Every now and again I have a little spasm of guilt about the fact that I live in the UK, contribute to a TV blog, but (almost) never review British TV shows. But when I saw the excellent reviews for Doctor Foster, BBC1’s latest Suranne Jones vehicle, I decided to ignore my unhappy history with homegrown mainstream drama and give it a go.
So. Gemma Foster (Jones) is a brilliant, successful, attractive GP in her late 30s, with an implausibly charming son, and a stubbly property developer perfect husband called Simon (Bertie Carvel), who still wants to bonk her the morning after returning from a weekend conference. She borrows Simon’s scarf and notices a single blonde hair on it and, as she earlier caught him with lip balm, she ignores the zillion other ways a hair could have got onto a scarf and concludes that he’s having an affair. It could be Simon’s newly-single and newly-blonde assistant, or the blonde wife of a friend, or a blonde patient-cum-restaurateur… they’re surrounded by predatory blondes, and suddenly every interaction Simon has with a woman becomes a cause for suspicion. She checks his phone and finds nothing; then she follows him when he leaves work, but he visits his elderly mother (I think). Her paranoia doesn’t abate, though.
This is all reasonably well done. Jones and Carvel are excellent, and the way in which a passing thought starts out as ridiculous, becomes plausible, then doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny is nicely handled. One might reasonably wonder why she doesn’t just ask him, rather than snooping round his office; but without that sort of thing it wouldn’t be a TV drama, I suppose.
Then, though, it all starts to get a bit silly. One of Gemma’s patients has been unsuccessfully demanding sleeping pills, so Gemma finally offers to prescribe some for her, if in return she’ll spy on Simon. So the patient sees him kissing someone (probably – the angle leaves just a little room for doubt), photographs the car number plate, and – wouldn’t you know it? – has a dodgy cop mate who can run the plate, thus pointing the finger of suspicion at one of the blondes. Meantime there’s an odd little subplot in which Gemma elbows a senior colleague out of the practice, in circumstances which suggest that she’s perhaps not the vision of perfection she seemed to be at the start.
And then she discovers that the patient she hired as a private detective has been the victim of domestic abuse, so she dons a metaphorical Bat-costume, confronts her boyfriend, and threatens to disclose his medical records to his employer unless he gets the hell away from his girlfriend. (She might also burn him with a cigarette, I wasn’t sure.) By this point, I was pretty sure that Doctor Foster had taken leave of her senses. Perhaps I was supposed to, of course, because she then finds what looks like incontrovertible evidence of Simon’s affair: not with the blonde patient, but with a blonde someone else. But – encouraged by the way in which the discovery was filmed – I really can’t rule out the possibility that she hallucinated it. The rest of the episode, and the preview of next week’s, suggests that she’s now out for revenge. I dunno: I’d have thought that as a financially independent woman she’d confront Simon with the proof, perhaps keep a copy for the divorce proceedings, then get the hell out of his life leaving him to the blondes.
Anyway, it isn’t terrible, although it could have lost 20 minutes without undue strain, and for now I really can’t see where the other four episodes are going to come from. But it isn’t as good as Person of Interest, or Jane the Virgin, or Nashville, or (of course) The Good Wife, or… you know where this is going, and I’m well aware that it’s boring for me to keep making the same point. I might watch next week, but if Gemma starts stabbing people with those scissors I’m out.