Rarely has a series of drama attracted such favourable critical acclaim and popularity from the viewing public as The Night Manager. At a recent Sunday lunch I attended it even was discussed before Brexit. A lady friend of mine, an academic poet who never watches television confessed to being transfixed by Tom Hiddleston. I’m not going to do a hatchet job: my initial viewpoint, after the first episode, was that it was excellent but let’s see how it transpires. I stayed with it. The three main principals Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, Olivia Colman as Angela Burr and Hugh Laurie as Richard Roper were the main drivers behind the success.
Tom Hiddleston has surely auditioned successfully as a future James Bond. His good looks, cheeky smile and charm covered a ruthlessness that accounted for a psychotic enforcer. Corky, chillingly played as a gay by Tom Hollander and a young Egyptian playboy millionaire. Olivia Colman is such an experienced and reliable tv actress that she too was convincing as the tough gritty northern MI6 operative though the character in Le Carre’s book was male. Hugh Laurie was an inspired piece of casting and the best of the lot as the amoral arms dealer. His languid drawl and veneer of laconic public school affability disguised too a ruthlessness. I was less convinced by some of the supporting roles that seemed to be cast to conform to gender and diversity criteria and in key scenes they seemed stolid compared to the range and subtlety of the principals.
There were too plot inconsistencies. Those who have ever made a transaction by mobile or laptop banking of over £5000 know that there are counter checks by the bank and therefore to transfer $300m at a push of button out of an account is most unlikely. As unlikely is that the smart Roper would ever be taken in by Jonathan Pine or that the latter would be foolish enough to bed his girl. The unpleasant water torture scene in the final episode when her treachery is exposed is unnecessary as Roper clearly knew Pine was not working for him and we knew from the first episode that Roper is quite ready to have executed beautiful but disloyal women.
The BBC had a budget of £3m per episode. Most of the scenes were on foreign locations and in glamorous hotels or villas. It was James Bond mixed in with the gritty less glamourous world of le Carre’s “circus”. The BBC have shown that Sunday’s are not about period or cops drama and that they can produce drama that can rival Scandinavian noir in popularity.