I caught one of those ITV money shows the other week, the focus was child benefits, tax credits, stuff like that. It was pretty enlightening; I never knew there was a) so much out there and b) that it was so complicated.
THE REPLACEMENT takes a bit less of a realistic approach to maternity leave; if you think Single White Female or even The Hand That Rocks the Cradle you’d be closer to the genre we’re playing with here.
Within two minutes of the show starting, successful architect Ellen (Morven Christie) is throwing up and telling her new bosses she’s got a little something growing that will probably (whether she wants to accept it or not) impact her new job. Soon interviews are underway, we only get to meet one, Paula, played by the chameleon like Vicky McClure. She gets the job and the fun gets underway.
The two female leads are great together; I’ve followed McClure’s career quite closely and she really is a stunning actress – here she manages to maintain a warm, open face, inviting trust and friendship, whilst balancing the fact that something’s not quite 100% about the new recruit.
Events are seen from Ellen’s point-of-view and we aren’t really sure whether we can trust her or not. Her husband was her therapist (ethics anyone?) and there’s throwaway comments about hormones and security issues. If the cast wasn’t so good you’d question the age of this drama, because it has an eighties theme written all over it: can a woman have a career and be a decent parent?
Is motherhood shoddy if there’s a return to work within a few months? Can a woman ever work with another woman without being insanely jealous of them and plotting their downfall through nasty comments and digging into their past? I should hate it, but the glossy presentation of this neat little mystery package doesn’t allow me to.
The eerie grey-soaked shots of Paula sitting in an old bare house smacks of the mad woman in the attic but we never quite scratch the surface of this woman. No doubt, that’s the plan, but quite oddly I found myself disliking Ellen rather than the one being set up as the jealous nutter who wants to steal your job.
There’s dramas you watch and can’t wait to go back to. Dramas you can return to years later, despite knowing the outcome, and still find something enthralling about them. Sadly, this is not one of those.
The three episodes will no doubt be watched and enjoyed, but at present, it’s a bit thin. There are gaping plot holes, relationships built on hugs that we’re meant to believe are deep and real, and too many long glances over computer scenes accompanied by odd twinkly music for it to be a real psychological thriller. Nevertheless, in a week packed full of new dramas it does hold its own and is a decent mid-week jaunt; it just isn’t going to set the T.V. world alight.