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|Index||88 reviews in total|
Just when you thought that British television had forgotten how to make
good dramas, along comes Spooks and shows that there is more to
television than trash like Footballers' Wives and Big Brother. Spooks
was, and constantly remains to be, a surprise of the highest order.
I'll admit to not having high expectations of what I thought was going
to nothing more but a poor British man's attempt at doing the type of
thriller series that the Americans had been doing for so long, like 24
and CSI, but what makes this show so good is that creator David
Wolstencroft and fellow writers like Howard Brenton, have taken what
they have learned from shows like that, but twist it into a series that
is quintessentially British. They don't forget that they aren't
American, the show is basically set in a recognizable British country
with British characters, only with the pace and production values one
would expect to see from a series like 24.
Initially, from the opening moments of the very first episode, one cannot help but think that what they are about to watch is essentially 24:London style. There's a moody synth music score, there's split screen, there are photogenic but believable actors and flowing and constantly moving camera work, but the show goes beyond that and instead of fashioning a single plotted terrorist thriller like its American equivalent does, admittedly very well, Spooks, as far as it's storytelling goes, is more along the lines of CSI, with more often than not, the episodes are made up of stand alone tales, with the personal lives of the characters taking up any on going plot lines within the show's universe. The show over the course of its four (soon to be five) years on the air, has developed into a superb piece of British television, recalling a time when show's like this would have littered the airwaves thanks to the likes of Sir Lew Grade and his company ITC. Unlike those shows with their quasi fantasy plots, Spooks isn't afraid to be dark and at times gritty and realistic. The show has dealt with political extremists, a very near the knuckle plot line of London being bombed (filmed months in advance of the July 7th attacks), hostage taking, IRA splinter groups and the internal politics of British intelligence. Not only that, but many characters have come and gone, with some having been killed off (it's most famous example being in the show's second episode of its freshman season, which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't seen it).
A lot has changed with Spooks over the course of four years. It's original leading trio have gone and have been replaced, although this hasn't done anything to affect the show in my opinion. As much as I loved Matthew McFadyen, Keeley Hawes and David Oyelowo in the show, Rupert Penry Jones has more than made the show his own, and as a by product of such a cast loss from the show's third season, many of the show's fantastic supporting cast have made the grade to much more active parts in the show's stories, especially Peter Firth as the team's boss Harry Pearce, who truly deserves an BAFTA for his work on the show.
A show like this should be embraced by the British public. With the advent of video games, DVD and now digital television, the days of a television show (outside of soap operas anyway) garnering ratings above ten million viewers are now gone, and Spooks is only ever seen by around six to seven million. This is the type of show that should be a phenomenon instead of a well respected hit for the BBC. With the likes of CSI and 24 becoming more recognised internationally, at least the BBC have a homegrown show that they can hold up and be proud of.
Move over "24", here is a British TV series that makes you look like a garden party. "Spooks" is a well scripted, intelligent programme that packs a wallop with every other episode, there are some gripping even shocking scenes such as the brutal interrogations when some of the spies are captured by the enemy. The stories are anchored in today's newspaper headlines, and have some credibility thanks to that. Given a usually competent British cast, and it makes for excellent TV entertainment with a good belt of suspense. In a world threatened by terrorists, this is a timely and clever contemporary drama. Compulsive viewing.
Being a longtime fan of espionage movies (James Bond movies, "Our Man
Flint", "The Eagle Has Landed", "Eye Of The Needle", "The Day of the
Jackal"), the American television equivalents just don't have that same
sort of "oomph" that these classic movies exuded. Enter 2002 and the UK
television series "Spooks" (known here in the states as "MI-5") just
may have offered up the closest thing to great espionage cinema
translated to the small screen. It's quite a different take on the
lifestyle of a spy. Lying to the your friends and family is all in a
Series creator and writer, David Wolstencroft, has crafted a wonderful balance of slick, highly-paced story lines firmly grounded in the real world, battling real enemies such as al qaeda, the IRA, and national anarchists. The DVD boxed sets are a must see, for the A&E cable versions cut 15 minutes from each episode to accommodate for commercials. I highly recommend this series - it's a breath a fresh air for American's who have tired of the usual guns and explosions that proliferate our weekly television airwaves. Using smarts and cunning to solve the UK's national security issues...what a concept!
