It seems that these days there are two types of ITV drama, the Sunday/Wednesday night soporific types which vary from the watchable (Vera and Endeavour) to the shockingly terrible (hello Midsomer Murders and the late Wild At Heart), then there are the less predictable, mainly edgy types like the excellent Broadchurch and Cagney and Lacey for the 2010’s, Scott and Bailey. Adding itself to the latter, most likely as a one off, is Prey, a cop vs. cop drama that lives in the shadow of BBC’s splendid and superior, Line Of Duty.
Not helping those similarities is Craig Parkinson, formerly Dot Cottan in the BBC thriller, now appearing as another decidedly dodgy copper, Shaun Delin, in the ITV thriller. It’s not quite as gripping, despite the excellently designed trailers, but it does have the wonderful John Simm in the lead role of Marcus Farrow and quite honestly he lifts the show to another level. The early scenes with his wife are tender, and whether talking to his sons on the phone or in person those are touching moments to. There’s the slow dawning of the full depth of conspiracy in one scene in a phone box, and the best is his slow meltdown when he’s told his youngest son has died.
Having starred in Doctor Who as the ultimate big bad in the Whoniverse, the Master, and as Sam Tyler in Life On Mars Simm has been in two of the biggest TV shows in the last ten years. Add to that the classic State Of Play and Sky’s Mad Dogs and you’ve got some CV. Along with David Tennant he’s the best of this generation of UK television actors.
Far less about the minutiae of police work than its peer (Line Of Duty) and more about the people and their motives. At only three episodes there are obvious restrictions, and some of the story doesn’t have the time to flesh out motives but overall Prey has some twists and turns, some surprises, and is a mostly gripping three hours of television, even if it doesn’t offer anything new.