It could be a busy year for John Simm. One of my favourite actors, he’s set to reappear as The Master in Doctor Who sometime soon, and now news reaches us that he’s signed on to co-star with Adrian Lester – another outstanding actor – in a new three-part ITV thriller, written by Doctor Foster’s Mike Bartlett.
Fending off the attentions of randy colleague Philip (Edward Macliam), sozzled, thirtysomething chemistry teacher Paula Denny (Denise Gough) embarks on a one-night stand with James (Tom Hughes), a younger man who is trying unsuccessfully to keep two women and two children on a builder’s wages. And so we were off on this new, three-part thriller.
I do like Inspector George Gently. I know others who think it’s as dull as dishwater, but I’ve always enjoyed the way it has tackled social issues and documented life in the northeast of England in the 1960s; a region that was both geographically and culturally a long way from Swinging London. Instead, Inspector George Gently has always set its detective stories around working people and their communities. Over the past decade, we’ve seen stories set in factories, working men’s club, rubble-strewn cityscapes, nicotine-stained hostess clubs, northern soul clubs and even holiday camps. But always at its heart of George Gently is the relationship between Gently himself (Martin Shaw) and his partner, John Bacchus (the always-watchable and versatile Lee Ingleby), one of the more successful copper partnerships on British television during the past decade. It was great to see them back for two final stories.
I had to drive down to Bristol to CrimeFest on Thursday night, so I missed the final episode of Three Girls in real time. So, yes, this review is a bit late, but I felt I needed to post something about it because it affected me so much on an emotional level. I try and be as objective as I can when I review tings for this site because I take pleasure in looking at themes and structure and all that mularky. But sometimes the objectivity has to give way to pure emotional reaction, which is what Three Girls provoked.
Last night, the first episode of the three-part Three Girls kicked us all in the solar plexus and made us hover on the verge of tears. It told the story of Holly and her young teenage friends who were lured into a hideous paedophile prostitution ring, populated by men in Rochdale. At the end of the episode, Holly was given hope in the form of Maxine Peake’s sexual health worker, Sara Rowbotham, who, unlike the social services and the police, saw Holly as a human being rather than just another teen who lived a certain lifestyle.
The BBC continuity person doled out lots of warnings – sexual violence, physical violence and all the rest – before this three-part drama (stripped over three nights) started. There was no doubt – if there ever was any doubt – that this was going to be a harrowing, difficult watch. It was the story – another drama based on real-life events – of three girls who had been groomed and horrifically exploited by a paedophile gang (mostly containing, the story goes, Pakistani men, a fact that wasn’t lost during the reporting of the case by the British media when it broke in 2012). Nope, this wasn’t going to be a helter-skelter, fun procedural. It was going to be a very, very difficult watch.
One of the series I’ve gotten a bit behind on is ITV’s four-part adaptation of a true crime, Little Boy Blue. For two episodes we’ve seen how 11-year-old boy Rhys Jones was shot senselessly in a car park in Croxteth, Liverpool in the summer of 2007; and how investigating officer DS Dave Kelly struggled to bring the teenage gang responsible for the killing to justice. It had been powerful and emotional thus far, but – being super-objective – had it been a decent drama? Yes. And no.