I eagerly await Season 3 on DVD...
good if not unrealistic in some aspects are mi5 officers armed was under the impressions there supposed to be more invisible and unarmed and un able to arrest anyone lol but the last series was absolute rubbish was hard to stay interested .....im British but feel that at times it seems so anti American its hard to believe it gets put on TV in the USA....and the Russians seem to always be out manoeuvring them ...as irritating as it may be at times its a shame its being cancelled and as usual its been cancelled without a replacement in place maybe they should re brand it and set it in the cold war could be more interesting......it was more interesting when there was one story line per episode rather than dragging a main story line out over the whole series and the constant changing of the main character is irritating i find my self losing track of some of them not to mention how many times they change the home secretary its like 7 in 10 years ......its good but flawed in some aspects sometimes u just have to put your brain to sleep and watch personally id rather watch the first few series and not bother with the last 2 and the ending was a bit disappointing
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first two Series of Spooks are perfect television, 10 out of 10,
the third series is an 8 out of 10, with the quality starting to
decline and after that is not worth watching.
When Spooks was first released I thought it was a brilliant show. It is a realistic spy show, looking at the counter-terrorism section of MI5. Its shows that most of their work life is focused on investigation and research, and that there was very little action in real espionage. It looked at real threats from extreme Islam, the I.R.A, anti-abortionists, Colombian drug barons and Serbian War-Criminals. It was well acted and had good production values. It had a more moral position to a show like 24, avoiding using torture and that sometimes their isn't a rush and investigations last a long time. The programme also looked the psychology and the relationships of the MI5 officers. The best example was Tom Quinn (Matthew Macfadyen), who was struggling with his relationship with Ellie Simms and her young daughter. I thought that Matthew Macfadyen was so good in the role that he could be a future Bond. The show was also brutal at times and didn't shy away from controversy. It showed the brutal murder of a female field agent in the second every episode, in the second series a teenage boy became a suicide bomber. The first two series was an example of the BBC at the best and has been called John Le Carre for the internet ages.
During the third series the quality started to decline. There are a few reasons for this, first the three main cast members were all left and in the real world senior MI5 officers don't get replaced that often. The plots became more unrealistic such as a rock star's baby son was kidnapped and MI5 investigated it because he was recently knighted and ex-SAS soldier turned mercenary was planned by an oil company to attacked another oil company's London headquarter. I also felt that MI5 and MI6 have a friendly rivalry, but in the third series it makes out that MI6 were used by the JIC to head destroy MI5: not likely to happen.
By the later series the plots got really silly, such as a Russian Billionarie tried to buy the NHS, Christain extremist attacking Muslims who tried out to be working for a bishop with links to the government or MI5 bombing a train in Tehran, etc, etc. Spooks later on show MI5 senior officers were enlightened liberals who are fighting everyone else. In real life MI5 are conservative with a small c.
In conclusion, the first three series are worth watching, but after that the show really jumps the shark.
I am so far from England and what is happening there that I am mystified as to why the very charismatic "Tom" left Mi5 (Spooks). The last two episodes also had Zoe leaving and a hint that Danny will go as well. What gives? I think writers, producers and directors don't understand that following a series like this requires a certain investment in the characters. Try running 'Nikita' without Nikita and Michael. Sorry guys it just won't work. The concept of 'Spooks' is interesting, but let's face it there are lots of other similar series ie '24' that feature this kind of espionage intrigue. It's frustrating to get into a series and then find that the main characters suddenly are gone. Replacing main characters really doesn't do the trick since that is what viewers mainly relate to. So again, what is really going on with Mi5. More to this than they would like us to think.
'Spooks' has to be one of the few interesting, unique British shows on
television at the moment. All too often British shows make the mistake
of being too realistic and end up focusing on work politics, paperwork
and over-angsty characters.
On the other hand, 'Spooks' is realistic enough without compromising on the action. It has intelligent story lines and at last a British agency actually looks appealing much like the Americans make the FBI or the NYPD look interesting.
My only complaint is it needs to lighten up a little. The characters never smile, they don't seem to be close to one another and, many times, they are too cold to be very likable.
This shows centers around the British spy organization MI-5 (England's
version of the U.S.'s FBI) and it's agents. Not only does the agents
keep England safe from terriosts and other national security threats but
struggle to keep thier private lives "normal". The choices they have make
and the things they have to do to keep the country safe, affect their
lives and the ones closer to them.
One of the shows main character, Tom Quinn, is a young head agent who in the show tries to integrate both his spy job and his family-to-be life together only to find out that they are not compatabile. at the end he has to make the choice of which life he belongs to.
Danny, a young agent with high computer skills, gets into trouble for hacking in the mainframe and raising his credit line to support his buying habbits.
Zoe, Danny's partner, is incrediblily smart and innocent, but main fear is living alone because of her job.
