I read somewhere that Paul Abbott wrote the screenplay for State Of Play on the hoof. And unfortunately it shows - and, at the end of the day, it is to the detriment of the piece. Like the Grand Old Duke Of York, he marches us up to the top of the hill, and then marches us back down again, before once more we are marched halfway up and then — well, what? This series has been lauded to high heaven and impressed the money men in Tinseltown so much that it has now been turned into a movie. But am I the only one who feels just a little let down by the denouement? And am I the only one who feels, just a day later that the plot is so full of holes that something akin to a con trick? Let me give some example, and I trust you have already seen the piece or else my comments will be substantial spoilers. It is hinted throughout that there a huge conspiracy is afoot, and that it is so deep and so serious that the government would even resort to murder to avoid the truth coming out. In fact, this fact - a probably government conspiracy - is the whole raison d'etre of the thriller, from its title - State Of Play - on. So, for example, the hit-man is shot by police marksmen who turn up and whose actions take even the coppers on the case by surprise. The strong suggestion is that he must be silenced. Then there is the question of who and why the autopsy report on the alleged black drug dealer was altered to make it seem that he was indeed a druggie, which his family insist he wasn't. And on it goes. Just why was the government so keen, apparently, to protect Stephen Collins? We are never told, but we are given the impression that it is not so much protecting Collins but itself. At one point Collins is told that Andrew Wilson was not his enemy, the implication being that he had several rather important ones. There are several wild implausibilities as, for example, when the hit-man takes a shot with a laser-sighted sniper's rifle to eliminate a witness who happens to be in the stairwell several floors up or down in a hospital. Just how could the killer or killers - we don't yet know it is only one - know where he was? That, and several other crucial plot strands, are left to sort themselves out and are left worryingly loose by the end of the final episode. Finally, of course, there is the character of the hit-man himself: why are we supposed to accept his actions and given no back story, no fleshing out of his character and motivation? And would not the cops have established the link between him and Collins rather fast - looking at the records of jobs done by his firm, for example? Then there is Collins himself who surely would, under the circumstances have chosen to keep his head down knowing that if everything were revealed, he would be implicated in the two murders. And on it goes, more or less ruining what was at first blush a great and thrilling series. Thankfully, there is more to SOP than just the story. The ending might more of a whimper than one might wish for, but the journey there is a hell of a ride, with more twists and turns than a Cornish lane however implausible and downright contradictory they are shown to be later. And for that we should be grateful. If someone were to ask whether I recommend this as a good way of spending six hours of their life, I would say 'well, why not, but don't go expecting genius'. As for the portrayal of newspaper journalism, it was hit and miss to say the least. I have spent the past 35 years of my life working for newspapers, and the past 19 working for newspapers of the stature of The Herald. And I must say that they get a lot of small details right — the newsroom looks pretty authentic, as does the slight chaos and the mouthy newsdesk secretary. But they also, unfortunately, get quite a bit wrong. As the editor, Cameron Foster would most certainly take a hands-on interest in the story, but he would not do so exclusively, and has plenty of other things to do. Most likely a deputy or associate editor would be delegated to oversee the story. Nor, on a British newspaper (and I'm sure this is also true of the U.S.) would the editor deign to mix it with the troops. Inviting them all, except those essential to getting out that night's paper (which on a morning paper would be all of them) to drop everything and join him for a drink down the pub is — well — pure fantasy. The reporters were reasonably convincing, except that the Lobby correspondent would have spent 99 per cent of her time at the Commons and would merely have been consulted — she would not have taken such an active part. Dan Foster convinces more than Cal McCaffrey. Dan is just the right kind of amoral, young go-getter who doesn't give a stuff except getting what he wants. Cal is too much of a maverick to last more than a day on staff and would never have got so involved personally with Stephen Collins fate. But Della is spot on. So there you have it: an exhilarating ride and some extraordinary large holes in the plot which simply cannot be explained away. Other reviewers have, as usual, rather gone way over the top with their comments, claiming this is the best drama on TV ever, that it is utterly brilliant, top notch, extraordinary, masterpiece ... Not a bit of it, but take a look anyway.
25 out of 34 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.