Until now, the nearest we’ve come to a British West Wing style political drama is probably the ‘House of Cards‘ featuring the unspeakable Francis Urquart. And that was never that close. Superb as it was, it wasn’t hopeful as The West Wing was and neither did it extol the potential nobility of the business of government. It did quite the opposite and I wonder if it’s the British mistrust of politicians that make a West Wing style drama impossible. Or maybe it’s the comparable lack of glamour and spectacle (the White House vs Downing Street) that means there isn’t enough ‘theatre’ to carry it off.
But with Number 10, Radio 4 has come up with a compelling and plausible drama set at the beating heart of Government with Anthony Sher as Prime Minister Adam Armstrong. Focusing, as The West Wing does, on the inner circle, their relationships, the process of decision making, policy debate and political tactics, the dramas have genuine pace and complexity. There is also a belief in the man who is PM, the team and the possibility that they can transform Britain or at least do some good.
The drama is claustrophobic, intelligent and seemingly realistic. Jonathan Myerson‘s dialogue and characterisations have depth and Peter Hyman‘s input (he was previously a Downing Street wonk to Tony Blair) has evidently informed the stories and atmosphere: certainly Armstrong’s way of working is similar to Blair sofa-style of politics.
By focussing on the minutiae and personalities it avoids the gloopy stupidity of other Number 10 based dramas (particularly The Amazing Mrs Pritchard) and could easily be transferred to the tellybox.