Did we like it?
Channel 4’s tenuous grip on credibility receives a shot in the arm with this amazing, serious drama set in the 1970s – a bit like Life on Mars with many more layers of depth but without any of the laughs, not even a hint of a smile. It’s not a flawless adaptation of David Peace’s novels (don’t believe all of the hype) but there probably won’t be any better home-made dramas on TV this year.
What was good about it?
• This is TV’s most stunning, dark conspiracy plot since State of Play involving John Mason (menacingly, swaggeringly played by Sean Bean), a corrupt, murdering property developer who has everyone with any power in his pocket, a swish 1970s home called Shangrila, a wife he has driven to dementia and impressive sideburns (all the men have impressive sideburns).
• The mood was brutal and grim, not in a grim-oop-north clichéd way, but achieved through the lighting (the lack thereof), the scary score, the misery etched in the faces of all the characters, the mumbled, and thus authentic, conversations (boy we had to listen hard) and the car parks.
• If Sean Bean doesn’t pick up the prize, Andrew Garfield should add to his Bafta award for Boy A with his performance as Yorkshire Post reporter Eddie Dunford whose desire to live up to his Scoop nickname led him, in his grot-coloured Vauxhall Viva, into a pit of nastiness.
• Lots of cigarette smoking. As choketastic as in Mad Men.
• The soundtrack reflected the 1970s without going for the easy, cheesy options – we even got King Crimson (who we gather are prog rock legends)
• The torture scenes. No holds barred.
• The flares.
• The ending. No easy option taken there. Indeed, every time a glimmer of hope or redemption shone in, it was immediately slammed out.
What was bad about it?
• Life in the Yorkshire Post offices never seemed to tally with how newspapers really are/were run.
• The levels of police and town hall corruption – “This is the north son, we do what we like” – reached heights that were frankly unbelievable. Some of the characters emerged as a bit too thin as a result.
• At times, it seemed the makers were trying too hard to impress – every second had to be filled with something meaningful and significant, yet a few moments when we could ease up would have been appreciated.