State of Play

State of Play
The big screen version of State of Play starring Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren has just been released and I want to take a moment to reprise the original BBC version which aired in 2003.

It starred the fantastic John Simm (as the journalist), with Bill Nighy (as the newspaper editor) and David Morrissey (as the politician). A host of other great actors played the supporting cast including James McAvoy, Philip Glenister, Marc Warren and Kelly McDonald.

The series was written by Paul Abbott and I want to take a moment to say something about this amazing screenwriter. This is a man who was dealt a very bad hand in life but has pulled himself up against the odds. His life story would make a film itself. He was born the seventh of eight children, his mother abandoned the family to go off with another man and then his father also left. The children were left in the care of their pregnant 16-year-old sister. Somehow, social services didn’t notice. The young Paul was sexually abused by a stranger and he has twice attempted suicide and yet - and yet - his talent for writing has shone through and his hard work has achieved dramas such as this taut political thriller as well as other successes including Clocking Off and Shameless.

State of Play was shown originally on Sunday evenings in six parts. I really think it needed that space to build up the tension, weave in all the complicated plot moves and achieve the startling climax.

It would be impossible to properly summarise here the convoluted plot in detail. Briefly, a leading politician’s research assistant is murdered on the Underground in London. At the same time, there is an apparently unconnected murder of a young man, thought to be drugs related. The politician is friends with a journalist who is investigating the young man’s death but soon becomes involved in the cause of the research assistant’s demise. As the journalist delves, it is apparent that the corruption reaches into the highest echelons of government.

The series kept viewers on the edge of their seats and the denouement was by no means disappointing. The show won two Baftas as well as numerous other awards. As political thrillers go, this cannot be bettered.

I cannot really comment on the new film version as I have not seen it but what I really want to ask is ‘why?’ State of Play was brilliantly written and acted, it was shown on television and there is a DVD available. So my question is - why make it again? It reminds me a Woody Allen line when he says he spent years writing Great Expectations until someone pointed out that there was no need to have done so because Charles Dickens had already written it.

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