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Paranoid episode 1 review

It was certainly an arresting opening.

No frenetic build-up. No shovelling on of tension. No shadowy figures lurking on gloomy urban streets. Everything in Paranoid-land looks idyllic to the point of having a tasteful Instagram filter constantly applied to it.

But then a twitchy, hooded figure hurtles into a playground and brutally stabs a woman who’s pushing her child on the swings. A suspect with ‘psychotic schizophrenia’ is identified. Then our hooded friend is dead too – an apparent suicide and a seemingly open and shut case. But as Paranoid runs over eight weeks, it’s probably not too much of a spoiler to reveal that other corpses soon start annoyingly popping up.

Paranoid feels a bit all over the place. It’s certainly not afraid of throwing in a few hoary crime drama clichés – witnesses with something to hide, cops with multiple problems, strange packages containing plot devices popping up at the police station – and it’s quite bravely decided to make all of its main characters singularly unlikeable.

Paranoid episode 1

There’s Nina Suresh (Indira Varma), who has just been dumped and, if I’m brutally honest, you can completely understand why. Her opening salvo of dialogue mentions hairstyles, pomegranates and organic chicken in a machine-gun, breathless, slightly deranged way, which should have had her colleagues frantically ringing the occupational health department. Before too long she’s screaming ‘I want a baby’ in a pub car park.

Senior detective Bobby Day (Robert Glenister) is having panic attacks and is on meds. Hunky detective Alec Wayfield (Dino Fetscher) gets admiring glances from female officers, asks terrible questions and seems overly attached to his mother. And then there’s Lucy Cannonbury (Lesley Sharp) as a slightly off-kilter, philosophic Quaker who witnessed the murder and dreamily drifts through the whole show emoting a peculiar, alien trail of platitudes.

Oh – and a classic TV cop boss who stands by a blackboard, shouting, and demanding results.

During this overstuffed first episode, another strand of the investigation moves to Dusseldorf, possibly to add an element of Scando-Noir to proceedings or possibly to get a bit of European development money. Again, the female detective in Germany releases half a page of dialogue unprovoked and has a hairstyle that can only be described as ‘quirky’.

Paranoid episode 1

But there is something intriguing about Paranoid, despite the cardboard characters and plot twists which have the viewer continually wondering ‘why don’t they just look at the CCTV’. It has thrown so many dysfunctional elements into the air that it might be fun to see just how they’re juggled over the coming weeks.

Rather than having one gruff detective with a variety of personal problems, we have a police station crammed full of them, each copper slowly going off the rails while wrestling with a problematic back story. That’s even before they start to unravel their playground murder and the fact that someone appears to be stalking the detectives while conducting an investigation of their own. Oh – and Nina suddenly makes a move on Alec, while Bobby might have a thing for Lucy.

That, as we say in show business, is a lot of things.

But if Paranoid can cajole this vast amount of story into something approaching a logical shape, draw together all of these disparate plot strands and suddenly make us care about this gaggle of unpleasant characters, it might just be onto something. If it just starts to throw more twists and malcontents at us over the next two months, we might grow increasingly mistrustful of its motives.

Did you tune in for Paranoid episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below – and don’t miss the next episode on Thursday 29th September at 9pm on ITV 1.

Dale Shaw
Dale Shaw
Dale Shaw

Dale Shaw is a television and radio writer, journalist, screenwriter, performer and musician. His first book, Letters of Not, was published by The Friday Project in 2014, with his second, F**k This Journal, published by Headline in 2015. He has written for The Now Show, The News Quiz, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Impressions Show, That Mitchell and Webb Sound, One, School of Comedy, as well as for The Guardian, Index, Huffington Post, BBC Online, Washington City Paper and many more.

Follow Dale on Twitter.


    Absolute rubbish – the actors were extremely bad – I haven’t seen such bad acting in a long time. Terrible script. The female detective was childish and bullying and the plot was just so laboured, it was laughable …. What a waste of time and money.

    Awful. Just awful. A murder = It could only be committed by someone with a severe mental illness? Let’s keep that myth going. Not taken their medication? Right, that is proof they are a murderer. Now let’s add some more violence/ stigma, and get a neighbour to punch the character’s brother – mental illness not ok.

    Dear me who or what is being portrayed too as the psychiatrist?

    Just awful.

    Only managed to watch 25 minutes. I thought it was terrible. I thought the script was laboured and cliched. The acting was over-the-top and the characters either annoying or very annoying. Won’t tune in again. Very disappointed as it looked as if it was going to be excellent.

    We played “spot the trope”, but still liked it enough to set a reminder for next week.

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