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State of Play (2003)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 8.6/10 from 6,551 users  
Reviews: 31 user | 11 critic

A thriller set in London, in which a politician's life becomes increasingly complex as his research assistant is found dead on the London Underground and, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a teenage pickpocket is shot dead.

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Series cast summary:
 Cal McCaffrey (6 episodes, 2003)
 Della Smith (6 episodes, 2003)
 Cameron Foster (6 episodes, 2003)
 DCI William Bell (6 episodes, 2003)
 Stephen Collins (6 episodes, 2003)
 Dan Foster (6 episodes, 2003)
Amelia Bullmore ...
 Helen Preger (6 episodes, 2003)
 Pete Cheng (6 episodes, 2003)
 Liz (6 episodes, 2003)
 Anne Collins (6 episodes, 2003)
 Dominic Foy (5 episodes, 2003)
 Andrew Wilson (5 episodes, 2003)
 Sonny Stagg (5 episodes, 2003)
 Syd (4 episodes, 2003)
Maureen Hibbert ...
 Olicia Stagg (4 episodes, 2003)
James Laurenson ...
 George Fergus (4 episodes, 2003)
 Greer Thornton (4 episodes, 2003)
 Adam Greene (4 episodes, 2003)
 Sergeant 'Chewy' Cheweski / ... (3 episodes, 2003)
 Sonia Baker (3 episodes, 2003)
 Karen Collins (3 episodes, 2003)
Charlie Ryan ...
 Louis Collins (3 episodes, 2003)
Stuart Goodwin ...
 Robert Bingham (3 episodes, 2003)
Patrick Brennan ...
 Neil Woods (3 episodes, 2003)
Madeleine Potter ...
 Professor Tate (2 episodes, 2003)
 Young Guy / ... (2 episodes, 2003)
 Sheena Gough (2 episodes, 2003)
 Yvonne Shaps (2 episodes, 2003)
Carla Du Bois ...
 Hotel Receptionist (2 episodes, 2003)
Elizabeth Elvin ...
 Apex House Receptionist (2 episodes, 2003)
Pui Fan Lee ...
 Joy Cipriani (2 episodes, 2003)


A thriller set in London, in which a politician's life becomes increasingly complex as his research assistant is found dead on the London Underground and, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a teenage pickpocket is shot dead.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Sometimes you have to read between the lines


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Official Sites:



Release Date:

18 May 2003 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Den tredje makten  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(6 episodes)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Michael Kitchen was first offered the Bill Nighy role. See more »


Remade as State of Play (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

What A Good Thriller Ought To Be
9 September 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It isn't often that something literally comes along and changes the standards of a viewer for an entire genre. By the time I got through the nearly six hour of State Of Play the first time around, that was exactly what had happened to me. Having watched it again in virtually one sitting I am once again surprised not only by how well the mini-series holds up during a second (or in my case third) viewing but just how high the quality of the mini-series really is.

To begin with, the series features one essential element for any good story: good and believable characters played by fine actors. The cast of the series is top notch and is led by John Simm as newspaper reporter Cal McCaffrey and David Morrissey as British politician Stephen Collins who both give two incredibly gripping yet believable performances. While this is true of the entire series this fact is especially true during the final minutes of the series when things effectively become a two-hand play between Simm and Morrissey and their respective characters. It's easy to imagine how these characters could have been played differently but here, in this series, these performances are (to use words I don't sue very often) absolutely perfect.

That's not to say that the rest of the cast is lacking by any means, far from it in fact. The supporting cast features fantastic performances that are just as gripping and believable as the performances of the mini-series two leads. The cast ranges Kelly Macdonald as reporter Della Smith, James McAvoy as reporter Dan Foster, Polly Walker as Coliins wife Anne, Stuart Goodwin as the mysterious Robert Bingham and the ever magnificent Bill Nighy as newspaper editor Cameron Foster. There is many more of course many others, but these are just a few of the fantastic performances to be found in State Of Play.

There are also the production values to consider as well. One of the best things about State Of Play is the fact that one could believe that this could whole sequence of events is really just a headline away at any moment. Much of the credit of that goes to the production design of Donald Woods and the costumes of Claire Anderson both of which anchor the series firmly in reality. Then there's the incredible fly-on-the-wall cinematography by Chris Seager which manages not only to compliment the reality of the production design and costumes but gives the entire mini-series a documentary feel as well, all of which is helped by the editing of Mark Day. There's also the sparingly used, but highly effective, score by composer Nicholas Hooper which does what a good score is supposed to do: give additional emotional depth to any scene it appears in. All together the result is some of the strongest production values you're ever likely to see in a TV mini-series.

The real success of the realistic feel of State Of Play lies not in how good the production values are but in the writing of scriptwriter Paul Abbott. Abbott has created a story that feels as though it could be ripped from tomorrow's headlines in a cautionary tale about the sometime fuzzy line between major corporations and those in government whoa re supposed to oversee them, in this case the corporation being a fictional but plausible British oil company and its lobbyists. The mini-series also takes a look at the modern news industry, how it gathers news, where it gets its information from and how pressure can be brought to bare if there's a story too damaging to those in high and powerful places. To do all this successfully and believably, Abbott forgoes many of the thriller clichés of rather tired action sequences and instead (and rightfully in my humble opinion anyway) focuses on the characters and their dialogue which leads to close six hours of fantastic dialogue and an incredible plot. If anything makes State Of Play worth seeing it is the plot which sets a new standard in just how many twists and turns one can fit in a seemingly easily clichéd plot. The result is a complex a mini-series that leaves a first-time viewer ever seeking answers and those who've seen it before looking and finding new clues with every viewing. In short: it's a first class script without any doubt.

So what is State Of Play? It is a fantastic thriller containing some truly fantastic yet believable performances, fine production values and a first-rate script that never sinks into clichés. Yet it also something that is increasingly rare today. By doing all of those things it succeeds in doing something truly spectacular: it changes and raises the standards for an entire genre with it. If you can say nothing else you can say that State Of Play is what a good thriller ought to be.

25 of 29 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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