sat 02/07/2022

The Teacher, Channel 5 review - inappropriate behaviour in the school environment | reviews, news & interviews

The Teacher, Channel 5 review - inappropriate behaviour in the school environment

The Teacher, Channel 5 review - inappropriate behaviour in the school environment

Sheridan Smith's masterclass in the art of falling apart

Jenna (Sheridan Smith) with staff and pupils of Earlbridge School

Having had her own problems with alcohol and anxiety, Sheridan Smith no doubt felt some kinship with Jenna Garvey, the central character she plays in The Teacher. Evidently a talented educator who inspires loyalty and enthusiasm in her pupils, Jenna is also partial to a hectic night’s clubbing fuelled by reckless quantities of drink.

Jenna teaches English at Earlbridge School, somewhere in the north of England. Teaching is in her blood, not least because her father was also a teacher and was held in almost mystical regard by, for instance, Jenna’s principal, Ken Mills (Anil Desai). Jenna is so good at her job that Mr Mills is promoting her to head of the English department, even though she insists that she wants to keep teaching and not end up in admin. It also seems she has a difficult relationship with her father, a patronising curmudgeon given to sneering comments like “you make a mess, I pick up the pieces”. His idea of fun is dry stone walling in Swaledale.

But Jenna’s fondness for irrational after-hours exuberance at the town’s Lazarus nightclub is her undoing, as you might expect when a 40-year-old woman goes on the razz in the midst of a bunch of hormoned-up teens. Her pupils have already been making suggestive comments about her nocturnal activities (pictured below), and the school have received anonymous emails about her (“Jenna Garvey is a skanky bitch”).When she takes another trip downtown to celebrate her promotion, matters go calamitously pear-shaped. Overdoing the shandies yet again, she suffers one of her familiar blackouts, and next thing she knows she’s accused of having sex with an under-age pupil. That would be 15-year-old Kyle (Samuel Bottomley), a gormless-looking youth she idiotically gets all touchy-feely with even when she’s in her classroom. Then she’s ignominiously whisked off to the local nick, where a wheedlingly unpleasant female detective bombards her with snide, slut-shaming innuendos.

It’s all set up to make Jenna’s guilt look like a foregone conclusion, and it’s amazing Mr Mills didn’t sack her instead of promoting her, since she does a very convincing impersonation of a low-functioning alcoholic with a disastrously diminished inhibition threshold. But as The Teacher unfolds over four consecutive nights, the picture inevitably changes. Earlbridge School begins to look like a laboratory of conspiracies, back-stabbing and deception, where jealous staff-members like the unloveable Nina (Sharon Rooney) are itching to get their claws into poor Jenna.

Sad to say though, after a couple of promising episodes, The Teacher goes off the boil at an alarming rate. By the time we get to the end of part four, all the narrative’s more intriguing avenues have been closed off, and the denouement is about as convincing as a promise from the Prime Minister. Plausibility is not enhanced by the fact that this is (bizarrely) a British-Hungarian co-production, filmed in Bradford and Budapest. This has lent it a weird sense of existing in an unrecognisable Nowheresville of unfamiliar buildings and landscapes, which makes a flimsy story feel even less convincing. Most peculiar.

After a couple of promising episodes, 'The Teacher' goes off the boil at an alarming rate

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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