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The BBC haven't made a mini series as good since 'Edge of Darkness' in
Although 'State of Play' doesn't quite match that seminal classic it is
still superb. It is an oasis in a very large desert of quality programming
from the once mighty BBC. Apart from the 2001 co-production 'Conspiracy'
BBC drama output is a poor shadow of what it used to be in the sixties and
The six episodes of 'State of Play' need close attention but once the plot gets going it is a roller coaster ride to the last few minutes of the last episode. The journalists, the politicians and the police prowl around each other as the conspiracy is unravelled. It is not just a driving narrative however, there are real people with real emotions caught up in the action. The six episodes allow several characters to become rounded and interesting. High praise indeed for Paul Abbott, the writer. It gripped from start to finish.
The acting is excellent. David Morrissey and John Simm as Stephen Collins and Cal McCaffrey play brilliantly off against each other as truths are eventually discovered. The last scene between them is corker. The journalists are the heroes but they are also flawed and troubled. All the actors playing the journos were great but I thought Kelly Macdonald as Della Smith was exceptional. Bill Nighy had some hilarious lines which he gave full justice to. Forget Hollywood star names, these are proper actors.
Apart from the human characters the other character that is well portrayed is London itself. London has many faces and the series brought several of those out. From nights by the Thames , to the bleak housing estates, to the pretty suburban streets, to the formality of Parliament, to the sounds and almost the smells of eight million people jostling together. All photographed atmospherically. As a Londoner it made me look at my city again.
I'll run out of superlatives soon, so I'll just say it is a great achievement by all the artists concerned. Apparently another series is being considered and hopefully that will be just as good.
What a trip watching this masterpiece. It's a fast moving intelligent
thriller that had me glued to the couch... more addictive than Crack!
The acting is convincing, the plot is thick, the script is delicious
and the characters are vivid.
It's not often a TV production comes along leaving you hungry for more, but the BBC have a knack for picking quality and producing some of the best programming in the world. This is the stuff that leaves American entertainment for dead. No gadgets, explosions or tough guys! Shame on them with all their money and their smarts, it's the BBC that delivers time and time again.
Hats off and if you haven't seen it yet don't put it off.
What makes a good political thriller? Some things are obvious. Firstly,
strong believable characters. Secondly, a fast-paced, complex, dazzling
plot. But the plot must resolve into something comprehensible - there may
appear to be one hundred mysteries, but beneath the smoke and mirrors,
must be one story. Anyone can write an infinite collection of
and conspiracies - but a strong story makes simple sense in the end.
Finally, a political drama needs to say something authentic about the
current state of the world. If the final conclusion is that the Prime
Minister has a prediliction for drinking the blood of teenage girls, then
however plausible this is made to seem, an opportunity has been lost - if
politics really is the subject matter, and not just the setting, then the
personal drama must make some wider political point. Paul Abbott's 'State
of Play' succeeds gloriously on all these points, and confirms his
reputation as among the the sharpest writers in British television
Director David Yates also deserves credit, for keeping the mood tense but unmelodramatic throughout, while the cast show uniform excellence in bringing Abbott's characters to life. Abbott has commented that he knew he would have failed if any of his (largely journalistic) heroes could be sumarised as "mavericks" - a simple lesson ignored by ninety percent of writers today. Instead we have real, three-dimensional portrayals. What's especially impressive is how well the female characters are realised - neither passive decoration nor kick-ass post-feminists, but believable, not necessarily glamorous women - the contrast between the sexes has a low-key ring of truth. David Morrissey as the MP around whom the storm breaks is also excellent - when politicians are held in universally low stock, 'State of Play' avoids all the easiest shots. If one of the tragedy of politics is that many of its protagonists are first rate idiots, another is what it makes out of those who are not. Morrissey's Stephen Collins is never sympathetic, and yet comes across as the sort of man you might almost choose to try and run the country. Paul Abbott, meanwhile, is certainly the sort of man you'd choose to write a drama. In 'State of Play', he has produced the best British TV series since 'Holding On'.
Paul Abbott is a genius. His writing here is taut and intelligent, just
like anything else he has done. This BBC production is truly flawless.
