The Last Weekend ITV1 with Shaun Evans, Rupert Penry-Jones PREVIEW

Rupert Penry-Jones as Ollie and Shaun Evans as Ian
Rupert Penry-Jones and Shaun Evans as the best of frenemies

Rating: ★★★

ITV1: starts Sunday, 19 August, 9pm

Story: Successful barrister Ollie Moreton invites old college friend Ian Goade, a primary school teacher, to visit him for an August bank holiday at his country home in Suffolk. Ollie and Ian, along with their wives, Daisy and Em, have a shared past and during the course of the weekend, old seething rivalries and sexual tensions reach dangerous levels.

Amid the Olympic euphoria, normal TV drama has been the big, fat loser – hence ITV1 being annihilated in the ratings. Mind you, they have thrown in the towel with limping repeats – Midsomer Murders v Jessica Ennis is no contest.

But as London 2012 comes to an end, ITV1 is ready for a comeback with this gem of a psychological thriller about male jealousy. It’s got fine performances, particularly from Shaun Evans, and a totally engrossing story in which you have to be alert to keep up with the machinations of the characters.

Rupert Penry-Jones plays Ollie
Mind games – Ollie

It is based on Blake Morrison‘s novel. It is a tightly set story, based around a small group at a country house over a blisteringly hot bank holiday. It is blissfully free of stupid plot twists, focusing instead on characters and emotions we all recognise.

Rupert Penry-Jones as Ollie
Ian and Em are visiting Ian’s old college mate Ollie – Rupert Penry-Jones – and his wife, Daisy, whom Ian once dated. Ian is a primary school teacher and Ollie a wealthy barrister. Their ‘friendship’ is a powder keg of competitiveness and festering jealousy that has an almost sexual element.

No sooner are Ian and Em out of their crappy car, which has a coat hanger for an aerial, than Ollie is insisting he and Ian hit the golf course to compete for a crazy £1000 wager, the first event of their traditional ‘triathlon’. It’s an uncomfortable match of niggles and gamesmanship.

Ian is our subjective narrator
Shaun Evans as Ian is the central figure here, as character and to-camera narrator, with the story slipping into the future and Ian commenting on past events. He is a chippy, deceitful figure, still hugely turned on by Daisy, played with insouciant sexiness by Genevieve O’Reilly. Claire Keelan is the devoted, likeable Em, who slowly starts to pick up on some of Ian’s provocations.

Claire Keelan and Genevieve O'Reilly
Claire Keelan as Em and Genevieve O’Reilly as Daisy

Goodness, but Ian is covetous and dishonest, while Ollie similarly has nasty sides, with an unpleasant hostility to his son and a near psychotic need to engineer some pastime at which he can grind down his less successful friend. You just know that despite the middle-class respectability, things are going to end brutally.

Engrossing and beautifully shot
Penry-Jones and Evans – soon to reprise his role as ITV1’s Endeavour – have appeared together in Whitechapel and Silk, and here they are engrossing as the mates locked in a destructive tangle. The whole three-parter – scripted by Mick Ford, directed by Jon East – is beautifully paced and shot.

ITV may have taken a drubbing this summer, but here they’re finally playing a blinder. Don’t miss it.

Cast: Rupert Penry-Jones Ollie, Shaun Evans Ian, Genevieve O’Reilly Daisy, Claire Keelan Em, Alexander Karim Milo, Hugh Mitchell Archie, Elisha Johnson Natalie, Mya-Lecia Naylor Bethany, Dan Cohen Student Ian, Alexander Owen Student Ollie, Nicola Millbank Student Daisy, Anthony Green John, Taylor Nelson-Morrison Campbell, Helen Anderson Mrs Baynes  

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    It was a bag of pants this program. I was waiting for something more when it finished.
    Very disppointed. It was nothing new and I was hoping this was something different.

  2. Would love to see how your PREVIEW scores match up against a SERIES CONCLUSION score. So many of these crime programs start off strong and end up being a big disappointment, The Last Weekend included. Since many production teams can obviously create strong intro episodes but then drop the ball at the end (Inside Men, Hidden, The Hour, Blackout, etc. and those are just off the top of my head), it would be very cool and informative if you closed the loop and let us know your thoughts once the series has concluded.

    Loyal CTP reader,
    Billy

  3. OK, I surrender (and have cut that mad score I gave it). The end was flat. Quite agree that plenty of dramas start off strong, then fizzle out or cram in too much plot at the end to make sense.

    In this case, my gripe (don’t know what your criticism was, but I’d be interested to hear) was that Shaun Evans’ character being mad and delusional took the sting out of the story. The whole competitiveness and needle between the two guys just lost its edge. A letdown.

  4. Exactly. The 1st episode set up some juicy conflicts between “friends” that devolved into a silly conclusion with a nutter locked in a room with an endless loop of connections that go nowhere. Like Inside Men, this one seemed as if the ending snuck up on the writers and they mistook outlandishness for satisfying plot resolution.

    Even though PREVIEW is in the site title, I still think it would be great to get your updated thoughts as each series ends.

    Regardless, keep up the great work.

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