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Exile - BBC One - Review

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Written by : published Wednesday 4th May 2011

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Watch Exile online NOW.


Typecasting can be the bane of a television actor’s life. One memorable role can easily cripple a future career, as the audience still associate the actor with the previous character. This was always a risk for John Simm, a fantastic actor that most people (including myself) know from his role as DI Sam Tyler in Life On Mars.

In Exile however, Simm has managed to detach himself convincingly from his previous characters in the role of Tom, a washed up tabloid hack who returns home as his life falls apart. Other actors include the always fascinating Jim Broadbent, who plays Tom’s father who suffers with Alzheimer’s. Broadbent’s performance is not only very accurate to that of an Alzheimer’s sufferer, but also very considerate of the condition, and its effect on relatives and carers. Olivia Colman also puts in a great performance as Tom’s sister Nancy, whose life has been restricted by having to care for her father.

Exile should not be taken, as some of the trails on BBC One suggested, as just a drama focusing on the relationships and the trials of dealing with Alzheimer’s. Throughout the three one-hour episodes we are taken into an investigation as Tom tries to find out what his father had been investigating as a journalist before he was diagnosed.

Although I have some very minor issues with the programme, including one quite contrived scene in which Tom and his friend have to hide under a desk to avoid being caught looking for information in a council office, on the whole the programme is flawlessly written, flawlessly produced and flawlessly directed. The cinematography in particular shows a magnificent creativity and confidence in the work that is rarely seen on television.

In my review last week I wrote about the inherent qualities of British television. Exile in particular demonstrates what the British are good at. The story towards the end of the programme gets very dark, and I mean extremely dark, as Tom finds out more and more about himself and his father’s past. However it is only British drama that can still inject a bit of humour into the darkest of situations without being either insensitive or contrived. This is mainly down to the brilliant writing of Danny Brocklehurst, whose previous credits include Shameless, Clocking Off and The Stretford Wives.

The arc of the story in Exile makes the programme a true joy to watch. Genuine twists and drama through grassroots writing and performance really helps it to stand out from some of the dross that is currently on television. It’s also nice to see a presentation of the north of England that isn’t pitched somewhere between Last of the Summer Wine, Emmerdale and those annoying Plusnet TV ads. It’s also good to see a distinction being made between Lancashire and Yorkshire, which some broadcasters have struggled with before.

Exile, like Doctor Who last week, continues to show the ability and strength of British Drama, and again demonstrates the need for its recognition worldwide. Who knows, maybe BBC America might stop transmitting repeats of Top Gear and put something decent on?


Watch Exile online NOW.


About the author Peter Crowther

Peter Crowther

My name is Peter Crowther. I'm currently a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Huddersfield, a Broadcast Assistant at BBC Birmingham and now a TV review writer for thetvking.com.

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