This town the place to see

Some stories are universal.

That's why we have love stories, coming-of-age stories, rags-to-riches stories, and stories where sports teams/policemen/adolescents/small animals/animated toys/Romanians/convection heaters/albatrosses/Occupy Dunedin activists/anti-stadium types somehow overcome the odds and win the national championship.

The Town is none of those.

Instead The Town takes on that age-old tale of the fellow who has moved from his small town to the big city, and never looks back.

Then, because of some stroke of luck/bad luck/poor judgement/death/birth/random Romanians is forced to return.

It is a story many in Dunedin will know.

How many of us have longed to leave a city we regard as an unpleasant semi-rural backwater with underarm odour and the charm of a cesspit, then find ourselves mysteriously back here because of the unexpected release of some unlikely hormone that develops only in the middle-aged, which suddenly twists the brain into thinking: it's a great place to raise kids?

I know I have.

The Town is an ITV mini-series that starts on the Vibe channel on July 23.

The town in The Town is clearly a little like Dunedin, which has absolutely no people aged between 23 and 40.

''All the men are 40 or 12, or they smell,'' complains a local strumpet.

But the show leads with a slightly unexpected punch.

Before we meet our hero Mark Nicholas (Andrew Scott), we meet his outwardly normal parents.

His mother makes sure grandma is settled in for the night, and that his sister Jodie (Avigail Tlalim) gets off the phone and goes to bed.

Then she goes to bed with her husband.

All well and good - or so it would seem.

But the thin facade of normal suburban family life comes crashing loudly down the next morning, when Jodie tries to wake her parents and finds them both staring stiff and blankly dead at the ceiling, having given up the ghost. A bottle of spirits and an empty card of pills points to the cause.

Or does it?

Mark comes home from London to the town when he hears the news, and learns from grandma: ''Your granddad slept with prostitutes - that's where all the money went. None of us know the ones we love.''

Mark gets strange messages saying ''I know'' texted to his phone, and gets drawn unwillingly back into a town where everyone has a secret, and everyone knows something you don't.

The Town has star turns from Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) as the mayor, while grandma is played by Julia McKenzie, of Miss Marple fame.

If the first episode is anything to go by, it is worth hanging in for all three.

- Charles Loughrey

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