Harry, the hard nose director of MI-5, does what he has to do make sure the job is done and his agents stays in line. Can be cold from time but does support his people.
Tessa, another verteran agent, is extorting money from MI-5 by collecting money for terriost contacts that don't exsist and blackmailing Harry into not reporting her to MI-5.
The story line in some episodes are suspence and brutal. Some can be realistic in the version of the choices they made on what is more important. Doesn't have that shoot them up and bullets action like most American spy show but has the process of making y ou think over the stragedy. People do die and People pull off dirty tricks, which makes it more enjoyable to watch.
Language barrier on how thier English version differs from here in the US can be a problem to understand, but still a good show to watch.
Entertaining show about the British security service MI-5 with a
writing and editing style similar to '24', but typically with one or
two episode story arcs instead of season long plots. The characters are
well created and nicely fleshed out with skills and personal foibles,
but do seem to have disturbingly short lifespans. Politics in the show
are rather conservative at the beginning of the series (which started
shortly after 9/11), but gradually begin to include a lot of lefty 'new
world order' conspiracy stuff as the show progresses and the Iraq war
became increasingly unpopular around the world. Like all shows of this
type, it portrays England as having a shockingly high rate of terrorist
attacks and far too many caches of surface to air missiles floating
around inside it's borders.
While the action and spy craft is usually entertaining, it does tend towards the silly on many occasions. Weaker plots include elements like a small child with a laptop defeating the entire British intelligence computer network and the "G&J" algorithm (an extremely loose and poorly understood reference to RSA style encryption used on the Internet) security loophole that allows a villain to access any computer on the Internet, but who for some completely incomprehensible reason uses it to attempt to ransom the government instead of just tapping directly into banks to take the funds. Occasionally the logic is so tortured it becomes unintentionally funny, as in one season (spoiler alert) where a group of individuals attempt a coup of the British government. During the course of the coup they kill several people including an MI-5 officer, arrange to have hundreds of people killed in a staged terrorist attack, organize the slaughter of peaceful protesters by police forces, attempt the assassination of several high-ranking government officials and the Prime Ministers own son, and create detention camps where they round up political opponents and try to set them on fire. After the good guys finally stop the plot, one of the conspirators (that's right, just one) is brought to trial and convicted. The daughter and one-time co- conspirator of the convicted man, now amazingly added to the MI-5 payroll because she had an eleventh hour change of heart, has a heated exchange with her boss because her father received 20 years in prison and she felt he should only get 5. I laughed so hard I was crying. I don't know if this is a British thing I don't get, but over here we would say that mothf***er has got to go. Apparently in Britain trying to overthrow the government is seen as more of a stern talking-to kind of thing.
One quick not for those living in the states; it bears mentioning that the show has a strong anti-American sentiment that usually colors us as either arrogant jerks, soulless corporate overlords, or weapon merchants eager to sell biological weapons to foreign leaders for all their ethnic cleansing needs. Having seen other Canadian and British shows I've become de-sensitized to this so it didn't bother me overly much. I figure we made them the emperor's lackeys in Star Wars so turnabout is fair play.
All in all this is a decent bit of action-drama. When it works it works really well, which I'd say happens about 70% of the time. The other 30% fails pretty spectacularly, but still I would say overall it's worthy of providing a few hours of diversion.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Spooks" is, was, and always will be a super thriller, and marvellously
stylish. It has always depended upon the willing suspension of
disbelief by its audience, but the 2008 series now showing in Australia
has imposed too strongly upon my ability to believe. Thrillers always
rely upon the notion that the stakes are high. In current series, the
goal is to prevent war between the West and Iran, with a chance of
WWIII beginning. However, I find myself beginning to approach a new
episode with a shrug of the shoulders: "How is the world going to end
this week?" Then Malcolm's ability to break codes with seconds
remaining to Armageddon is just too far out of the realms of the
credible. And he does it every week. Every person in Greater London
must have his or her own camera trained upon him/her, because, except
when the plot requires someone to drop out of sight, anybody in the
city can be found within a few seconds.
"Spooks" is essentially a classy soap. People change character from week to week. This week's goody may be next week's baddie. That is a staple of soap operas, and in the world of television spies, double agents and double crosses, that is fine. But Jo's recent inability to face torture is such a reversal -- in previous episodes, she was so unfailingly brave. And then Adam has her feign death, when the obvious thing to do was nothing until the baddies came to torture her -- just not a logical thing to do. Similarly the death and resurrection of Ros completely defies logic, just as the reappearances of characters written out of a soap frequently defy logic.
"Spooks" is still watchable, but not nearly as good as it was.
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