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The research assistant of a Westminster MP dies, as does a supposed drug dealer, and a motorbike courier gets shot at. A team of reporters from the “Herald” newpaper set out to dind the story, and when they start linking the bits and pieces, they realise many events are interlinked. Reporter Cal uses his old friendship with the MP Stephen Collins to protect him from a withchunt when it turns out that Collins had a relationship with the researcher and wanted to leave his wife. Offering shelter, at the same time he digs deeper with his team into the doings of the Engery Select Committee, the Minister, some lobbyists, and a powerful oil company. It all, however, does not turn out the way he expects it to.

If one thinks – as one should, believe me, just ask me, the rest of my family and Stephen King – that “Life on Mars” not only was one of the best tv shows ever conceived by humans (might be a slim possibility that Venus TV has come up with something more coherent, sly, intelligent, warmhearted and funny – but I cannot comment, have not been there in a while), then it is an easy guess that if two of the reasons for this quality, the actors John Simm and Philip Glenister, are in another show, it also must be at least very very good. Assumption correct? With a sample of one: yes, absolutely! The cast here is brilliant, with the mentioned John Simm up front, and the first time I saw David Morrisey in action (“Hello to David Morrisey” – at last I can understand!). Morrisey / Collins is excellently written and played – he is solid and big and tough, at the same time he has the soft side to him that his researcher no doubt found attractive, he enjoys the power of office, and he surely is haunted by something more than he admits. He only gives away the information he is confronted with, and he never enters a breakfast room without grabbing a whiskey bottle. And Polly Walker, and Kelly McDonald and Bill Nighy and and and. It is, of course, not too uncoventional a story, it is like a provincial level “All the President’s Men”, with the usual lot of smoking and drinking that you have to do in serious nvestigative journalism, and with the piles of old newspapers on everybody’s desk (anybody ever wondered why they need to be there in 2003? You can save it from the online edition, for crying’ out loud!). Slimy intermediaries (Mr Foi, did you get your name awarded by the writers to honour that instrument of hope for all researchers, the freedom of information act?), ruthloess spin doctors, haunted politicians who ever only wanted the best for country and constituency… but could not restrain from making some sacrifices on the country’s behalf for a nice shag.
The format of State of Play is also just perfect – I increasingly believe that the seasonal shows the US tv offers are a misunderstanding, and that reasonable mini-seasons of a maximum of five to seven shows allow the authors to maintain a decent storyline. If you cross that line, you have to start cheating and becoming irrelevant to the main narrative – especially if you cannot decide in advance how long the story will get milked.
On all accounts: wonderful cinema? “Cinema”, he said? Yes, this was one long very good thriller, that I happened to watch on tv, but that had all the qualities of good cinema.
Do I need to mention that there is no reason to remake this as a Hollywood production? There is not a single reason!

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