When the film of State of Play came out, I heard about the television serial on which it was based, which I missed completely when it was screened seven years ago. But I liked the sound of it, so I bought the DVD version, and I’ve just finished watching it – something that proved to be a very enjoyable experience.
The story gets off to a dramatic start. A ruthless gunman shoots a young black man, and also fires at a passing driver who witnessed the crime. A woman dies in an accident on the Tube – but did she jump or was she pushed? She turns out to have been an assistant to a prominent back-bench MP – and they had been involved in a torrid affair. The truth about their relationship quickly comes out, and a friend and former campaign manager of the MP, who is also a top investigative journalist, starts to look into the mystery. To complicate matters further, the newshound begins an affair with the MP’s unhappy wife.
There are six episodes in all, and while the series begins quite brilliantly, I felt that episodes four and five could easily have been reduced to a single episode, since the pace flags. However, the final instalment is very good, and there is a pleasing twist to the conspiracy-thriller type of plot.
State of Play was written by Paul Abbott, one of our most successful TV writers, and he gave a fascinating account of the newspaper and political worlds. His excellent screenplay was enhanced by terrific acting. John Simm, whom I really admire as an actor, was as good as ever as the journalist, while David Morrissey was appropriately selfish as the MP. Bill Nighy’s quirky performance as the newspaper editor was marvellously conceived, and there were excellent contributions from the rest of the cast, which included Philip Glenister and the under-rated Amelia Bullmore. Recommended.