Look Roadkill is a perfectly usable drama. The main thought I have after the first episode is, eh, that was OK drama. I do not like it. I don’t hate it. Its good. It’s the drama world’s supermarket sandwich.
Written by David Hare and starring Hugh Laurie as Conservative Minister Peter Laurence, the four-part political thriller is apparently about death from disgrace; i.e. the growing tendency of politicians to ignore scandals or misdeeds (personal and professional) which previously would have ended their careers or at least relegated them to the background until the public memory has faded.
And as we saw in the first episode, Laurence has plenty of scandals just waiting behind the scenes.
First, the story of a questionable meeting he had at a Washington think tank that reporter Charmian Pepper (Sarah Greene) couldn’t prove in court, but of course she did. now hopped on a plane to the United States, determined to dig up More information. Then girl number one, pictured snorting coke in a nightclub; and possible girl number two, who has just made contact from her prison cell. Oh, and he’s having an affair with Sidse Babbet Knudsen.
I suspect that Peter Laurence will navigate through all of these scandals blithely dismissing them as irrelevant or as unfair attacks from his enemies. Who cares about a politician having an illegitimate child or an extramarital affair these days, asks Roadkill. Who cares about this newspaper claim, which was beaten up in court with a libel suit anyway? Has there ever been any real fallout? Peter Laurence MP considers himself a new type of politician and he coated himself with Teflon.
The problem is, none of this sounds particularly biting political commentary. David Hare has said that Peter Laurence is not based on anyone and it is true that he does not look like any person, but is also clearly recognizable as a modern-day politician.
So far, so plausible. But my second complaint is that some characters behave in extremely unlikely ways.
Why, for example, would Charmian Pepper be completely flabbergasted that her publisher fired her after changing her story in court and losing her 1.5 million diary? And since she is so stupidly surprised, are we again believe she is a talented investigative reporter? And what kind of weird HR survey was that and why on earth would the company let publisher Joe Lapidus (Pip Torrens) get closer to Charmian after his sex discrimination complaint, without a lawyer present?
Then there’s a subplot where Peter Laurences Sydney’s driver girlfriend (Emma Cunniffe), Margaret (Katie Leung), tries to pass information to Peters’ lawyer Rochelle (Pippa Bennett-Warner). Margaret has apparently decided she admires Rochelle after seeing her in court, and now she expects her to investigate her own client. It’s strange.
And maybe they weren’t really supposed to understand what Prime Minister Dawn Ellison (Helen McCrory) is playing by putting Peter Laurence in the Justice Department, but she and Julia appear doing it either for a laugh or to provoke a government scandal (or both). Which is also strange.
But Roadkill is saved, to some extent, by the caliber of the actors involved.
Hugh Laurie is, as you might expect, excellent as a Tory MP with a populist lean and his own radio show; its performance is magnetic, with flashes of charm and hardness; both sympathetic and utterly loathsome.
Then there’s Premier Helen McCrory, who gives us a glimpse of what it would be like if Aunt Pol’s Peaky Blinders hit number ten. And if the next three episodes give them some good material to work on, I can’t wait to see more of Sarah Greene and Pip Torrens and the rest of Roadkill’s top-notch cast.
So I’m not too drawn to the plot, the concept, the dialogue or the characters. But hi! Despite my (many) complaints, I don’t hate this show either. Let’s see where this takes us.
The four-part Roadkill drama continues on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET. Find out what else is happening with our TV Guide or take a look at our New TV Shows 2020 page to find out what will be airing this fall and beyond.
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