TV review: Vexed by Howard Overman

BBC 2 has made a rare stab at drama with the new cop show Vexed. It’s gone down surprisingly badly, with some reviewers hailing it as representing all that is worst about British television. Which illustrates the sad truth that most TV reviewers are not especially interested in, or knowledgable about, TV drama. Vexed is a real winner, that seems to be picking up some word of mouth support… unfortunately it seems unlikely that it will be back for a second series.

Vexed is a chalk’n’cheese buddy cop show, and there’s no point pretending it’s massively original, but it is incredibly well-done. Toby Stephens’ Jack is the opposite of “those maverick cops with their averageflasks and boring unorthodox ways”: for him, the job of solving crime doesn’t dominate his life, it gets in its way. Lucy Punch’s altogether more professional Kate is capable of being just as bad, under his influence. Both the leads are great, and Kate in particular has enough pathos to keep the show grounded.

In may ways this is far more a modern version of The Sweeney than Life On Mars ever managed: it’s centred around a buddy relationship and gloriously unprofessional, un-pc policing. It balances that with the thick slab of knowing humour that’s essential to make that sort of thing work these days: its mix of humour, excitement and actual mystery (not the most puzzling mysteries ever seen, but more effective at keeping me guessing about the villain than LoM, or more highbrow efforts like Five Days) is expertly judged by writer Howard Overman.

Sadly, the production company responsible for the show, Greenlit, has just gone out of business and media reports suggest there may be some wrangling over who owns the rights to what. I hope that doesn’t prevent the BBC from commissioning more episodes, and that they are smart enough to ignore the bizarrely negative reviews. But between critical reaction and legal problems, the odds seem to be stacked against any more episodes being made than the three currently being shown.

Be sure to catch up with the first two episodes on iPlayer; the final episode airs on Sunday, 9pm, BBC2.

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38 comments

  1. I cannot recall a show that has left me so annoyed. This is one of the worst things I have ever sat through. Wooden acting and a silly script. Outdated and Terrible. A waste of time and money.

  2. Hiya,

    Brilliant. Cracked up at the ginger comment, esp. the comment about a man who liked passing police stations a bit too much. Jack is definitely on a par with Gene Hunt, if not (dare I say it) better. I’d imagine if there was going to be either a dvd brought out or a new series, we’d have heard something by now, so it seems I shall have to forget about it. Shame.

  3. watching wexed on film and arts here in south america and hopefully bbc wil go on making this realy good british humor ,and not as all yank rubish .think that the ones not liking this are real vinigarpissers.

  4. Looks like Tim is out on a limb, can’t be right all the time, must be a professional critic!
    I thought Vexed was one of the best programmes aired on the BBC last year and it is extremely sad to think that they have missed a trick with this, shame on you BBC.

  5. Hope that Vexed does get renewd, though it has been a while since it aired so I seriously doubt it, which is a great shame :(:(

  6. So outraged, Vexed was truly brilliant, funny and all that is good about British humour, I’m baffled that there were bad critics…who are these inane fast shooting bores who didn’t see how clever and witty Vexed was??? Please please bring it back, we have no minty fresh series to watch but crucially boring American tripe that is regurgitated with makeovers over an over again…we need something to laugh and wile the hours away while current politics kick us in the shins
    anna

  7. The BBC must be mad if they don’t commission this show. It was the highlight of the week when it was on. Funny, witty, un-PC (is the latter the problem?) and briliantly acted.
    Come on BBC. BRING IT BACK!

    1. I totally agree, just went searching to see if another series was to be made and found your comments. Do the BBC ever listen though!

      Not many programmes make me laugh out loud but this one did. I was still chuckling after it had finished.

  8. I have to agree with all of the positive comments – Vexed was funny, entertaining and after each episode I wanted to watch another…
    The BBC is pandering to a minority when they show a few good, but many mediocre productions and leave out this wonderful show.

  9. I can’t belive the BBC are so stupid not to commision more of this excellent. The writing was sharp and original and the acting first class.
    Come on Beeb, more please!!!

  10. Once again, an original thought gets stamped on by the BBC execs.
    I was in deep shock when a week after episode 3 aired I discovered there was no episode 4! I’m still seriously traumatised that this is allowed to happen. Vexed was Brilliant is so many ways. just because the masses can’t cope with Original and need to be spoon fed with same lame formulaic largely American TV over & over. that’s what the other channels are for. Come on BBC, you keep telling us that it’s “our BBC” so get on with it. And while i’m at it – bring back Hyperdrive too.

  11. Vexed = Brilliant! Very funny, great acting (Punch & Stevens are pure class!) I love this show and hope that it makes its way to DVD and returns for more episodes!
    Having worked for the cops you wont believe how close some things are – especially dealing with crap staff: promote them!!!

  12. Only the fools at the BBC failed to recognise how good vexed was. I expect them to be putting on another Cliff Richard show just to confirm their stupidity.

  13. absolutely loved Vexed – it’s got a brilliant script, it’s engaging and entertaining. The concept isn’t original, but the dynamic between the two of them is brilliant to watch, and the script contains more than originality, wit and warmth to make these three episodes far from formulaic. Really, really hope they make a second series.

    1. Cannot believe they are not planning a second series… Great script, enjoyed all 3 episodes, witty and fun to watch. Stumbled upon these comments whilst trying to find out when the next episode is on. I really hope it gains the support it needs!

    2. The only thing worth criticising here, is the BBC’s inabitity to recognise brilliant writing, acting and production. A potentially great series looks like being lost forever. One can only hope that one of the other channels picks up on the seed of the first three episodes of ‘Vexed’ and it is allowed to flourish, despite the BBC’s lack of enthusiasm.

  14. Lucky all those who saw all 3 programmes. I messed up my recordings and missed show 3. As for whether it was good enough or not – isn’t the discussion about its qualities all a bit like considering an artist’s works? We don’t care about the brush techniques. We enjoyed watching it. So there. Definitely bring it back. Oh, and, at least, can show 3 be repeated for poor me?

  15. I am totally baffled by the negative reviews. I thought it was great – It’s not very original humour but it is very well delivered and its entertaining.

    I really hope we get some more episodes – 3 is simply not enough.

  16. This programme is hysterical – I’m amazed to hear that anyone gave it a bad review. Just watched episode two and still laughing – the posioning of the obese woman was classic, and who better to clean your house than an OCD cleaner. Brilliant – please, please, please BBC sort out the ownership issues and make another series.

  17. I felt this was such a great programme I had to leave a reply and beg the BBC to make another series or at least 3 episodes a year, please!!!

    This is the best thing on television on years – great writing, great characters and great actors.

  18. I love the show. It went as far enough at points it was like a spoof of the cop shows trying to be the Sweeney. Really clever mysteries for something that on the surface seems silly.

    I didn’t really like the whole ‘because I’m black’ wind ups done of Kate. If it wasn’t for that I might have known the character’s name rather than thinking of him as ‘the black guy’ but at least they kept it fresh mixing it up every so often.

  19. Why was there only three? When is it coming back? I laughed so hard I cried. Possibly the best comedy to come out from the beeb this year

  20. I have to say I was terribly disappointed with Vexed. I like what they were trying to achieve, but it just didn’t work for me because it didn’t dare to be different enough to establish a clear identity for itself. As a result, it ended up being quite formulaic in places and dreadfully slow in terms of pacing.

    Such a shame – director Matt Lipsey was proclaiming it as a “Moonlighting for the Noughties”, and if it had got anywhere near that benchmark we could have had a very special show. Not even close for me, though.

    Here’s a link to my review of the series – I’d welcome your thoughts: http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/vexed-season-1-review/

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