Late as usual, this week’s Matt on the Box is focusing on a programme that is at the moment a frontrunner for Best British TV show of 2014.
It doesn’t take too much guesswork to deduce that that programme is the brilliant Line of Duty which came to an end last week. Fans of the show had been anticipating the conclusion for weeks as we finally got to discover if Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) was actually guilty of setting up the ambush that we witnessed at the start of episode one. The answer was that she knew part of what was going to happen but did it for honourable reasons, namely that no more girls like Carly Kirk would have to suffer at the hands of corrupt policemen. As far as she was aware, Jane Akers had set up a diversion so that corrupt copper Tommy could be handed over to the criminal gang that he was testifying against. To make her look guilty as sin, Akers convinced Denton to take the money which she did so, partially on the advice of her own mother. The episode itself was filled with double cross after double cross as Steve (Martin Compston) looked to be getting his end away once again with Lindsay. However, it seemed as if he was leading her on all along and had convinced her to trust him in order to bring her down. Meanwhile Dot (Craig Parkinson), was revealed as the man who orchestrated the whole ambush and was still trying to keep his identity as ‘The Caddy’ a secret. Although his old friend Nige (Neil Morrissey) worked out his secret, he agreed to keep it under his hat so he was able to retire on disability benefits. After a flashback scene filled in the rest of the gaps for us, we learnt that Denton received a life sentence for a crime that she only had a small hand in. Meanwhile Dot received a promotion as he joined the AC-12 team, presumably so his downfall can be documented in the rumoured series three.
I feel that the success of Line of Duty has been the combination of action-packed sequences and dialogue heavy interview scenes like we saw at the end of the penultimate episode. As it had numerous loose ends to tie up, the finale couldn’t hope to match the quality of some of the previous episodes. That being said I felt it did a good job of filling in all the gaps by using the flashbacks to the Carly and Dryden encounter and showing why exactly Lindsay agreed to take part in the events of the night of the ambush. Mercurio has excelled in making us doubt the character of Lindsay several times over and in the end it appeared that she really wasn’t the villain of the piece. Whilst she was involved in illegal activities, her intentions were mainly good as she was trying to stick up for girls like Carly and the other unfortunate youngster who ended up buried under the garage. Part of the reason why Lindsay has been so intriguing is due to the performance from Keeley Hawes who has consistently delivered throughout the course of the series. That smirk at the end of episode five made us believe that she was setting up Dryden all along but in actuality it was to demonstrate he’d got his just desserts. The other element I enjoyed about this final episode was the way it strengthened the relationship between Kate (Vicky McClure) and Steve. I like the fact that Kate is the only woman that Steve has never made a play for and instead their relationship is akin to that of siblings. The fact he agreed to stay with her rather than spend a night with Rogerson speaks volumes about the strength of their friendship. Whilst not as satisfying as it possibly could’ve been, the Line of Duty finale did at least tie up loose ends and saw most of the corrupt officers get their comeuppance. At the same time the orchestrator of the whole ambush, Dot, remains a senior member of the police department. Thankfully all signs point to him being the focus of a third series that we can only hope is as successful as this current run, which I would consider to be the drama of the year.
There were other dramas on TV last week most notably Turks and Caicos, the follow up to 2011’s Page Eight. Turks and Caicos is the second part of a trilogy focusing on disgraced MI5 agent Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) who, since blowing the whistle on the government in Page Eight, is laying low on the titular tax-dodge islands. Worricker’s days are spent babysitting the son of a neighbour, eating lobster and reading lots of books on the beach whilst using the alias of Tom Elliot. However, soon Worricker’s peaceful life changes when ex-CIA agent Curtis Pelissier (Christopher Walken) claims to recognise him. Curtis invites Johnny to join him and a group of businessmen for dinner which ends up having tragic consequences when one of the men winds up dead the next morning. The focus on big business also sees Johnny contact his old friend Rollo (Ewan Bremner) to get some background information on celebrated banker Stirling Rogers (Rupert Graves). To dig up some dirt on Rogers, Rollo enlists the help of Margot Tyrell (Helena Bonham Carter) a former lover of Johnny’s who know works in the financial sector. Meanwhile, back on the island Johnny attracts the attention of financial PR Melanie Fall (Winona Ryder) who may hold the answers to at least one of the drama’s unanswered questions. Turks and Caicos felt very much like the second part of a trilogy in so much as that it was a bridge between Page Eight and next week’s Salting the Battlefield. I thought that writer David Hare tried to incorporate too much into the ninety minute drama which dealt with corrupt financiers, the war on terror and a murder mystery. In fact the body washing up on the beach scene felt like it belonged on lightweight crime drama Death in Paradise rather than a grown-up spy saga like Turks and Caicos. Luckily the drama was saved by its A-list cast all of whom tried the best to make their clichéd characters appear as three-dimensional as possible. Particular highlights included the performance from Winona Ryder who was perfectly cast as the damaged Melanie and whose scenes were some of the best-written of the drama. The combination of Nighy and Walken also provided a great double act and I just wish these two great actors could share more screen time together. Unfortunately Turks and Caicos was let down by a script that was more interested in building towards this week’s conclusion than it was in creating a successful self-contained drama.
