Great cast, interesting premise, what could possibly go wrong? Oh, wait, it’s August, says Hannah Dunleavy. CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EPISODE ONE.
If you know anything about BBC scheduling, and I’m going to assume you do, you’ll be aware the summer holidays is where drama goes to die. Yes indeed, sporting events, weddings and bank holiday traffic jams provide exactly the sort of deep grass you can hide anything from the decidedly average to the laughably awful.
On the surface, such dramas seem appealing, with interesting premises, worthy casts and nothing to suggest they might be among the worst things the Beeb’s ever made.
Recent years have seen summer launches, The Deep, which had the good grace to be hilariously terrible, and What Remains, which took a whole bunch of damaged souls and concluded that the worst thing a human being could do was get fat. Hmmm.
So why did I even bother with One of Us? I suppose I allowed the presence of Juliet Stevenson, John Lynch and Ade Edmondson to convince me this might be different. Dunleavy, you absolute tool.
The first hour of One of Us was awful. Ridiculously, wilfully, just-robbed-me-of-an-hour-of-my-life awful. A,nd if it is about to get much better in later episodes, there is absolutely nothing that made me want to hang round long enough to find out.
Let’s start with the plot, because that’s where most of the fault lies. Two young newlyweds are murdered by one of those actually-quite-healthy-looking drug addicts, which turns out to be terribly bad timing for their families who are already busy stalking rapists, dealing with a drink problem, catfishing and being talked into offing pensioners. You know, the sort of average day-to-day stuff we all deal with. LOL.
Now, that in itself might make for an interesting drama, were it not for almost every inexplicable thing that happens next, not least of which is the murderer’s decision to drive to the house of one (or both?) of his victims’ families during a well-publicised storm. Maybe his reasoning will be explained in the future.
“Why did I even bother with One of Us? I suppose I allowed the presence of Juliet Stevenson, John Lynch and Ade Edmondson to convince me this might be different. Dunleavy, you absolute tool.”
What can’t be explained are the credibility holes merrily tearing their way through the plot. After repeated mutterings (by me and, presumably, anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of how victims of major crime are dealt with) of “Where the hell is their family liaison officer?”, we learned that they did actually have one. Or, rather, were sharing one and it was the local bobby. Which might explain why he forgot to inform them there was a suspect, leaving them to find out from TV.
Meanwhile, ‘the press’ are about to arrive on their doorstep, the implication being they’re going to start investigating whether the family offed the killer, because that’s what the press do. Except, of course, what they really want is a photograph and a quote about how nice their kids were. Unless it’s the local paper, in which case they want help compiling a listicle on the 17 worst people to crash their car into your front garden. But they don’t need me to tell them that; their family liaison officer will have…oh wait.
It’s all enough to drive a woman to drink and I’m not just talking about Juliet Stevenson’s grieving mum. Still, at least she’s noticed she has other children; the other Douglas child only seems to exist at times when it serves the plot (which is currently almost never).
I’d like to say everyone is doing a nice enough job, and for the most part they are – even if Laura Fraser, who is playing another ‘respectable woman who turns to drug dealing on the side’, doesn’t really appear to be doing much of anything at all.
But there’s only so much you can do with some of the dialogue, which is exposition-filled to such a degree that Ade Edmondson’s character, who we already know has been out of contact, steps out of a taxi with a suitcase and still feels the need to pronounce to his partner, who presumably already knew, that they’ve been delayed on their return from holiday.
Good luck if you are sticking around for more, I won’t be joining you.
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Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.