Did we like it?
Stephen Poliakoff is a bit of a hero in these parts, owing to ability to make TV dramas outside of the mainstream, full of ideas, populated by eccentric characters. But, to be honest, we struggled a bit with this one as it lacked the satirical edge of his recent Friends & Crocodiles and lacked the enigmatic depths of many of his earlier works. But, despite those reservations, we’d still rather see drama like this than all that populist pap broadcasters feed us these days.
What was good about it?
• Bill Nighy always has a great screen presence and his portrayal of PR guru Gideon was again faultless. With great subtlety, he showed Gideon becoming disaffected with his game (a life of stupid starlets, unimaginative ministers, sleazy Italian medial moguls). However, like Reggie Perrin’s Grot enterprise, the more he tried to sabotage his life, the greater Gideon’s power and reputation grew. By turning up two hours late to a meeting with “Silvio Berlusconi” and not listening to a word, he clinched the contract to promote the Italian’s interests.
• The film only really sparkled when Miranda Richardson was onscreen as Stella, the hippy-chick woman who lost her son in a road accident and became the only real person in Gideon’s life (she worked in an all-night supermarket in Southall and had a fondness for guinea pigs). But her role was simply contrived to voice doubts about the world of focus groups, spin doctoring and image consultants. She even mentioned stripping Italian housewives (they were supposed to be swamping our TV screens by now, according to the alarmists who opposed satellite TV).
• David Westhead as bereaved father Bill (and Stella’s estranged husband) provided the really dramatic moments: grabbing the minister by the throat and a councillor by the hair in his desperate bid to get them to admit that the positioning of a cycle route had contributed to his son’s death
• We didn’t like Tom Hardy’s over-ambitious character Andrew but we love his big lips.
• Comedy legend Bobby Bragg had a bit part as one of the comedians
What was bad about it?
• The storyline about Gideon’s restrained love for daughter Natasha and vice versa was just one big bore.
• The attempts to adhere the Gideon/Stella love story to real events (death of Princess Di/Millennium preparations) didn’t really work
• The narration by Robert Lindsay’s Sneath wasn’t at all necessary
• Ronni Ancona’s portrayal of Gideon’s girlfriend Barbara was a little too close to her Nancy Dell’Olio