REVIEW: ITV’s Deep Water fails to thrill.

by | Aug 14, 2019 | All, Reviews

Drama is a strange word. Classically, it has been used to refer to a type of theatre or performance – a type of fiction that has driven television for the past seventy years in one form or another. It also has a much more modern appropriation – many young people will talk about “Youtube drama” or drama in connection with their personal lives; this is usually some minor comment or event blown out of all proportion as if it is some earth-shattering event that will rip the fabric of space or time apart. Deep Water is neither of these things. In fact, it’s hard to describe what Deep Water actually is.

The episode begins with one of the few actual shots of water we see in the series as Lisa (Anna Friel)’s son Sam joins Kate (Rosalind Eleazar) and her husband Guy (Alistair Mackenzie). “Drama” ensues when Sam is pushed into the water for teasing his friend Fergus. We’ll come to learn that the ‘Deep Water’ of the title is a metaphor for all the desperate situations our main characters find themselves in and that this tense moment where a boy actually finds himself in actual deep water isn’t the cause of any of it.

I’m going to come across harsh here and there are some aspects of the series that work, but let me vent first. You would think that this would mark the natural beginning of the drama – some tragedy which brings the characters together. But no, rather Sam is saved from drowning by Guy and the event is mentioned the odd time by both Sam and Lisa but apparently does not impact on the narrative. In fact, watching the drama all the way through you wish that Sam had been drowned. His character is one of the most annoying and egregious to ever be portrayed on television. He is not likeable; his annoyingness is not even understandable – it is simply there and horrible.

As you’d expect various characters remark on Sam’s near-death and Lisa and Kate go for coffee to discuss what happened. We get confirmation of Sam’s general nastiness when Kate tells Lisa that Sam has called her son Fergus, who wears an eyepatch, “cyclops”. This could be a moment of real drama, the tables being turned and Lisa who has been so apologetic attempting to be defensive towards her son and Kate becoming, justifiably, much angrier. But no. Instead, it is mentioned briefly, and Kate doesn’t appear bothered. She instead invites Lisa to a dinner party because, eh why not, I mean they’re vaguely middle class and are in a drama, what do else do you expect them to do?!

Meanwhile, Roz (Sinead Keenan) a physiotherapist is given an indecent proposal by her client Scott (Gerald Kyd). He tells Roz that he knows she’s struggling due to her partner Winston’s (Charlie Carrick) gambling habit and that he’s willing to help her out financially if she sleeps with him. Scott’s sleazy offer is initially rebuffed by Roz but by the end of the episode, she reluctantly agrees.

This is an example of the drama’s lazy and derisory caricature of men – they are either useless or sleazy. Scott with his stubble and Adam (Steve Touissant) are examples of the sleaze whilst Winston and Lisa’s husband James (Jake Hayes) are examples of the useless type. Not only does Winston not do anything to help his wife, he goes out of his way to hide the fact their daughter is stealing school property to sell to so she can go on a school trip and that they have a week to find three grand or else they’ll be evicted. This lazy and insincere writing does not simply apply to the male characters in the drama, however.

At the party hosted by Kate and Guy, Lisa and James meet Kate’s sister Alexa (Camilla Beeput) whose single characteristic seems to be being vaguely mean. Whilst there, Lisa speaks to Adam and for some reason they have sex. No real lead up to it other than some mild flirting beforehand, just casual sex in the bathroom. It’s at this point that the story descends more into melodrama rather than drama. If you can suspend belief and accept that these two strangers would have sex upstairs whilst people were enjoying a dinner party downstairs then you probably be able to enjoy what follows. I wasn’t able to though.

After returning home, Lisa realizes she has left her underpants on the floor of Kate’s bathroom. Why, after she thought they were being spied on, she didn’t retrieve her underwear which fell on the floor only inches away from her is never explained. Following this, the story plods on half-heartedly until its conclusion and “cliff-hanger” ending.

I know I’ve been particularly harsh on this opening episode so, in for a bit of balance, I should say the cast are all great actors and the directing is certainly good. The problem is that it’s pretty much a bootlegged drama. It doesn’t have a huge amount of substance to it. Don’t get me wrong, this is perfectly acceptable fare for midweek ITV drama but I can’t shake the idea that this feels dated and out of place in the current TV landscape.

Sadly, Deep Water wasn’t for me. In a first for ITV, the entire series is available to binge on the ITVHub, so if this did float your boat then you can fly through the six episodes at your leisure. I won’t be.

Contributed by Will Barber-Taylor

Deep Water continues Wednesday at 9.00pm on ITV or stream the whole series now on the ITVHUB

Will Barber-Taylor

Will Barber-Taylor


Will Barber Taylor started writing about Doctor Who and other TV shows back in 2011 and hasn't stopped since. He is the co host of the Debated Podcast and the proud owner of three names and a cat called Mildred."


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