Undercover, BBC1

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 09/03/2016 - Programme Name: Undercover - TX: n/a - Episode: Early Release (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Picture embargoed for publication until Wednesday 09/03/2016 Maya Cobbina (SOPHIE OKONEDO), Nick Johnson (ADRIAN LESTER) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Des Willie

Under pressure: Maya Cobbina (Sophie Okonedo) and Nick Johnson (Adrian Lester)

Powerful story about an undercover cop, the woman he loves and his secret past

★★★★ BBC1, Sunday, 3 April, 9pm

THE SCANDAL of how the police have in the past infiltrated protest groups and some officers went so far as to have affairs or even start families with women they were spying on forms the backdrop to this potent drama.

While packing an emotional wallop, it also raises issues about the morality and justice of the authorities treating everyone as potentially guilty of something and deserving to have their lives invaded.

Undercover ups the ante, as any decent fictional drama should, by exploring the human feelings damaged and betrayed, and exploring the trauma such deception engenders.

Ghosts from Nick’s past

Nick is married to Maya, a human rights barrister, who we first meet as she travels to the USA to defend Rudy Jones, a man on death row. It’s a harrowing start to the story, and Maya is deeply affected when Rudy says to her that her next move should be to ‘Go big’.

When she returns home, Maya discovers that she is in line to be made Director of Public Prosecutions. While her instinct has always been to defend the accused, becoming the DPP might be an opportunity to finally bring justice to her friend Michael Antwi, an anti-racism campaigner. Maybe to ‘Go big’.

Undercover - TX: n/a - Episode: Early Release (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Nick Johnson (ADRIAN LESTER), Maya Cobbina (SOPHIE OKONEDO), Ella (Shannon Hayes) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Lee Searle

Happy holiday? Maya, Nick and their children get away from it all

This would create a huge problem for old colleagues of Nick’s. Throughout the first of the drama’s six episodes, we’re unclear what’s going with Nick, whose behaviour is tragically bizarre.

He appears to be a loving husband and father, and the family scenes with their children, including their autistic son, are convincing and warm. But Nick also has a secret life… [Read more…]

The Escape Artist, BBC1, with David Tennant, Sophie Okonedo, Ashley Jensen PREVIEW

Will Burton (DAVID TENNANT) The Escape Artist
How will he get out of the case that becomes a nightmare? David Tennant as Will Burton. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 29 October, 9pm

Story: Barrister Will Burton is in high demand as he has never lost a case. But when his talents acquit the prime suspect in a horrific murder trial, that brilliance comes back to bite him with unexpected and chilling results.

LAWYERS SOMETIMES have a really hard time on screen. Whether they’re being framed for crimes (Presumed Innocent), attacked by killers they’ve defended successfully (Jagged Edge) or hunted by disgruntled clients (Cape Fear), several cracking thrillers have put the profession through the mincer.

Will Burton (DAVID TENNANT), Kate Burton (ASHLEY JENSEN) The Escape Artist BBC1
Before Foyle enters their world – Will and Kate

Will Burton, played by David Tennant, is the latest lawyer as victim in this intriguing BBC1 three-parter. It asks the time-honoured question – how do lawyers bring themselves to defend society’s most sleazy, revolting people?

And barrister Burton is very good at defending them. He’s never lost a case, he’s rated number one by a law magazine and is being urged to take promotion to silk.

Toby Kebbell is unsettling as psycho Foyle

Everything is hunky dory for Burton – until he is asked to defend Liam Foyle, who’s accused of the sadistic murder of a woman. Toby Kebbell, who’s been seen around in TV’s The Street and the films RocknRolla and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, plays Foyle, and the thriller comes alive when he appears.

Liam Foyle (TOBY KEBBELL) The Escape Artist BBC1
Chilling – Liam Foyle

Until then it mostly all about Will’s smooth middle-class existence with his charming, sparky wife Kate  – Ashley Jensen in a straight role – and their son.

From the moment he meets the disturbing Foyle, however, Will’s life is on tilt. Kebbell is terrific as the mood-switching manipulator, who even has the clever barrister dancing to his tune. Will is so repulsed by the ‘malignant sadist’, as the prosecution calls him, that he even hits the cigarettes.

Sophie Okonedo as Maggie

When Foyle’s credit cards show that he used sadistic pornographic websites that showed images

Maggie Gardner (SOPHIE OKONEDO) The Escape Artist BBC1
Rival – Maggie Gardner

echoing the woman’s murder, Foyle says stonily, ‘The credit cards are lying.’

But while Foyle admits he is not a nice person, is he guilty? He says no, and Will takes the case. When he uses a mistake by the judge during the trial to get Foyle released, that’s when Will’s nightmare begins.

The story is a little contrived, almost a morality tale for lawyers, so much so that when Foyle ends up back in court, it is Will who wants him imprisoned, while his arch-rival in law, Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo), will stop at nothing to free Foyle, the man who has destroyed Will’s happiness.

Another charismatic performance from David Tennant

The Escape Artist recalls ITV’s Injustice by Anthony Horowitz, which in 2011 starred James Purefoy

Will Burton (DAVID TENNANT) in The Escape Artist BBC1
On the case – Will Burton

as a lawyer who wins the freedom of a bomber who later tells him that he was guilty.

