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State of Play

Britain, Britain, Britain. This weekend I watched the new Doctor Who, but I also watched a six-part BBC drama called State of Play. The show is a political drama, which takes place in London. It starts with the murder of a young black man, by a professional killer. That same morning, a young woman jumps in front of a subway train. 

Her boss/lover, Steven Collins (Member of Parliament for a Manchester-area riding) hasn’t been an MP for long, but he’s making waves. He’s heading up a cross-party energy committee, and is seen as a contender for a cabinet post. His public grief at the loss of his employee make it rather obvious that the two were involved in an extra-marital affair, which leads to much tension at home, and he runs to his confidant and former campaign manager Cal McCaffrey. McCaffrey also just happens to be a reporter for the Herald.

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That covers the first five minutes, and then it gets complicated. It’s a political drama/murder mystery/thriller and could be used as the pinnacle of the genre. The dialogue is tremendous and the casting is as good as it can get. As the MP is David Morrissey (Doctor Who, Blackpool, Red Riding); as the lead reporter is John Simm (Doctor Who, Life on Mars, Sex Traffic);  Marc Warren (Doctor Who, Hustle) plays Dominic Foy, Collins’ girlfriend’s ex; Bill Nighy (Doctor WhoHitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead) as the newspaper editor; Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting, Gosford Park, No Country for Old Men) is among the reporting team for the Herald; Polly Walker (Caprica, Patriot Games) plays Anne Collins, the wife of Steven; Philip Glenister (Life on Mars, Ashes To Ashes1 ) plays Detective Chief Inspector Bell.

All of these actors are in roles that are perfect for them. The only thing that’s off is Glenister’s William Bell is well portrayed, but too similar, yet so different than his defining role as DCI Gene Hunt in Life On Mars and its spin-off Ashes To Ashes. Hunt, a character known to be such as asshole, but yet so loveable copper who spits out such charming statements as “It’s the first time I’ve heard shit stabbing, called innocent!” In contract DCI Bell is timid, hands tied by the law, and to put it simply, a weenie.

I can easily see why it was remade into a film in the United States. It’s damn good, but a shame that it was probably bastardized, I really don’t want to see what Matt Damon did with a role originally portrayed by an actor as talented as David Morrissey. Worse still, to see Russell Crowe brutalize a John Simm character is potentially heart-breaking. It was bad enough to see Jason O’Mara take one of the most interesting characters in television, Sam Tyler, and turn him into a bland and boring piece of cardboard. I will give credit to Harvey Keitel for doing an okay job at translating Glenister’s DCI Hunt for US audiences.

Enough about Life on Mars, the important thing is State of Play which is worth a six-hour investment in your life for some excellent drama.

  1. Funk to funky. []

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