Cordon, BBC4, TV review: Flemish language medical thriller coughs up its narrative phlegm

Never underestimate the appeal of a familiar story set in a less familiar place

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The Independent Culture

You might assume that the new occupant of BBC4’s foreign slot would be drama of a highbrow calibre. Alas, subtitles do not always signal sophistication. Cordon is not, as I first assumed, a premature profile of the comedian-turned-late-night-chatshow-host James Corden (that’s what BBC Three is for). It’s a Flemish-language medical thriller that coughs up its narrative phlegm in the same quarantine zone as the 2011 film Contagion.

Who takes a class of mischievous primary-age schoolchildren to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) for a fun day out? The teacher in Cordon, that’s who. This credulity stretch got us off to a bad start and there was more to come. Despite supposedly being a centre of international excellence, NIID apparently had no contingency plan in case of an outbreak, like the one in this opening episode. It was up to Sabine Lommers (Mieke De Groot), a severe headmistress type from the ministry for public health, to create some order by setting up a cordon sanitaire in the city centre. And then it was up to those caught within the cordon to fend for themselves.

Predictable stuff, but never underestimate the appeal of a familiar story set in a less familiar place. This time we’re taking a trip to Antwerp, city of amber beer, medieval architecture and multicultural tensions.

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