ITV made one of their brief but welcome forays into the world of quality drama last night with ‘Half Broken Things’ – a two hour drama starring Penelope Wilton as housesitter Jean placed in charge of a country manor.
Jean’s path crosses with those of petty thief Michael and the heavily pregnant Steph who is fleeing her violent partner. So begins a tale of deceit, theft and murder.
Such is the cold and calculating nature of Wilton’s Jean that she at times resembled a female cross between Magnus Pym and Tom Ripley.
With a manor house empty of unmissable furniture – sold by the conspirators to fund their fantasy life – and a conflicting mass of cover stories there’s only way the story can end although the inevitability only became clear in the final few minutes – Jean poisons herself and the young couple.
Instead of reviling the trio the audience is explicitly invited to understand their actions and possibly even sympathise with them.
The problem for ITV is that by producing one-off dramas of this quality they merely show up the dire state of much f the schedule forcing the audience to ask how, when it’s capable of producing such challenging drama, there can be any excuse for filling hours of weekday prime time with endless soaps?