State of Play (2003)

 “Hands up who’s ever not screwed a source?”

If you like BBC dramas, then at almost 6 hours of viewing time, State of Play  is an intense, satisfying series that you can sink your teeth into.

state-of-play1The story centers on two deaths: the shooting of a black youth in London, and the apparent suicide of Sonia Baker (Shauna Macdonald). While these deaths at first seem to be fairly open and shut cases, there are some things that don’t add up. The shooting of the black youth is quickly forgotten by the police department and chalked up to yet another insignificant drug-related killing, but the death of Sonia Baker, the personal assistant of politician Stephen Collins (David Morrissey) continues to make front page news.

Collins is an up-and-coming politician who’s being groomed for bigger and better things, and on top of that he also heads an important energy committee. When Sonia Payne dies, the story emerges that she and Collins were engaged in an affair. A full-blown scandal threatens to explode, and while Collins’s private life blows up, the newspapers have a field day with juicy headlines. Collins’s former campaign manager, newspaper reporter Cal McCaffrey (John Simm) becomes embroiled in the news story, and is convinced that the deaths of Sonia and the shooting victim are inexplicably linked. While he investigates the connection between these two deaths, he soon finds that he has divided loyalties between his career, his friendship with Collins, and his relationship with Collins’s wife, Anne (Polly Walker)

State of Play has a fantastic supporting cast with Bill Nighy playing the role of Cal’s suave editor, Cameron Foster. Cal convinces Cameron that there’s a big story involving government corruption lurking under the surface of Collins’s affair, and Cameron puts together an investigative team–including the tenacious Della Smith (Kelly Macdonald) and Cameron’s prodigal son, Dan Foster (James McAvoy).

State of Play shows just how television drama should be done. There’s little emphasis on action (the shootings, for example), and instead the emphasis is squarely on the drama. Since this miniseries isn’t restricted to the sort of time frame of a film, the script thoroughly explores the characters, their relationships, loyalties and moral choices. The interpersonal relationships add to the drama as the reporters ferret out the story from Sonia Baker’s friend, the unsavoury Dominic Foy (Marc Warren). This intense, well-acted and plausible drama keeps the viewer guessing until the very end. From director David Yates.

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Filed under British, British television

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