Red Riding Review: TV of the highest kind

March 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews


redriding300x210 RED RIDING: Channel 4, Thursday 5th March, 9:00pm Alert Me

With today’s television schedules close to bursting with Pop Skating Hip-Hop Love Islands and turgid repeats of Midsomer Murders, it’s easy to forget quite how powerful well-made televisual drama can actually be.

The first in Channel 4’s trilogy adaptations of David Pearce’s cult noir ‘Red Riding’ novels has been accompanied by one of the flashier marketing campaigns of late and, if I’m being completely honest, had me a little anxious.

But you know what? I’m almost giddy to confirm that you shouldn’t be worried – this isn’t a retread of ITV’s Britannia High PR self-combustion, and is more than worthy of the money and advertising currently afforded its way.

Simply titled ‘1974’, it’s not hard to work out not only when its set, but the importance of the era. Set against a backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper murders (although noticeably never actually directly mentioning the case), this first episode follows ruthlessly career-driven journalist Eddie Dunford as he begins to pick away at the deep-rooted scabs of Yorkshire’s corrupt police force and its accompanying fall-out. From the off, it’s obvious this is a whole new breed of Channel 4 drama.

As the Studio Canal+ logo flitters across the screen (those of Mulholland Drive fame) and the camera pans up to reveal a moody landscape and solitary car pootling along a rain-spattered tarmac plain, it’s hard not to assume you’ve accidentally tuned into a feature film. And as the densely layered characters and expertly acted performances slowly unravel across a whole number of beautifully shot scenes, you’d still be forgiven for thinking the same thing.

The whole shebang has an undeniably Seven/Last King of Scotland type vibe. I’m not saying you’re likely to find Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box hidden amongst its 120 minute running time, and there’s no real megalomaniacal villain for the story to hinge on, but the production team has been able to craft a drama that’s forever turning the screw, creating an oddly foreboding sense of uneasiness that makes the final, unavoidable climax all the more affecting.

Gripping, powerful and intense, this is television of the highest standard and more than worth your time.

Matt Risley

Overhyped waffle or the next big thing – let us know what you think! And make sure to check out our review of the next in the series here!

tony wilson says:

watched it all still havent got a clue what it was supposed to be about, utter crap

Tom says:

Well Rachel, as a 32 year old non-media studies student, I’ve have to disagree. The reviewer made a very decent point in the first paragraph – so much of television nowadays is complete tosh. Give me 5 decent dramas of the last 2 years that aren’t American or crappy repeats of English mainstays.

I thought Red Riding was superbly acted, gripping and completely different to much else on tv at the moment.

Why exactly did you think it was rubbish?

Rachel Thornley says:

We watched this last night; we thought it was rubbish; just read critics reviews – can’t believe what I’ve seen. Maybe TV drama is so poor these days that the TV ‘experts’ (average age 25, media studies grads) think anything with half a storyline is ‘essential viewing’.
As ex-pat Tykes. we were really looking forward to this series – but can’t understand why almost everyone in this ‘dark Yorkshire Drama’ is a Lancastrian!! What an insult! Shan’t be watching any more episodes – just an x-rated Inspector Morse. Two hours of our free time wasted – wish I’d done the ironing instead.