Sheridan Smith dignifies everything she touches. Even a run of the mill rogue-cop-betrayal-vengeance show like Black Work is lifted a little by her presence.
ITV, 9.00pm, Sunday 21st June
But even for the saintly Smith, there was only so much that could be done to rescue this depressing twisted-cop drama from itself.
From the opening shot – a shallow focus close-up of a close-cropped Smith putting on her makeup – you knew Black Work is not going to be much fun.
It’s a thriller – but not the fun kind. Smith plays Jo Gillespie, a policewoman who is on the brink of an affair. Her husband is murdered, and that kickstarts the story.
Turns out her life had been a lie. Her husband had been working undercover for two years. She didn’t know. He’d kept it from her. They’d told him to. He’d lied to her. Lied to their children. For years. Now he was dead.
And she’d been a liar too, arranging sexless assignations behind her lying husband’s back. And the police expected her to keep quiet for another day.
Tell no one her husband was dead – in case it jeopardised their operation. Lie for them. Lie to her children. Keep lying.
Smith made a female PC take her to the murder scene, She barged in and is overcome by the sight of a pool of blood on the floor, marking the place where her husband died.
“He lied to me for two whole years. I didn’t even know who he was,” she wailed. And off we went into the ‘why haven’t you found my husband’s killer? I support I’ll have to do it myself,’ storyline
By this time we were over half an hour in, and the tone was unremittingly ugly.
Despite the best efforts of so talented an actress – and a very talented cast, which also included the magnificent Geraldine James as a Chief Constable with a level of gravitas one seldom sees in the real thing – the story never caught fire.
The relentless darkness, the Murk Moderne lighting, and the absence of any character with any redeeming qualities made for a desolate hour of television. All was deceit, lies, betrayal, tears, anger and ugliness.
If you need any more that in your life, Black Work is the programme for you.