyelashes. He is clearly a good man surrounded by a bunch of bastards.
Channel 4’s new series The Mill is all about bastards. The owners of the mill are bastards. The mill supervisors and “overlookers” are bastards, and most of the urchin-like, 9 year old mill workers are quite literally bastards – their teenage mothers having been routinely assaulted in the privy by evil men with huge bushy eyebrows.
Worst of all, the staff canteen is run by bastards. These people are bastards of such magnitude they don’t even give you a plate for your lunch. They simply shovel great dollops of piping hot gruel into your loosely cupped hands. Most of it goes on the floor and is eaten by the rats, who are also bastards.
Rick Stein might be sophisticated and well-traveled enough to appreciate that style of rustic finger food, but personally I’d hate it.
When you get a short break from work, the main leisure activity at The Mill is fighting. You fight over anything. You have to, because there’s no smart phones or video games and the days are long and monotonous. Fighting is also a good way of keeping warm in the absence of central heating.
The most cheerful incident in episode one of The Mill is when little Tommy gets his hand caught in a loom, and then has to have it amputated at the elbow with a rusty saw. Does he complain? No, bless him. Because little Tommy knows how lucky he is to get that kind of free health treatment in the early stages of the industrial revolution.
Meanwhile the free-thinking, liberal mill owners sit drinking expensive brandy and discussing the abolition of slavery, while conveniently forgetting it’s their own slave labour force that make it possible for them to buy the expensive brandy in the first place.
There’s also a great deal of coughing. They cough when they wake up, they cough while they’re working, and they cough while piping hot gruel is being shoveled into their loosely cupped hands. They even cough between coughs. Life is hard, gloomy, repetitive, noisy and completely unsuitable for Primetime viewing on a bright, sunny Sunday night in July.
Tell all that to the kids today, and they won’t believe you. Actually, they won’t even hear you, because they’ll be watching and listening to something more bloody cheerful on their iPads. Little bastards.