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The Trouble With Maggie Cole, ITV review - Dawn French stars in new comedy drama | reviews, news & interviews

The Trouble With Maggie Cole, ITV review - Dawn French stars in new comedy drama

The Trouble With Maggie Cole, ITV review - Dawn French stars in new comedy drama

She's the local gossip who wreaks havoc

Julie Hesmondhalgh (left) and Dawn French star in ITV's latest drama

ITV's drama department is in overdrive at the moment, with a seemingly endless release of series with high production values and stellar casts, and the latest is The Trouble With Maggie Cole. It's a six-parter based on an idea by Dawn French (who also stars) and is written by Mark Brotherhood.

It's set in Thurlbury, a fictional coastal community in the West Country, where everybody knows everybody else. Self-appointed “local historian” Maggie Cole (French), who has a museum cum gift shop at the town's ancient keep, minds everyone's business but her own, and is flattered when a local radio journalist interviews her about the celebrations marking the town's 500th anniversary.

He thinks he's going to get some dull history – "Have you ever been to this place? It's like 2004 or something," he says to a colleague – but, with tongue loosened by several G&Ts, Maggie gives him far more detail (with embellishments) about the locals than he was expecting. She and husband Peter (Mark Heap), the local primary school's headmaster marking out his time to retirement, invite half the town to a barbecue to listen to the radio show (which magically eveyone listens to in real time) and – this wouldn't happen in real life, folks, but let's go with it for the sake of dramatic tension – the radio station broadcasts all of her scandalous, not to say libellous, accusations about her friends and neighbours.

Maggie's “revelations” are a blast: Peter's deputy and Maggie's best friend, Jill (Julie Hesmondhalgh) is a bit thick; the pub landlord Brian (Lee Boardman) is on the run from London's underworld; a local couple must have won the lottery as they're suddenly flashing the cash; the local author Marcus Ormansby (Patrick Robinson) doesn't have an original idea in his head; while others are accused of various sexual indiscretions.

There's seemingly no one that Maggie hasn't insulted, whose privacy she hasn't invaded, or trust she hasn't betrayed. The question now is, how can these people recover from the damage Maggie has wrought, and how can she make amends?

The lovely locations in Devon and Cornwall played their part, as did the weather, so it looks gorgeous and will provoke serious property envy among viewers (although whether the local headmaster and amateur historian could afford such a desirable house overlooking the estuary we shall ourselves overlook), and the cast are all as good as their CVs suggest they would be, even if their characters are (so far at least) sketches rather than portraits. French, remarkably, manages to make the ghastly gossip likeable, while Heap, in a less comic character than we're used to seeing him play, is quietly stoic as her loving but long-suffering husband.

The first episode was a bit of serious drama, a bit of comedy, and possibly also the set-up to a thriller (are any of the offended locals going to do Maggie Cole in?), which suggests it will repay watching till the end. And despite the dodgy premise (not to mention some dodgy accents), I want to see what happens next.

The lovely locations in Devon and Cornwall played their part


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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