On terrestrial TV, there may be four major channels – can you really count Five? Oh go on then, if you must – but digital broadcaster Sky is giving the likes of Channel 4, ITV and Five (though it’s like kicking a puppy) a run for their money in the original drama stakes. Among a slew of imports there’s a rising tide of homegrown shows – including this latest smart series of drama pilots, which boasts a whole host of British female acting talent.
The run begins with The Psychopath Next Door. Eva Birthistle, Kathryn Drysdale and Claire Keelan play three friends whose lives are turned upside down when flame-haired shrink Eve (played by Anna Friel, who we discover has already sent one poor ‘patient’ round the twist), moves into the area. She quickly decides she wants to be the one pulling the trio’s strings and sets her sights on bringing down the group’s unspoken leader, Marianne (Birthistle). No tactic is too underhand, either, as she wafts a massive chocolate cake and curry under her rival’s nose, knowing she’s battled with her weight in the past, and that’s after Eve literally hobbles her rival by getting a lover to reverse a car into her.
Slowly, Eve learns the trio’s deepest, darkest secrets and uses them to supplant Marianne, while at the same time pouring poison into the ears of the other two women. But just when the doc thinks she has the situation under control, Marianne turns the tables on her Machiavellian rival.
The Psychopath Next Door ends abruptly, and slightly disappointingly, as it seemed to be building to a fine dramatic climax. Sadly, for reasons that are beyond me, the development of the characters is stunted, we’re denied the unmasking of Eve as the cold, calculating bitch that she is and the sub-plot with her former patient isn’t really resolved. It’s a bit of a shame, really.
The same can’t be said for legal drama Lawless, starring Suranne Jones and a super-creepy Jonathan Cake. She’s Lila, an ambitious legal eagle, spending her first day in court as a fully fledged judge, while he’s her mentor, a barrister who helped her get the job. However, he also thinks she ought to demonstrate her gratitude by letting him feel her up under the table at lunch.
Needless to say, the attack leaves our heroine reeling, but worse is to come. Aside from the reality of life as a judge, where form and protocol are every bit as important as case law and statutes, Lila comes face to face with the sleazy lawyer in court, where he tries to run rings round her. To my delight, Lila swats him away like the annoying bug he is, and proceeds to put him in his place at a swanky bash – but you get the feeling she’s only storing trouble up for later in her career.
Lawless, written by former EastEnders actress Jacquetta May, is slick, enjoyable stuff and proves there really is more to Suranne Jones than cop dramas (are you reading this, ITV bosses?). I’d happily tune in to more of this show – especially if the scripts are up to the calibre of this pilot. Nicely done, Sky.
Drama Matters: The Psychopath Next Door airs tonight at 9.00pm on Sky Living.
Contributed by Scheenagh Harrington