TV review: The Scapegoat, The Bletchley Circle, Leaving
The Scapegoat, ITV1, Sunday, September 9, 9pm
The Bletchley Circle, ITV1, Thursday, September 13, 9pm
Leaving, ITV1, Monday, September 10, 9pm
Written and directed by Charles Sturridge, feature length drama The Scapegoat doesn't so much ask for the audience to suspend their disbelief as run it up a flagpole and leave it to be buffeted by a gale of implausibility for two hours., Set in a lovingly recreated 1953, the year of the Queen's coronation, The Scapegoat stars Matthew Rhys as working class teacher John, who has a chance encounter in a pub with middle class industrialist Johnny - also played by Rhys. Can you guess where this is going?
- The strangers find they have more than just the same face - and, in Rhys' case, the same agent - in common. Both men are tired of their everyday lives. John has recently lost his job, and Johnny has recently lost his nerve in a business deal set up to save his family's factory. They drown their sorrows together and take refuge at the inn for the night.
- Next morning, Johnny has scarpered, taking John's clothes and leaving him his identity in return. After a nanosecond's consideration, John not only embraces Johnny's persona and lifestyle, but also his attractive wife and sexy French mistress.
- Johnny, it transpires, is an unmitigated cad who has left a trail of emotional and economic havoc in his wake, a sorry state of affairs that John decides to resolve. And he makes a fine job of it until, wouldn't you know it, bad penny Johnny reappears.
- None of this makes much sense in terms of plot, character or human behaviour, but it is nonetheless highly watchable and cracks on at such a pace that any and all misgivings are left trailing in its wake.
- The Scapegoat is daft but irresistible, thanks in no small part to Rhys' splendid dual performance, with his characters frequently sharing the screen. Special effects are now so special you no longer notice them.
- Three-part thriller The Bletchley Circle brings a very welcome twist to the tired crime thriller format by introducing its four female sleuths as veterans of Britain's wartime code breaking centre. Several years into peacetime, the members of the super-smart quartet are either drowning in domestic mundanity or enduring the drudgery of unrewarding work. They are reunited when one of their number spots a pattern in the serial killings of young women, and resolves to solve the crime.
- Some moments may stretch credulity - and at one point the drama committed the unforgivable act of having a character mumble exposition out loud to herself - but I am prepared to forgive The Bletchley Circle a lot, simply because it is trying to do something different. It also employs four fine actresses - Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling, Julie Graham and Sophie Rundle - in the lead roles. Did I mention that it's also intelligent, engrossing and quite exciting?
- Leaving stars Helen McCrory as a middle-aged hotel manager who falls in love with a young man on her staff, 20 years her junior. Episode one is slow, sweet and seductive, patiently establishing a wholly credible romance between its seemingly ill-matched lovers. I am hooked.
Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.