Class tension, sex and politics are laid on thick in this five-parter about a high-profile court case, but the risk of another overbaked, overstuffed dud – a la Vigil – is high
Another Sunday night, another big drama taking itself very seriously. This time, it’s Showtrial (BBC One), which follows a high-stakes murder case taking place under the spotlight of intense public attention and media scrutiny. Early on, it is called “the trial that has gripped the nation”, and the idea is to explore whether the truth matters or not: will the verdict be based on what actually happened, or on what the jury makes of the defendant? It is a strong premise, and one that speaks to our image-obsessed, issue-led times. And boy, do these characters have issues to navigate.
Showtrial should eventually become a courtroom drama, but the opening episode instead treads familiar cop-show territory. After a student ball in Bristol, second-year English and philosophy student Hannah Ellis (Abra Thompson) is reported missing by her mother. Enter police officers who all have bantering nicknames such as “Cueball” (bald) and “Butch Cassidy” (er, short hair, surname Cassidy), to crack the case. Thanks to the scene that opens proceedings – we see who is in the dock in the first few moments – we already know that Hannah is not about to be found at a friend’s house nursing a hangover. The slow, steady reveal of what we do know, however, is devastating and done with care. The phone call Hannah’s mother makes to the police, insisting that she knows deep down that something is wrong, is surely every viewer’s worst nightmare.