• James Nesbitt stretched himself a bit, abandoning his twinkly charm to play a journalist called Max Raban. He’s a bit of a maverick. Nesbitt is always a maverick. It’s the law. He’s got a fear of daylight (it’s called phengophobia, quiz kids), lives on Pot Noodles, carries some heavy baggage (a death and a broken marriage on his conscience) and gets his hands dirty, rooting through rubbish to uncover tittle tattle. It was a good role but was wasted amid a rather clichéd conspiracy.
• Max paying for information from a lapdancer with a cheese and pickle sandwich was a nice quirk.
• In dramas like this, there has to be an insider who turns into a whistleblower and we did quite like the austere woman from the defence lobby organisation who has sussed out her boss/lover (a typecasted Rupert Graves). We somehow doubted, however, her breezy attitude to being a mistress: “I’m in it for the sex, not the washing.” She didn’t seem the type to have sex; not when there’s a juicy 179-page dossier to digest before bedtime.
What was bad about it?
• It wanted to be like State of Play (BBC1’s drama about journalist caught up in sinister state behaviour) but seemed to have overdone the ingredients, chucking in a load of shady folk, nastiness and from-the-news incidents without it ever seeming at all plausible (or interesting). TV’s love ofIslamophobia is getting especially tired.
• There was a lack of imagination in the storyline about a cabinet minister shagging a lapdancer. That sort of behaviour is more or less taken as a given these days. And if he’s got to the top in politics, wouldn’t he be clever enough not to greet and kiss this Slovenian beauty on his mews house doorstep?
• Reece Dinsdale does not a baddie make. He’s the establishment figure who issues execution orders to balaclava-wearing baddies without a pang of conscience. But that face, still cheeky after all these years, could never be scary or cruel. • Max the family man, telling his daughter bedtime stories about conspiracy theories and assassinations. He could have just sat her down in front of ITV’s recent The Fixer (last month’s drama about the state bumping off undesirables) and saved himself the bother.
• Max’s floppy hat. So unstylish.
• The depiction of a national newspaper was sloppy. The editor seems to sit in his office waiting for Maverick Max to call and fill that horrible hole on the front page of The National Echo.
• The overuse of corny lines such as “My gut instinct says there’s more to this!”, “My inspector thinks it looks like one of those honour killings”, “You’re getting involved in something that you might regret”, “Be realistic Max, a fear of daylight is a handicap in any career, even journalism,” and “You have a condition, Max. You can’t go out in daylight. It’s called phengophobia, or had you forgotten?”