Here’s hoping that you didn’t tune into the first episode of ITV1’s new drama Cheat with any particularly younger or older relatives in the room on Monday night… Only the first five minutes served up two really rather raunchy scenes indeed: one of a husband and wife attempting to conceive (albeit rather mechanically) and another of that same wife indulging in a stand-up knee-trembler in the toilets at work with a colleague… All by 9.08pm.
Okay, so it turned out that the second scene was merely a fantasy of Cambridge University lecturer Leah Dale, but still – it was certainly an eye-catching (and potentially face-reddening) start to proceedings.
If Leah is merely fantasising about such things, the ‘cheat’ of the title may not refer to her and her extramarital interests – and it doesn’t. The eponymous cheat is a young student named Rose Vaughan, played by BAFTA-winning Three Girls actress Molly Windsor.
This opening episode presented us with a modest and rather straightforward premise: a uni lecturer calls out a scheming student for cheating with her dissertation, the student flips and makes her lecturer’s life a living hell.
The drama began to unfold on ITV on Monday night, with the next three evenings bringing us the rest of the action.
Coronation Street and Happy Valley actress Katherine Kelly is Leah, a woman trying to fall pregnant, pass her probation at work and, seemingly, battle depression. In calling out her manipulative student for cheating, she sets up a dangerous showdown. Only the girl is quite capable – and quite willing – to destroy Leah’s life, as well as the life of her husband – and cat.
If only Rose put as much effort into her university work as she does into being an obsessive and Machiavellian master manipulator, she probably wouldn’t need to cheat quite so much. But cheat she does – and in doing so, she sets off a domino effect of rather nasty goings-on that should easily keep us glued to our TV sets for the rest of the week.
For all the drama, duplicity and dread involved here, there were a few rather obvious mistakes sprinkled throughout this debut episode of Cheat that grated slightly. Perhaps they weren’t ‘mistakes’ as such and merely flourishes to massage and propel the plot. Pedantry or not, a few things stood out. Surely scores can’t be changed by lecturers that casually? And why was no plagiarism software used on Rose’s work? And while pet trackers exist, they’re GPS-based, not trackable by microchip… Then again, who said crime dramas have to be realistic…
While we’re on the subject of cats… Why do so many shows have to feature bad guys and girls killing pets nowadays? Humans? Go for it. It’s a crime drama – murder away. But leave the cats and dogs alone, eh?!
Things got a little less modest and straightforward towards the end of Monday night’s quarter slice of Cheat. A flashforward explains why the two women were separated by glass at the very start… Leah’s husband Adam (Tom Goodman-Hill) has been murdered. The assumption is that Rose is locked up for it and Leah is visiting her. But the scene is dangerously vague about who is sitting the wrong side of the screen in the prison waiting room.
“You’re still not convinced that we got the right one, are you?” DI Bould (Justine Mitchell) asks DI Hammond (Jimmy Akingbola) at one point here as he intently glares at an evidence board in that way that TV detectives are so fond of doing. “They both look so innocent,” he replies, staring at two photos: one of Leah and one of Rose…
This tale of two warring women may not quite be at the level of intrigue as last year’s standout crime drama Killing Eve, but it’s more than entertaining enough to keep us gripped and watching over the three nights.
Did you catch Cheat episode 1 on ITV1? What did you think of it? We’d love to hear…