The Casual Vacancy

After watching the first episode of the BBC’s big new shiny Sunday night drama it wasn’t clear how the show was going to pan out, so all reservations were held until viewing of the second episode was completed. Now the middle of the three episodes has gone out we can conclude that The Casual Vacancy might well lead to a more permanent vacancy in the BBC commissioning department.

It all looked so promising too, a lovely setting, a fantastic cast, a popular writer and bestselling book, and a frothy intriguing trailer that was played to death over the preceding few weeks. Sounds good right? Well sadly that’d as good as it got. The opening episode was OK, it jogged along slowly, building characters and relationships without much happening. The second episode continued in the same vein. Slowly.

As so little happens in the story and it’s filled with completely unlikable characters – nearly to a man/woman – you have to think that some poor TV executive was dazzled by the name of J.K. Rowling above the books title and didn’t actually bother reading it, or the script. An age old story of haves and have-nots isn’t really given a new spin, and the small town arguing is something that has been a staple of British television for decades. In the past this kind of thing might have been good enough but in a time when the BBC dropped the massively superior Ripper Street and broadcast such superior dramas as Happy Valley and The Missing in 2014 the bar is higher.

There are two good things about The Casual Vacancy though: the introduction of Abigail Lawrie as; the continuing rise of Keeley Hawes as one of the UK’s finest actors. The former plays the teenager with issues (a drug addict mother, small brother to look after, and loss of her father figure) with a subtleness, the latter is hamming it up as the brassy redhead who seems rather out of place with the rest of the show.

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