From the writing to direction to the acting, it is outstanding. This is
exhilarating and challenging TV that, though politically-charged,
crucially develops interesting characters that you can care about. The
plot is complex, as the best political thrillers are, and delivers a TV
drama that hopefully shuts up those who say that us Brits can't make TV
like the Yanks. Yes, American TV is great but the marathon seasons and
multiple writers are exhausting and create bloated, sometimes
frustrating TV. Look at Lost, it is as easy to hate as it is to love
and becomes dull frequently in the flabby, direction-less mid-season
hell. Not here though. Six streamlined parts that never let up the pace
and never loosen their grip on the audience. 'State of Play' keeps you
hooked and leaves you begging for more, as with all great pieces of
entertainment. You'll be sucked into this world and won't want to
Credit must be equally divided between its makers, and the direction is every bit as thrilling as the writing, and ,accordingly, David Yates is moving on to bigger things with the Harry Potter franchise. The tremendous cast all deliver as you'd expect, with David Morrissey and John Simm excellent as the leads and a stunning supporting cast that includes Kelly MacDonald, Philip Glenister, Polly Walker, Patrick Brennan, Shauna MacDonald, Rebekah Staton, James McAvoy, Marc Warren and, of course, the ever-delightful Bill Nighy.
More joy is found in the pulsating soundtrack, tight editing and cinematography.
Overall, 'State of Play' is among the most thought-provoking and exhilarating thrillers you'll ever see and is quite possibly the best thing to have been on TV; British, American or otherwise.
It is not often that really good series based on politics, suspense and
a bit of romance + comedy hit our idiot boxes. However, State of Play
manages to do all this with such finesse that I was left spellbound.
What starts of as a simple murder case becomes so huge that it really
boggles the mind. And at all time, it does not seem one bit
over-stretched or silly. Add to this three subplots and what you have
is a series that is of immense viewing pleasure. All in a runtime of
just 300 minutes.
If you want your TV series to be intelligent, do yourself a favour and watch this series. Now.
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.
Not since The Lakes have the Brits delivered such impeccable, classy
(incidentally the fabulous and just a tad sexy John Simm was in that too!
Coincidence? Nah, he's one of the best young English actors around who
to choose his roles very well)
Where UK drama of late has tended to resemble cheap rip offs of American drama, this brings the Poms back to the very top of the tree. The script is superlative as is the acting. Tight, riveting, believable, gripping and at times just downright funny.
The gems that come from Bill Nighy's mouth! He is such a brilliant actor, proof that Love Actually wasn't a fluke for him, he's so on the money in the characterisation of the editor, a joy to watch.
Please, please more of this sort of stuff England, it's what you do best when it comes to television.
I take issue with some of the people commenting on "State of Play" who declare that they believe it to be "as good as American TV" or some other such nonsense. That's ridiculous! Perhaps it's a generational thing, but I have always thought that British productions, particularly drama, are light years ahead of American TV and the actors are in a whole different galaxy. The original "State of Play" is brilliant, suspenseful and a pleasure to watch. I cannot believe that there is going to be a "remake"! I love Helen Mirren and Russell Crowe, but there is absolutely no need for this series to be remade. Why can't they write something original for Mirren and Crowe? The Brits are the best. Period!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is what I call top class stuff. I haven't had much interest in British mini series for the past years. I loved the Dennis Potter series and "The Crow Road" I thought was excellent(since than I've read almost all of Banks' books). When it comes to thrillers, "Taggart" was good for quite some time, but has been going rapidly down the drain. So I was pleasantly surprised when I accidentally watched the first episode of "State of Play" and was absolutely hooked. The story is tight and exciting and the cast is wonderful. Even the cop who gets killed in episode 1 is a great character. John Simm, David Morrisey, Bill Nighy: all excellent, and I think I almost fell in love with Kelly MacDonald. Bravo. For a long time the best TV material has been American(Six feet Under, The Sopranos). I hope I'll see more stuff like that in the future.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Actually the whole cast is - Bill Nighy, David Morrissey, Kelly Macdonald.
What a terrific ensemble piece. David Morrissey's performance was very
reminiscent of his role in the equally good "Holding On' I
John Simms as the prime investigative reporter was definitely the standout though - a cleverly scripted excellently directed piece that convincingly twisted and turned throughout the five episodes. Totally gripping and highly recommended.
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