It’s a brave writer who dares to tackle a drama about journalists, as critics immediately start circling like wolves, desperate to find fault with any details that don’t match up to the reality of the job. (Presumably that’s how policemen and doctors feel all the time.)

In Press, Mike ‘Doctor Foster’ Bartlett acquits himself reasonably well, though I still had a few professional niggles. Would a reporter on a national newspaper really have never done a ‘death knock’ before? And why, for the love of mercy, are TV dramas so incapable of getting fonts right? Some of the pages on The Herald (a fictional version of The Guardian, basically) looked more like the back end of a local freesheet.

The conflict at the heart of Bartlett’s timely drama is the clash of ideals (or lack thereof) between the crusading broadsheet Herald and brash tabloid The Post, edited by the bullish Duncan Allen (Ben Chaplin). Whether courting toxic online trolls or trying to blackmail a feminist cabinet minister into posing with a page 3 girl, Allen appears, at first glance, to be a man unburdened by a conscience. But there are hints he may navigate by his own moral compass, however haywire, and that he might not be the entirely willing accomplice of the paper’s reptilian owner (David Suchet, whose similarity to a well-known media mogul is entirely un-coincidental). 

The Herald’s conscience is represented by idealistic deputy news ed Holly Evans (Charlotte Riley), who has previously described Allen as ‘an offence to journalism’, but now finds herself forced to sup with the devil as part of her efforts to uncover the truth about a friend’s death.

With the entire newspaper industry under siege – rocked by the Leveson Inquiry, plummeting circulations and the rise of clickbait journalism and #FakeNews – there’s no shortage of material for Bartlett to get his teeth into. And if at times the result feels more like Press Gang for grown-ups than Spotlight or The Post… well, is that really so terrible?

They really do need to sort out those fonts, though.

TV extra:


Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure

La Lumley’s latest ab-fab travelogue finds her following in the footsteps of Marco Polo – and being obligingly astonished at every turn. In Venice, she flirts with a gondolier and declares the local silks ‘a gift from heaven’. In Turkey, she awakes to ‘a heart-stopping Elysian morning’. From a billionaire’s palace (‘paradise!’) to an old toilet (‘how adorable!’), Lummers treats everyone and everything with a gushing enthusiasm that appears entirely genuine. Long may she smile on us.


Black Earth Rising

Hugo Blick writes, produces, directs and even acts in this political psychodrama, starring Michaela Coel as a Rwandan genocide survivor and Harriet Walter as her adoptive mother prosecuting a Tutsi war hero. It’s a welcome change from TV’s usual diet of cop shows and ropey John Simm thrillers, though the polemical dialogue (‘It’s like the Second World War is over and we’re Jewish and you’ve decided to prosecute General Eisenhower because he tried to stop Hitler!’) is a bit on the nose.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, September 13, 2018

(c) Waitrose Weekend