This new drama has a less confusing plot and is also boosted by David Tennant’s subtle performance as a brilliant man, yet one who is insecure and can’t work a dishwasher. Tennant must be Britain’s most charismatic TV performer, with strong and varied performances this year in Spies of Warsaw, Broadchurch and The Politician’s Husband, and with another outing as Doctor Who still to come this Christmas.

David Wolstencroft, the writer behind Spooks, wanted to create a Hitchcockian suspense story with The Escape Artist, and while it is too neat a plot to be totally believable, it does successfully conjure an air of menace as we wonder if Will can extricate himself from his own personal horror trial.

Cast: David Tennant Will Burton, Toby Kebbell Liam Foyle, Sophie Okonedo Maggie Gardner, Ashley Jensen Kate Burton, Brid Brennan Mary, Kate Dickie Jenny, Monica Dolan Eileen Morris, Tony Gardner Trevor Harris, Anton Lesser Richard Mayfield QC, Roy Marsden Peter Simkins, Alistair Petrie Julian Fowkes QC, Patrick Ryecart Gavin de Souza QC, Stephen Wight Danny Monk, Gus Barry Jamie Burton

Follow @crimetimeprev

Mayday, BBC1, starring Sophie Okonedo, Peter Firth, Aidan Gillen PREVIEW

If you go down to the woods… the May Queen’s disappearance exposes a community’s secrets. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: Sunday, 3 March, 9pm

Story: When a young teenage May Queen fails to appear at the annual pagan parade, her small community is thrown into turmoil and recriminations.

In The Wicker Man, that great pagan-horror classic from 1973, a missing girl is the trigger for the story. BBC1’s Mayday conjures a similar spirit of something ancient and sinister in the countryside, and it too begins with the disappearance of a girl, a 14-year-old May Queen.

The Mayday festival in a small community on the Sussex Downs is disrupted when the parade arrives on the green, but young Hattie is not at the procession’s head. Hours later the teen is still missing and the locals organise a night-time search of the woods.

Mayday, BBC1, Aidan Gillen
Everett is not concerned when Hattie goes missing

Sophie Okonedo and Aidan Gillen
Everyone either knew Hattie or knew of her, and her mystery unsettles the whole town. A wife suspects her husband, a son wonders if his father was involved, a man thinks his loner brother is responsible.

Aidan Gillen plays a violent father who forbids his curious son from looking to see what he keeps in a bin bag, Peter Firth is the property developer whose new scheme Hattie had recently been protesting against. Meanwhile, Sophie Okonedo is the mum and former police officer whose cop husband is acting oddly.

Mayday, BBC1, Tom Fisher
Was Seth behind Hattie’s disappearance?

No sooner is Hattie gone than the whole place is revealed to be a seething mass of unhappy marriages, un-neighbourly hostility and family secrets. This is all overdone a bit, but the opening episode does create an intriguing atmosphere of unease.

The Magic Circle
Steve, played by Sam Spruell, is leading the nocturnal search through the forest, when one local reveals that when he was a boy he thought there was a presence following him when he went there. Hattie’s twin sister, Caitlin, tells young Linus (her secret admirer) that she thinks Hattie’s dead because, ‘I felt her leave me.’

The search party finds the forest’s ‘Magic Circle’, a place where some gathering or ritual happens – or is it just teenagers messing around? – and the May Queen’s crown is found there. This jolts Steve into fearing that his brother, Seth, who is dressed as the Green Man for Mayday and lives in the woods, may have done something to Hattie.

Mayday, BBC1, with Leila Mimmack as Caitlin
Hattie’s twin sister, Caitlin

The writers are Caroline Ip and Ben Court, the pens behind the resurrectionist and haunting Whitechapel on ITV, so it is no surprise that Mayday is no straight police procedural. It will be interesting to see how much weirder events become.

Two community thrillers
The BBC and ITV have contrived to schedule two new prestigious drama series about crimes impacting on small communities in the same week – Mayday and Broadchurch. Both were pencilled in for Monday, 4 March, but happily Mayday was finally scheduled for Sunday.

Mayday, BBC1, with Peter Firth
Malcolm has secrets in the woods

Both are good, though on the basis of the opening episodes, Broadchurch is more layered and hard-hitting emotionally. But Mayday could still come up trumps if it maintains its distinctive and unsettling journey deep into the woods. Quirky and dark it certainly is.

Cast: Sophie Okonedo Fiona Hill, Peter McDonald Alan Hill, Lesley Manville Gail Spicer, Peter Firth Malcolm Spicer, Sam Spruell Steve Docker, Tom Fisher Seth Docker, Max Fowler Linus Newcombe, Aidan Gillen Everett Newcombe, Leila Mimmack Caitlin/Hattie Sutton, David Flynn James Spicer, Hannah Jean-Baptiste Charlotte, Richard Hawley Richard Sutton, Caroline Berry Jo Sutton

Follow @crimetimeprev

%d bloggers like this: