When Sky1 launched Mad Dogs in 2011 I sat aghast. Some clever clever casting person managed (by some miracle) to get my four favourite British actors in one place and in the one drama! It must have been a strategic nightmare but they managed it. John Simm, Philip Glenister, Marc Warren and Max Beesley are without doubt four of the best actors on British television. Their CVs encompass some of the best drama series I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting through. Max Beesley admitted it could have been ‘a recipe for disaster’ as throughout the years the four had been up for the same jobs. “We’re now incredibly close friends, we speak or email each other once a week and that gives you the dynamic to be able to push all the nuances within the show.” Marc Warren likened the foursome are to a family. “Phil is the dad, John’s the mum, Max is the good child and I’m the naughty one.”
The premise, if you’ve never seen this before is that our four leads are on the lads holiday from hell. The things that happen to the four friends would make for the most gut-wrenching episode of ITV’s Holidays from Hell ever. When the friends meet up in series one it’s clear they’re close but that their lives have gone in very different directions. Each one has their own demons and has reached a turning point in their lives. The catalyst for the entire series is the death of mutual friend Alvo who is graphically shot by someone wearing a disturbing Tony Blair mask. The scene is brutal and messy and when the masked gunman places their fingerprints on the murder weapon the foursome are forced to go on the run. Mad Dogs is devilishly dark and has a feel and a humour that few series could get away with. Us viewers are in the same boat as the main characters in as much as we have literally no idea where the story is going to go next and what almost ludicrous predicaments the Mad Dogs will find themselves in.
The brilliance of the series is the fact it can’t be compared to anything. It’s a story that can literally take the characters anywhere, it feels in no way formulaic or predictable. It’s a quirky adventure. The scripts are structured in such a way that however bizarre the goings-on it doesn’t feel out of place.
We’re now in the third series and although for us it has been in a year since we last saw Baxter (Simm), Rick (Warren), Woody (Beesley) and Quinn (Glenister), In the first episode of the third series virtually no time has passed at all since they inadvertently ended up in a baking hot Morocco. I’ll admit that as I sat in a swanky London venue (just about resisting the free burger and chips on offer) I wasn’t sure if I could get back into the Mad Dogs frame of mind. I sat there wishing I’d given myself a refresher course. Could it really still shock, surprise and make me laugh in series 3? I’m pleased to say all my concerns where washed away within seconds. The opening scene of this first episode is incredibly intriguing. It drew me in leaving me feeling a tiny bit freaked out and very confused. When asked about the numerous twists and turns writer Cris Cole said “surprises are the most important thing of all. That’s always the challenge when we start to storyline this is thinking how we can make it as surprising and weird as possible.”
When we meet the Mad Dogs again we see they’ve been sent to what appears to be a remote Moroccan prison but this being Mad Dogs it can’t be, and isn’t that straightforward. The boys are dressed in orange uniforms, confined to cells and in the case of Rick (a brilliantly bemused Marc Warren) being subjected to a lie detector test and being shown pictures of the boys’ antics so far. We’re about ten minutes into the episode by this point and I’m hooked again. When the boys are finally let out of their cells they are kept in a holding pen which allows them to talk and meet the only other ‘inmate’,a mouthy and confident young girl called Mercedes played by Jamie Winstone. In true Mad Dogs style the story takes another turn and it would be cruel for me to say anymore. I love the fact that even the show has taught me to look for and expect twist and turns I find it literally impossible to see where Cris Cole’s script is going to go next.
It’s difficult to rave about this episode without giving too much away. I don’t think it spoils things too much to say that the episode ends with friends going their separate ways. The boys revealed that episode two sees the action jump forward two years and each character has built their own life for themselves. I’ll admit to being sceptical about whether Mad Dogs could maintain the momentum for a third series but trust me you’ll be completely enthralled by this opener within seconds. They’ve already finished filming a fourth series which writer Cris Cole confirmed will be the last.
Mad Dogs is a thoroughly enjoyable ride which bares no similarities to anything else on television. The friendship the four actors have built up over the course of filming transfers to the screen and I just can’t wait to see how it’s all going to end.
Mad Dogs Series 3 begins 9.00pm on Sky1 Tuesday 4th June or on Demand from May 29th