Channel 4's latest comedy drama, set in and around the Metropolitan Police, Babylon, has a great cast.
The cast includes James Nesbitt (Cold Feet, Jekyll) Adam Deacon (Kidulthood, Anuvahood), Jill Halfpenny (Coronation Street), Patterson Joseph (Peep Show), Nicola Walker (Last Tango In Halifax), Jonny Sweet (Chickens) and Brit Marling (The East). Oh and if that wasn't enough to entice you in, Babylon is written by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, Fresh Meat) and directed by none other than Danny Boyle.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to BAFTA the other week to watch the first episode, a feature-length episode of 90 minutes that's being shown on Channel 4 on 9th February at 9pm. But the Babylon journey doesn't end there as they're about to go into production for a six-part series, with hour-long episodes which will be shown in the spring.
What would happen if the Head of Communications for Instagram, was to be given the task of revolutionising the PR department of the Metropolitan Police? Well that's the exact same question that Babylon asks, and although there are a lot more layers to Babylon than just that, never before has a series about the British police force been more relevant and topical. So much though that speaking at BAFTA, Nesbitt said that is "Feels like we're almost telling a true story".
Oh and a word of warning, if you're looking for something to fill in the void since The Bill ended, this certainly isn't it. This is a million times better. So let's start with Liz Garvey then, played by Brit Marling, she has made the move from Instagram to the Metropolitan Police. She's a strong woman, but one that has been thrown in at the deep end, and as violence erupts over the capital, was she the right person for the role? Will she be able to hold things together in light of the recent crisis? Well that would be telling.
She comes from a social media background, one of transparency and sharing, and one of the first things she does is invite a documentary crew down to shadow the Territorial Support Group; Robbie, Davina and Clarkey - played by Adam Deacon, Jill Halfpenny and Cavan Clerkin, to humanise the police force in the eyes of the public.
Robbie, is a very different role for Adam Deacon, as we usually see him playing characters that are on the wrong side of the law, However in Babylon he couldn't be more on the side of the law as he plays a police officer. A role I never thought I'd see him in. I've been a big fan of his work for a while now and it's great to see how versatile he is an actor in that he is able to switch things up every now and then and surprise people.
A lot of the lighter moments, the moments that make you laugh come from Robbie as he's forced to tone down his slightly unorthodox methods of crowd control in light of the cameras.
Then there's James Nesbitt, who plays Met Commissioner Richard Miller, who want to turn around the police force's image, but he's not quite able to do that by himself. Which is when he decides to hire Liz Garvey after watching her TED talk which opens the episode.
It's always a joy to watch Nesbitt in anything and the role of Met Comissioner in Babylon is no exception and his relationship with his staff officer, Tom Oliver (played by Jonny Sweet, Chickens), is a joy to watch. Sweet really shines in Babylon, and on more than one occasion steals a scene with his humour. Aside from a great cast, there's a phenomenal scriptwriting team behind it. The very same team who brought us Peep Show, Fresh Meat and Four Lions; Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong.
Speaking at BAFTA they both said how this felt very different from their other shows, and they're right, it does, but it's still up to the high standard we've come to expect from the duo. Making anything 90 minutes long for television these days is a tall ask and very few are able to maintain interest from their audience beyond the first 30 minutes. Not these two though, as Babylon pulls you in right from the very beginning. In only the first five minutes we see the Police break into a house where the owner is seen coming out of the toilet, literally stark bullock naked.
The constant references to Twitter and popular culture really bring the show into the present day and for me personally it was fascinating to see how Twitter was being used to solve a case. I think it's a rather smart move from Channel 4 to choose to air a 90-minute feature length episode before launching the series. It gives us time to get to know the characters so that by the time the series comes around we can get stuck in with the good story lines. It's a format that really worked for Rick Gervais' Derek, and now look at how that successful that has been.
I for one cannot wait to see how Babylon will play out as a six-part series, but one thing's for sure, I am super excited to see how these characters develop and where the show takes them next.
When asked whether Danny Boyle would still direct the series, Sam Bain said, "We're not sure. He'll definitely be Exec Producer" and according to a tweet by Adam Deacon, it seems Boyle has got Jon S Baird (Filth) to direct some of the episodes for the full series. So the Director's baton certainly seems to be in good hands.