Thanks to the sales, I was finally able to acquire the collected boxset of Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach for a fiver! The concept is a very intriguing and innovative one… first you watch a sitcom about a bunch of creatives struggling behind the scenes to produce a soap-opera called “Echo Beach”, then straight afterwards you watch the very episode they were discussing and (presumably) smile and nod at all the in-jokes (such as an unwanted stuffed panda toy being discarded in a bin by the soap’s producer, then cropping up as a prop in the soap itself). Unfortunately, I think it’s a concept that works better in theory than in practice, because there’s a fundamental flaw in showing viewers the arbitrary and/or compromised decision-making that went into certain plot twists and character arcs, then immediately asking them to care about those same twists and arcs as if it wasn’t all some sort of ironic meta-wink. No doubt EB picked up some fans as a series in itself, but it’s no particular surprise that it was scrapped so that MW could return for a second series as a standard workplace comedy.
The reason why I was so keen to see it in the first place was to catch up with Chandeep Uppal’s work. Sadly, despite the fact that she once starred in (and ably carried) a well-regarded film of her own, she isn’t given nearly enough screen-time in EB. There’s a joke in MW about her character being made “ethnic” at the last minute, simply to fill a quota, which makes it hard to shake off the sense that she’s just there to be an out-of-focus brown face in the background. She does eventually get a strand or two of her own, but it all comes a little late in the day… and we’re expected to swallow the notion that her character is an “ugly duckling” who none of the boys notice, despite the fact that she’s clearly the cutest girl in town and works in the local pub. Because gorgeous barmaids hardly ever get chatted up in real life, right? She does eventually get a romantic interest, of sorts, but he’s a creepy, self-obsessed falling-down-drunk who previously had a one-night-stand with his best mate’s romantic interest, so I can’t say I was rooting for them to get together.
I know Anita & Me wasn’t exactly a breakout blockbuster of Bend It Like Beckham proportions, but Uppal doesn’t get an opening title credit or a photo on the boxset’s packaging, which is pretty shoddy considering that it’s a four-disc set plastered with photos. Oops, tell a lie, there is an out-of-focus shot of the back of her head in a photo of a male actor who only appears for a single episode! She has a few extremely fleeting mute cameos in MW too, but is never referred to by name in any of the episodes… the writers talk about her character sometimes, but never Uppal herself. Shame, shame, shame.
According to IMDb she was last seen as a terminal patient in Casualty… I didn’t see the episodes in question, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a super glamorous role. Sigh.