Sheridan Smith may have made you cry your eyes out in The C Word, but this time she’s back to captivate your attention in a gritty crime series for ITV, aptly named Black Work. The show had a promising beginning, written by Matt Charman, the man behind Our Zoo, and produced by Mammoth Screen, the same company behind successful series, Poldark.
In the first episode, we see Smith in action as PC Jo Gillespie, a young police officer in the Greater Yorkshire Police, who is told that her husband, DS Ryan Gillespie has been killed in action. To add to the mystery, Jo finds out that her her husband was working undercover when he was shot, but the circumstances around his death remain unclear, as do the facts surrounding his undercover case.
It quickly becomes clear that Jo did not know her husband and that her superiors are hiding facts from her. Jo enlists the help of colleague (Matthew McNulty) to answer some of her questions, with a view to solving the case herself.
There are plenty of hints to things happening behind the scenes, including potential corruption and lots of secret-keeping. The following episodes are sure to be loaded.
Whilst public reaction to the new series has been largely positive, TV critics have slammed the script. The Guardian argued that Sheridan Smith is “only as good as what she’s got to work with, and this isn’t going to be one of those OMG did-you-see performances.”
The Telegraph, on the other hand, have argued that Smith’s performance is “more plausible than the script deserved”.
It is possible that some critics were expecting too much from ITV, after the addiction of Broadchurch, or it is simply true that Sheridan has outgrown small network dramas.
Ratings: Nearly 6m watched part two of Sheridan Smith’s #BlackWork. Very different from Home Fires, but another hit Sunday drama for ITV.
— Lorna Cooper (@Coops_tv) June 29, 2015
— Liz Hannam (@lizhannam) June 22, 2015
Despite scathing reviews from the papers, Black Work are continuing to pull in high ratings. It seems that the red herrings and cliffhangers are still managing to attract viewers, undoubtedly in anticipation of the finale. As normal, the British public are actively engaging with the show over social media, proving it hasn’t yet flopped.
Whether the success of the programme is due to the success of actress Sheridan Smith or due to the script, is yet to be seen. The writing is good and deserves some credit. Certainly, parts of the show were not fine-tuned and there are some characters and lines of enquiry that need to be changed. But there are also enough twists and turns to keep anyone engaged.
ITV may never quite top Broadchurch, but don’t neglect their other offerings yet.
Black Work airs Sundays at 9pm. You can catch up via ITV Player.