Gripping account of the murders committed by Northern Irish couple Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan
★★★★ ITV, Friday, 29 April, 9pm
SOMETIMES the true story on which a drama is based is so riveting it almost can’t fail to keep you rooted to the sofa. This ITV series is one of those.
It recounts the crime committed by a couple in Northern Ireland, Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan. They met at their local Baptist church and started an affair that had appalling consequences. Greed, lust, hypocrisy and evangelism make it a distressing but compelling story [as this is a true story, there are some spoilers in this preview].
It is accompanied by fine performances by James Nesbitt as the dentist Howell and Genevieve O’Reilly as Buchanan, along with an unflashy but convincing script from Stuart Urban. Nesbitt, in particular, is so believable as the grossly self-serving “Christian” that before the first episode is even finished you want to punch the screen every time he appears.
A faked suicide pact
In the first of four episodes, we watch the genesis of the affair. While Howell’s wife, Lesley, is expecting their fourth child, he begins to pursue married schoolteacher Buchanan.
They know each other through their local Baptist church. However, when their secret trysts are exposed, their spouses – Lesley and Trevor, Hazel’s policeman husband – are crestfallen that their devoutly religious partners could be so dishonest and disloyal.
Lesley, in particular, is plunged into depression, which Colin uses when he later stages her and Trevor’s joint ‘suicide’.
Nesbitt is totally loathsome in the role. Fresh from Lucky Man, Sky1’s high-concept crime series, he is of course far more grittily down-to-earth here.
Lies, deceit, murder
It is no doubt a role he took seriously as he knows the backstory and setting well. The actor says: ‘I’ve talked to many people who will have known Colin. I’m from Coleraine. He lived opposite my sister, they had the same cleaner, my sister went to some of Lesley’s coffee mornings, which I only found out recently.’
Settle down and watch open-mouthed as his smarmy, Bible-quoting creep tells his distraught wife, who is getting by on pills and booze, ‘This is not how a Christian wife should behave.’
This from a murdering, lying, deceitful manipulator who would go on to be additionally convicted of abusing female patients whom he sedated in his dentist’s chair.
You couldn’t make it up.
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