Grace Dent on TV: Peaky Blinders, BBC2 – This is the least frightening crime gang name ever

This new BBC drama with a daft title is big, beautiful, Brummie... and a bit bloody slow

“Those… Peaky… Blinders!!!” fumes C I Campbell, somehow apopleptic in the face of the silliest, least frightening crime gang name ever. Seriously, it's awful. The Goombay Dance Band would have more chance of extracting money from me via menaces. As a historical fact it should have been politely fudged, not made the title of BBC1's new epic drama. Peaky Blinders sounds like a winsome, over-promising tag-line from a new double-lash intensifying Maybelline mascara. Peaky Blinders sounds like an eager but nauseating gang of child sleuths in an Enid Blyton tale of intense derring-do.

Peaky Blinders, in fact, is a Brummie answer to Boardwalk Empire – protection rackets, illegal betting, miscellaneous gangster folly – with all its gore, gall and grimness. The gang stitch razor blades all over their hats. They'd literally have your eye out. This was one of the more interesting ideas of the first episode, in which – aside from a lot of family arguing featuring the very excellent Helen McCrory and Paul Anderson in full roar, plus some beautifully shot scenes with Cillian Murphy and his racehorse – there wasn't a great deal going on. Peaky Blinders, much like Boardwalk Empire, is big, beautiful but a bit bloody slow.

They've put a daft 1920s moustache on Anderson, whom I adore. He has been given the part of the slightly stupid brother who doesn't quite understand race-fixing, which is a waste as Anderson excels at playing the thoroughly terrifying man who is seven steps ahead of everyone else and would feed you to pigs without a second thought.

Of course the problem with any 1920s gangster drama is that it can only ever feature a finite amount of burly men, chasing other squash-nosed gangster types, in very shonky cars no quicker than a milk float while the rest of the non-gangster population sits covered in soot, dying in childbirth or dealing with First World War post- traumatic shock. Aside from the alpha plotline where the Peaky Blinders – no, still looks silly to write, even at this stage – have stolen a number of machine guns and angered Winston Churchill, the majority of the fun to be had was from listening to the entire cast wrestle with a Birmingham accent, struggling to keep it on the right side of dark, Brummie and brooding (like a tour-battered UB40 roadie), and away from squeaky, jovial Vic and Bob Slade-in-Residence territory. Coincidentally Nick Cave provides the theme tune in full Shooting Stars “pub singer mode”, full of intense, guttural yelps, although you can never be sure he's not just really drunk and doing “The Locomotion” by Kylie.

Sam Neill playing C I Campbell is so bloody furious about those damn Peaky Blinders and their dangerous hats that he can only remember to be Irish for some of his scenes. But who can blame him? These people aren't just machine gun thieves, they're skilled milliners. What will they attach to their hats next? Cactus plants? Pecky birds? Cat fur to upset the allergic? These Peaky Blinders must be stopped.

The remainder of the episode gave us a lot of maddening moments, there for dramatic purposes. When the fierce Shelby matriach Aunt Polly learns about the stolen machine guns she flies into a rage, slapping her chest with her bare hands. Polly, I want to say, you're the leading female in Birmingham's most notorious crime family, who explained to us earlier that you took the reins of the whole operation during the war. Why are you behaving like Scarlett O'Hara over some dodgy machine guns?

Meanwhile, the Shelby clan's youngest daughter is secretly dating a communist of whom her brothers disapprove. Despite being a born-and-bred gangster brat, she is so lost in love she divulges their secrets merrily. Birds, eh? Later a mysterious Irish girl turns up to demand a job at the rowdy local pub where gangsters go to cough up phlegm and throw glasses. She's told by the landlord she'll probably get raped but is adamant this is the job for her. By the close of the episode we learn she's actually working undercover for C I Campbell, but – via a lot of smouldering looks in the direction of Cillian Murphy – we guess she's going to find herself emotionally and professionally torn in the face of such a hunk.

Peaky Blinders proves women shouldn't worry themselves with this gangster business, or, for that matter, with jobs at all. In fact if Al Capone had been Val Capone then The Chicago Outfit would have stayed out of jail for about six weeks before Val accidentally blurted out the framework of her bootlegging operation at her Tuesday Well Woman seminar. I shall tune in again next week, as Murphy is enormously lovely to watch as he winds up every villain north of the Watford Gap. The problem with being a hardman is there's always someone harder who wants to punch you. Not the face, though, not his beautiful face.

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London