Review: BBC's new drama Roadkill stretches belief with its tale of scheming MPs

If the past few years has told us anything, it’s that politicians are at the mercy of events and their own incompetence, not capable of coherent policy, let alone complex, underhand scheming.

Friday, 23rd October 2020, 5:00 pm

Yet, on the basis of Roadkill (BBC1, Sunday, 9pm, all episodes on iPlayer) it seems that no one has told writer David Hare.

Hugh Laurie plays Peter Laurence, a Government minister from the wrong side of the tracks with enough skeletons in the closet to stock a graveyard. Although he’s painted as being some kind of jack-the-lad wheeler-dealer in his early days, there’s no trace of that in Laurie’s performance, bar a slight Cockney accent.

“People like me because I’m a character, a rule-breaker,” he says, but there’s no sign of street smarts, no sign of ruthlessness, no sign of any Alan Sugar-y badness.

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Hugh Laurie stars as scheming MP Peter Laurence in BBC drama Roadkill

The only sign of a character trait is Laurence’s weird phobia around food, whether it’s aides eating in front him, or a PA having a stain on her blouse. Given Hare’s liking for foreshadowing, it would be a surprise if that didn’t turn out to be vital.

Around Laurie’s demilitarised zone of a character, the baddies are all mwah-hah-hah bad – particularly Helen McCrory, who channels a haughty, helmet-haired Margaret Thatcher in her role as Prime Minister – and the goodies are all Milky Bar Kid good.

Meanwhile, the whole thing seems very stagey – many of the scenes are two- or three-handers in offices – and there seems very little attempt to open out the action, so the whole thing seems flat.

There are plotlines to intrigue, but it’s all so Machiavellian that it stretches credulity to breaking point. It’s not only our current MPs who have lost the plot.

Sara Pascoe’s new show Out of Her Mind (BBC2, Tues, 10pm) is a visually inventive, witty comedy-drama, that’s not afraid of showing its learning, or its heart, on its sleeve. Recommended.

If Roadkill is meant to be believable, The West Wing (all episodes streaming on All4) is wish-fulfilment. Take refuge from the posturing in the Commons with Josh, CJ et al and enjoy high-class drama.