Also starting last week was The Widower, the latest based-on-true-events drama from Jeff Pope the man behind Mrs Biggs, Lucan and Appropriate Adult. Here Pope turns his attention to the story of Malcolm Webster (Reese Shearsmith), a man who was convicted of killing his wife of eight months back in 2011. The story begins happily enough by depicting Webster’s first marriage to fellow nurse Claire (Sheridan Smith) with the latter claiming how happy she was with her new husband. However, Malcolm’s financial problems soon got in the way of their marriage and her complaints over his debt led to him trying to find a way to silence her. Malcolm eventually began drugging Claire, partly to get revenge for her constant nagging about his financial problems. Convincing Claire she was suffering from a virus, Malcolm began lacing Claire’s tea with drugs but began to panic when she told him that she was going for blood tests. Malcolm then realised that he had to finish Claire off once and for all and staged a car accident in order to set his vehicle alight with Claire still inside. As the police later closed their investigation into Claire’s death, the second half of the drama focused on Malcolm’s new marriage to Kiwi Felicity. The pair splits their time between Auckland and Scotland but it’s not long before Malcolm is up to his old tricks as he begins to drug Felicity again for his own financial gain. Having been a big fan of Pope’s dramas in the past I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed by The Widower and found it hard to get through at times. I think the main reason for my dissatisfaction is the fact that we never really are given a concrete reason for Malcolm’s motivations. Therefore it’s hard to care about a drama in which he is the only character that we consistently follow throughout the course of the episode. I also wasn’t a fan of the central performance from Shearsmith, which is a shame as I’m a massive fan of his previous work including the fantastic Inside Number 9. Pope regular Sheridan Smith is wasted, literally at times, in a role that requires her to be asleep for the majority of the time she’s on screen. Although The Widower does have two further instalments to redeem itself, I feel that this is a rare misstep from the usually reliable Pope.
Finally we come to a comedy that appeals to anybody like me who has to closely follow what the BBC do on a regular basis. W1A reunites us with Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville), previously the Head of Deliverance in the fantastic mockumentary Twenty Twelve. W1A sees Fletcher take on the equally vague role of Head of Values at the BBC, a job that sees him without an office and again without a clue of what he’s doing. One of the central storylines is that of regional presenter Sally Wingate, who feels her lack of progression in the company is due to some sort of West Country bias. Meanwhile the other plot focuses on the creation of Britain’s Tastiest Village, a sort of cross between Bake-Off and Countryfile, which is billed as ‘must-see TV’. The show is the baby of the BBC’s Head of Output Anna Rampton (Sarah Parish) who is eager to snag a new trendy co-host following the loss of Claire Balding. Anna and her team eventually tracks down Carol Vorderman who agrees to look into the possibility of a return to the BBC. Meanwhile Ian is horrified when his boss Simon Harwood (Jason Watkins) announces that he’s hired Fletcher’s former right-hand woman, PR consultant Siobhan Sharpe (Jessica Hynes). The teaming of Fletcher and Sharpe was one of Twenty Twelve’s greatest assets due to the fact that they are incredibly mismatched. Although W1A doesn’t have quite the spark that Twenty Twelve possessed it still rings true due to its fantastically accurate script. Once again Bonneville’s Fletcher is our baffled guide to a world of shared working space and company jargon that he struggles to understand. I believe that Siobhan Sharpe is one of the greatest comedy creations of the last decade, partly due to the delightfully zany performance from Hynes. Some of my new favourite characters in W1A include Monica Dolan’s Welsh Communications Officer Tracey Prichard and Hugh Skinner’s befuddled intern Will. The fact W1A has already had some quite big names in cameo roles means that it’s definitely a sitcom that BBC is passionate about promoting. I just hope it finds an audience as, judging by the first two episodes, this is a genuinely funny series that shows that the BBC does have a sense of humour about itself.
That’s it for now but for more of my views on TV please follow me @mattstvbites