Review of the first part of True Love, Dominic Savage’s new BBC One series of five stand-alone scriptless dramas
Presumably the whole point of improvised drama is that it feels hugely natural and believable, filled with the sorts of awkward silences and muddled, unfinished sentences that don’t happen much on TV, but punctuate most real-life conversations.
Funnily enough, it wasn’t the dialogue of the first episode of True Love (BBC One, Sunday), Dominic Savage’s new series of five stand-alone scriptless dramas, that I found a little unconvincing. It was the setting: Savage’s home town of Margate. Now, I have a thing for the Kent coast, and would love to see more of it on TV (although not so much that it becomes really desirable and prices me out of my seaside bolt-hole dreams indefinitely), but filming this particular episode there felt a little self-indulgent. It seemed odd that Scottish David Tennant, and the two women in his life, played by Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt and This Is England’s Vicky McClure, both with very obviously Northern twangs, would end up there. Perhaps it will all be explained when they pop up as incidental characters in later episodes (because of course, along with being improvised, this is one of those clever concepts where the lives of the seemingly unrelated characters are all in some way intertwined).
Savage set the scene by showing us just how blissfully happy married thirtysomethings Nick (Tennant) and Ruth (Frogatt) were, living by the seaside with their reasonably pleasant teenage children. Always a sign of trouble to come, especially when there’s a sad, ominous soundtrack pootling along in the background. Sure enough, Nick’s first love Serena (McClure) soon turned up at his nondescript office, all brooding glances and vampy eyeliner, and an obvious contrast with blandly blonde Ruth.
These days, we often hear of people reuniting with lost loves via the Internet, but this particular reunion was done through good old-fashioned real-life stalking – a nice touch, and it burns far more calories. This was the point at which the drama successfully became rather affecting and I felt myself wanting to scream things at the screen like, “No! Don’t kiss that evil woman Doctor-I-mean-David-I-mean-Nick! You’re supposed to be one of the good ones!”. Unfortunately, improvised drama is not the same as interactive drama, so he could not hear me. But would a married man really take the risk of smooching another woman on a small-town seafront?
The moral of the story seemed to be that nice guys cheat too, generally with women who are far more irritating but a bit more elfin and mysterious than their wives. But we all knew that already and, although True Love is an interesting and well-executed concept, I hope the next four episodes (featuring Billie Piper, Jane Horrocks and David Morrissey, amongst others) have some slightly more inspired plots. It’s clearly all supposed to be a bit mundane and depressing, but so was Savage’s last project, Dive, and I found that far more absorbing.