BY JEREMY EGNER
The eclectic British series about a gangster family has had an outsize impact
The Liverpool Olympia is best known as a music venue, having hosted storied acts like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But on a morning in June, this 112-year-old theater had been turned into a set for “Peaky Blinders,” the gritty-chic TV crime drama with a cultural imprint that is more modest in scale, though perhaps not in intensity. “Peaky Blinders” has become a cult hit for the BBC and Netflix, drawing famous fans like David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, who each offered songs for its soundtrack. The show has also attracted style disciples inspired by its story of a natty and ruthless Birmingham crime family in the era between the world wars. Its fourth season begins this week in some markets on Netflix (it already ran on BBC Two) and finds the gang, led by Cillian Murphy’s icy Tommy Shelby, getting into the fight game. So here in Liverpool, the Olympic was transformed into a 1920s boxing arena complete with vintage posters and an enormous Union Jack. It filled up with herbal cigarette smoke and stylish overcoats as a foghorn-voiced sidekick commanded a few dozen extras to step right up for an audience with “the Peaky [expletive] Blinders!” It’s a phrase fans tend to shout with glee and a bad brummie accent, no matter where they’re from. Such is the infectious allure of this series, the top-rated drama on BBC Two — Netflix doesn’t release viewing data — with a pop culture impact that, à la shows like “Mad Men,” arguably outpaces the numbers. In England, there are Peaky Blinders bars, restaurants, tours, parties, weddings.
Cillian Murphy, the star of “Peaky Blinders,” a cult hit that has spawned a distinctive hairstyle and a clothing line. The new season has original music from the likes of Iggy Pop.
The distinctive undercut hairstyle went from the bane of the actors to the subject of how-to articles in men’s magazines, and the popularity of the show’s slick early 20th-century tailoring led its creator, Steven Knight, to partner on a Peaky clothing line. “To influence people — not people involved in the industry but real people who watch TV and then go out and do something about it — it’s great,” Mr. Knight said. As a primarily Roma group in Birmingham, the Peakys are a departure from the usual pop culture gangsters. The new menace — a New York-based Mafioso with a grudge played by Adrien Brody — represents the first time they will tangle with the more classic version. The Shelby family, which also includes Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) and Tommy’s brothers Arthur (Paul Anderson) and John (Joe Cole), has been arcing toward respectability, but the new threat will force them to return to the old neighborhood. “The whole series is about escape, with a particularly British point of view: Can you escape where you’re born?” said Mr. Knight, who writes every episode. “Season 4 is a very literal pulling back of the entire family to where they’re from, so they can re-evaluate who they are in the environment they once were in.” But while it deals in a specifically British theme, “Peaky Blinders” does so with an amalgam of disparate influences and elements — American westerns, a lithe Irish actor playing a tough crime boss, an art punk soundtrack — that add up to an arresting whole…………..
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