wed 17/10/2018

Press, BBC One, series finale review - scarcely credible but highly entertaining | reviews, news & interviews

Press, BBC One, series finale review - scarcely credible but highly entertaining

Press, BBC One, series finale review - scarcely credible but highly entertaining

Mike Bartlett's newspaper saga races towards mutually assured stalemate

Dance of death: Ben Chaplin and Charlotte Riley in PressBBC/Lookout Point

It’s difficult to tell whether Press (BBC One) came to praise newspapers or to bury them. The slugfest between preachy liberal do-goodery and mucky market-led skulduggery ended in a score draw, with the main protagonists living to fight another day and speak to their ever more polarised silos. Any sensible viewer might have concluded that the plot was stark-raving amphetamine-enriched baloney. You don’t, for example, need the omniscient snooping of Resonance to know that no woman would ever leave her handbag lying around in a bar as she popped off to the ladies. It was scarcely credible from start to finish. But hey, that’s newspapers.

If you managed to peer past its cheerful absurdities, as a six-part drama Mike Bartlett’s industrial portrait laid in lashings of entertainment. This final episode was particularly intricate with plot as the dance of death between Holly Evans and Duncan Allen threatened to reduce one, then the other, to rubble. Holly’s pursuit of Duncan - covertly recording him and then taking snaps in journalists’ church in Fleet Street - had a fantastical feel. But the actors made it work. Charlotte Riley was wonderfully watchable as a doughty northern firebrand defending freedom of speech, so obsessively committed to the cause she had no life worth ruining. Ben Chaplin’s sneering drawl and cold peremptory manner was all too plausible a panto villain (though his agent needs to get work which expands his repertoire). How many Fleet Street thugs went into the creation of this chilling gargoyle? The casting cleverly pitted two actors with pebble-black eyes against each other, hinting at a dark, tribal commonality.Paapa Essiedu in PressA bit like real newspapers, Press picked up stories and dropped them like a stone when it had no further use for them. The sex pest financier Joshua West’s exposure came and went as if it was wrapping for tomorrow’s fish and chips. The private lives of the main actors were chewed up and spat out, angled so as to make sizzling good copy: the sad office affair of Herald editor Amina Choudury (Priyanga Burford) and her cuddly deputy Peter Langley (Brendan Cowell); the foolish hopes of Ed Washburn’s (Paapa Essiedu, pictured above) Herald-reading mum.

As for the tawdry saga of Duncan Allen’s custody battle felt like an offcut from Dynasty. The wife (Natasha Little) traded one shit for another, and on no greater grounds other than adultery sought to deny her son access to his father. “You’ll never see him again,” she scowled. This dim view of vengeful parenting is a Bartlett speciality: see also the son caught in the middle in Doctor Foster.Ellie Kendricks in PressThere was no space to portray any readers in all this, and Bartlett mainly chose to ignore the effect of online publishing on print media (hello, we're over here). But it did its research in many of the hot-button issues impacting on the media. One barbed observation could easily be overlooked: Ellie Kendrick (pictured above) delightfully played Leona Manning-Lynd as a posh little miss clambering up the Herald’s greasy pole. She rather had the veneer of a caricature, did she not? And yet not long ago in the real world, a rival outlet ran a story about quite how many of one well-known liberal newspaper’s staff were products of private education. That was another battle on the undercard: Leona wins, Ed loses. And below-the-line commenters have the gall to complain about unrealistic diversity targets in drama casting.

@JasperRees

The casting cleverly pitted two actors with pebble-black eyes against each other, hinting at a dark, tribal commonality

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters