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A father whose child is dying of Leukaemia. An elderly woman who wants to restore her husband’s failing memory. A nun who no longer hears the voice of God. A man who wants to wipe out every trace of his marriage. In desperation they each enter a Faustian pact with a mysterious man who always sits in the same seat at the local diner. The Man, can make their deepest desire a reality, but only if they complete the task he assigns them – a task that can have extreme, even deadly, consequences...
The Booth at the End is a simple, yet interesting series. Simple in that all of the action takes place in the one location, the diner, which means there are no special effects or location filming. The stories unfold, as the best stories always do, in the viewers mind. It's interesting to note that looking back on the episodes you do picture the events outside the diner quite vividly - and to pull this off is no easy task on the part of the writers.
Xander Berkeley stars as the mysterious Man who can make a deal to ensure you get your heart's desire. Simply approach him, tell him what you want and he picks up a mysterious book which outlines an act the you need to accomplish in order to have your wish granted.
From person to person the task is very different. One must rob a bank; another must protect a little girl; one has to make a number of people cry; another is instructed to build a bomb and set it off in a crowded restaurant. Sometimes the assignments are in direct opposition to one another, sometimes the clients have to work together.
At any point the individuals can back away from their deal - they just won't get what their heart desires... or they might. As the Man points out. The natural order of things might mean that what you want will happen anyway. It's just that undertaken his deal will guarantee you get what you want.
Because of the nature of the show, the acting has to be spot on. It's mostly exposition on events that have already unfolded, with individuals telling the man how far they are through their tasks, or asking him for advice. But if the audience don't feel something for the characters (be it pity or hatred) then the scenes don't work.
It was also great to see Berkeley's 24 co-star, and wife in real life, Sarah Clarke star in the first series as Sister Carmel. It's weird though because Clarke seems to have aged backwards, looking younger than when she starred in 24 - mind you, that is probably because she smiles here - something I don't recall her doing in 24 - and she does have a wonderful smile. Berkeley too, though, doesn't appear to have aged that much. It was funny because in the first series he was unshaven and all I could think was "poor guy. Is he never offered any roles where he can smarten up a bit". And then in the second series he was clean shaven.
The first season sets up the basic premise of what is going on, and over the five episodes we see the individuals at various points in their dealings with the Man - the final episode bringing all the storylines to a close. The second series repeats this basic idea, however he has now moved onto another diner and we start to get a glimpse into who he is and why he's doing what he's doing.
At the time of writing this review (2016) it's not known if a third series will be commissioned. Personally, I hope so, However I don't think the writers should go too far down the rabbit hole. The show works because we don't know if the Man is working for the forces of good or evil or something else entirely. If you take this away and reveal what his motives are and where his powers come from I think the very thing that keeps the intrigue going will be lost.
I thought the retail price of £25 was a little cheeky for 10 x 20 min episodes (5 episodes each series), especially when there are no extras. But thankfully the show is entertaining enough that money really isn't much of an issue.
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