Was this the important drama saying important things that it thought it was? No. Was it as voyeuristic as the media’s Padeo Glitter Watch over the past fortnight? To some extent, yes.
What was good about it?
• Gina McKee is very good at doing miserable. We first encountered Fiona singing carols in the church choir. Her look was so gloomy, we assumed she already knew her husband spent long nights downloading child pornography. But she hadn’t. Once she did, though, the face got even gloomier and, eventually, very angry.
• As Matthew Macfadyen did in Channel 4’s Secret Life last year, Jeremy Northam portrayed a paedophile as an everyman, but while Macfadyen’s character elicited sympathy, Northam’s Simon was a self-serving, selfish creep. He was very loving towards his daughters, though (and almost certainly not in a bad way, as far as we could tell).
• McKee and Northam may have been saddled with becoming human metaphors but they performed out of their skins. McKee was as amazing as she was as the mother of a killer in The Street last year; Northam was as self-contained as he has been in The Tudors – until the lastest episode when he had his head chopped off (a fate some would say he deserved here).
What was bad about it?
• The fact that Simon wriggled out of police charges gave this an unsatisfactory conclusion. The consequences of his actions wrecked his marriage, but he seemed to maintain his career and his other relationships (especially with his family – his mother refused to talk about her son’s “mid-life crisis”; his brother treated Simon as the victim of a ghastly witchhunt surrounding a “victimless crime”).
• “The following is a work of fiction inspired by many true stories” made it seem like BBC1 fancied doing a drama on child porn (think of the ratings) so just trawled around to come up with a plausible story, rather than finding a new angle. It seems writer Kate Gabriel ended up with an amalgam of an internet paedophile rather than a specific character.
• The opportunity for real action – the 6am knock on the door by three efficient plainclothes police officers – was no more dramatic than if meter readers had turned up in force.
• The juxtaposition of Christmas joy with the rather grim proceedings was a rather easy route to take.