Wow. Every minute of the six hours that make up State of Play is totally riveting. It begins with the seemingly unrelated murders of a scared kid and a young woman and unfolds into a tale of betrayal, government conspiracies and the kind of tense, exciting journalistic drama that (surprisingly) rarely makes it onto television.
Paul Abbott's script is vibrant, but the casting is absolutely sublime. Relative unknown (in the US) John Simm (Life on Mars, which did play on BBC America) is convincingly earnest as a reporter and David Morrissey (who unwisely chose to make his American debut in Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction) is wonderful as his old friend and the politian at the center of Parliamentary scandal. The always adorable Kelly MacDonald plays another feisty reporter; lovely Polly Walker (HBO's Rome) is the politician's wife; but–and this is where it really gets good–Bill Nighy is at his absolute most charming and fantastic (which is saying very much indeed) as the editor, AND (casting heaven!) James McAvoy is his smart aleck son.
Aired in 2003, State of Play drew comparisons to the Ian Richardson House of Cards series and the classic Edge of Darkness (which next on my list to watch); and while nothing will ever be quite as great as the first installment of Prime Suspect, I'd say another BBC masterpiece in suspense was made.
It's being adapted into a Hollywood movie with a Hollywood cast including Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe, who came on after Brad Pitt bailed out. I'd like to think they'll adhere to the quality of the source material but I'm already deeply unhappy that there will be no Nighy, and I?think you know how I feel about our friend Affleck. Still, if they manage to retain even a portion of the excitement and excellence of this series, it will certainly be better than most Hollywood junk.