Black Work

There are spoilers for the ITV series in this review.

Another ITV cop drama comes and goes. This time a very decent cast; the stellar rising Sheridan Smith, the ever reliable Douglas Henshall, and the ever underrated Phil Davis, is not enough to drag this slightly ho-hum police show to higher heights.

The basic premise of Black Work is that Smith, as PC Jo Gillespie, is looking into the death of her husband, another copper, who turns out not just to be another copper but a black works undercover copper. With a secret second wife and child to boot. PC Gillespie spends the rest of her time delving into her hubby’s secret past, uncovering red herrings along the way.

There are twists to the story, nothing that you couldn’t guess within the first ten minutes - i.e. Douglas Henshall’s DCS Hepburn doesn’t have much to do, he’s obviously the guy… (major spoiler he is the guy.) And nothing that exciting really happens. The bar has been raised so much in recent years, most recently by Line Of Duty but probably starting with The Wire, that you have to deliver far more than Matt Charman’s script delivers. Hell, even Safe House was more exciting than this.

Where it does deliver though is in the acting stakes. Smith, as always, is great as the emotional punch bag that’s the central character, Henshall is suitably smooth as the ropey DCS, and Davis is exceptional as the elusive handler of the dead copper, though he has less than five minutes screen time in total.

In summary then: so-so ITV drama has its socks acted off. You just have to look at Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell on the BBC to see what you get when you combine excellent acting with an excellent script. Lots to do for ITV then.

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