By Edward Howard.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
You can tell a show isn’t going to be a masterpiece once, within the first 10 minutes, two extremely open sex acts take place, something rather surprising since it happens only a few minutes after the watershed. It’s a sign that a show could be more out to shock than anything else to grab headlines, all the while indicating that it plays its more edgy cards too early, leaving the rest of it to not be as good, not to mention how it could indicate that it may seem to put titillation before anything else, or more commonly known as style over substance.
That being said, ITV’s latest drama Cheat isn’t too bad. It’s shot very nicely at Oxford University, is acted fine enough (even if there aren’t any extremely strong performances) and it’s intriguing, to say the least.
However, I cannot get over the various major flaws in this university set drama one would expect to see if this were a badly written Cruel Intentions fanfiction, not a serious ITV drama.
The main contention I have is that very few of the characters are that likeable. They’re not hateful, but the plentiful stupid decisions they make isn’t one to inspire confidence and seems to have the most unlikeable cast of characters for something set in an educational facility since Rockstar Games’ 2006 gem Bully. The difference being is that the latter was doing it on purpose for black humour of course, and some of the anti-heroes in that game (like main character Jimmy) had some redeeming qualities, which can’t be boasted here.
The main character of Leah marks down a student (of who is the main antagonist Rose) out of pettiness, all the while is obsessed with her for initially no discernible reason, to the point of psychically abusing her at least twice. Rose is a character of who is undoubtedly horrible, but whose character motivations make no sense throughout, especially in the last episode. Everyone else, from the various cheating husbands to the one-dimensional friends are either badly written or unengaging. Other characters vital to the plot (like a university professor who helps Rose) have character motivations that are never explained, leaving him to be less of a character than something to move the plot forward.
The plot itself is full of contrivances and plot holes alike. To be honest, if one were to do a drinking game to every plot hole in this show, their liver would be begging for forgiveness.
It also seems quite worrying in this show’s seeming hatred for aspects of our society. Like most major dramas these days, the married family is portrayed with scorn, most notably showing that broken families aren’t too bad and that despite their problems, a future is usually bright in this case. Meanwhile, the police investigation is frowned upon, as evidence and intense police investigations (f which to my knowledge, they no longer do) go against Leah. This is on top of her refusing to have a lawyer. Admittedly, both could be excused as bad writing more than anything else, but it’s a bad sign nonetheless.
In conclusion, Cheat isn’t particularly terrible, but with its litany of errors, isn’t particularly fine either. Its half-decent moments come awash in a sea of terrible writing and half-thought-out plot twists that makes one’s stomach crawl. This (along with the laughably stupid Clean Up) doesn’t bode well for ITV’s new year of high-quality TV dramas. Let’s wish that the upcoming The Bay is better.