Writer: James Graham
Director: Stephen Frears
“Justice is entertainment” QC Sonia Woodley tells the Ingrams as she agrees to take their case, pointing out the close liaison between the police and the press during their very public arrest. After two high octane chapters establishing the extraordinary circumstances of Charles Ingram’s game show appearance, Episode Three of Quiz, James Graham’s entertaining drama, plays with the evidence and our expectations of how this series would conclude.
There is a lot to keep track of in this final segment and at times the limitations of the hour-long format work against the greater depth Graham is keen to include. The Ingrams supportive marriage, the intrusive consequences of their appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the intricacies of the court case and the reaction of ITV and Celdor executives jostle for position across the 65-minutes with alternative explanations that cast doubt on the couple’s guilt as Graham tries to find a balanced end to this story.
The biggest sacrifice is in understanding more about the attacks and humiliations the family suffered in the months before the trial, and here the stage version more clearly linked the consequences of ‘trial-by-media’ and the savagery of the press pack with public acts of hate against the family. Almost in montage, these events are included in Episode Three but without too little time to reflect on their proportionality or how little protection the couple have ever received.
The courtroom scenes are extremely well done as Nicholas Woodeson’s puffed-up Nicholas Hilliard QC is first deflated and then silenced by the council for the defence. This is entirely Helen McCrory’s party and as her Sonia Woodley bursts the bubble of conspiracy, batting away every piece of incriminating evidence Graham presented in the earlier episodes, the whole process looks increasingly ludicrous.
And no more so than when excerpts from Ingram’s time in the chair, so gripping in Episode Two, are replayed, showing how decisively the cuts and sound enhancements made by the show’s producers potentially distorted the original experience. As McCrory sighs weightily about “the pantomime of it all”, the viewer starts to share her dismay. So, when the man at the centre of it is the last to take to the stand – not Ingram but Paul Smith – the battle royal between McCrory and Mark Bonnar’s Smith is like watching two titans determined not to give an inch.
You’ll also have plenty of sympathy for Matthew Macfadyen’s Charles and Sian Clifford’s Diana as Director Stephen Frears lifts the veil of suspicion to reveal a nice, slightly geeky couple bewildered by the whirlwind they have unleashed. Macfadyen is especially good in a number of quieter moments as flickers of regret, contemplation and despair silently cross his face as everything that matters is quickly taken away from him. Oh, for an extra 30-minutes to have explored this side of the drama in just a little more detail.
Episode Three is still an interesting and potentially surprising watch for those who only know the frequently regurgitated story, offering just enough reasonable doubt to keeping you wondering. But the stage version had something more to give, a state-of-the-nation scrutiny of the justice system and the ‘narrative of guilt’ that Woodley worries the press will weave ahead of the trial. Perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong question for the last 20-years: whether the Ingrams did it or not doesn’t really matter, but did they really deserve what they got?
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