Starring: Warren Clarke, Richard Griffiths, Stephen Fry
Director: Marcus Mortimer
This BBC mini-series dates from 1998, but its storyline – to do with a serial killer who is going around murdering bank managers as a protest against cuts and austerity – only seems to have grown more topical with the passage of years.
The late Warren Clarke gives an enjoyably dishevelled, bleary-eyed turn as George Cragge, a boozy veteran crime reporter just about clinging on to his job at BBC Radio News who suddenly finds his career on the up again when he starts getting personal messages from the killer. Adapting a source novel by Mark Tavener, scriptwriter Malcolm Bradbury serves up a solid mystery as Cragge and beleaguered DCI Frank Jefferson (Alun Armstrong in wonderfully querulous form) huddle down over pints to ponder where the killer might strike next. But the story also tacks on lots of Tom Sharpe-ish farcical elements, including numerous potshots at BBC management and some broad political comedy when Geoffrey Crichton Potter (Richard Griffiths), the languidly clubbable leader of a small, would-be insurgent party, eventually stirs himself to turn the crimes into ammunition against the government.
These days, some viewers might find Bradbury’s brand of humour a little obvious and over-contrived, but his jokes are helped along enormously by the show’s brisk pace, pleasantly tangled story threads and colourful cast of characters (including Siobhan Redmond as a latex-wearing dominatrix with a who’s who clientele). And it’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying one particularly droll plotline to do with the Controller of Radio 2 (Stephen Fry) trying to manipulate the Controller of Radio 4 (John Bird) into helping him depose the BBC Director General. 8/10