A star rating of 2 out of 5.

After her father Harlan brought us one of the biggest shows of the year, on the first day of the year no less, with Fool Me Once, all eyes are now on Charlotte Coben's debut as a creative force.


Coben has written for TV before, writing on her father's shows, acting as a story producer and even co-creating last year's Shelter, so she knows the ropes when it comes to thrillers.

Her debut solo series is Dead Hot, a suitably twisty-turny thriller which arrives on Prime Video this week, and which features a host of rising stars alongside major acting talent.

The question is, with all this potential behind it, is Dead Hot actually any good? Unfortunately, based on the first two episodes, while there are sparks of brilliance to be found here, the answer is that this show is just too messy and, fundamentally, too much.

Bilal Hasna and Vivian Oparah looking at the camera and stood next to each other in Dead Hot
Bilal Hasna and Vivian Oparah in Dead Hot. Matt Squire/Amazon MGM Studios

The series stars Bilal Hasna as Elliot, a young man hugely excited by the first date he's just had with Will, who he met in a club – locking eyes across the dance floor, the whole works.

More like this

It's about time that Elliot caught a break, after his previous boyfriend Peter disappeared five years ago, and all Elliot ever found of him was a severed finger, left on display in his own.

Since then, he's been living with Peter's twin sister Jess (Vivian Oparah), who's also on her own journey of grief. However, when mysterious happenings lead Jess to believe that Peter's alive, and leave Elliot shaken, the pair resolve to find out just what is, and what has been going on.

If you're going into this expecting the new Fool Me Once, or a replacement for any of Harlan's shows, then you may be disappointed – or at least half so.

Bilal Hasna and Vivian Oparah sat on the floor together and Peter Serafinowicz wearing a trench coat and sunglasses stood in a doorway looking at them in Dead Hot
Bilal Hasna, Vivian Oparah and Peter Serafinowicz in Dead Hot. Matt Squire/Amazon MGM Studios

On the one hand, this is another twisty-turning thrill ride, with a whole host of absurd puzzles to unlock, mysterious goings-on and out-there characters.

On the other, this is a far more aesthetically and tonally specific work, and hugely different in that sense from Harlan's more naturalistic styling.

There are loud colours, a bunch of pop songs flooding the soundtrack, bright lights throughout and big performances, emphasised by quick, dramatic camera-work.

On the plus side, this does give the series its own identity and feel, and it does feel largely consistent as a visual piece. On the minus, it is unfortunately all just too much.

Vivian Oparah as Jess and Bilal Hasna as Elliot, holding a phone up with an image on it to people at a party
Vivian Oparah as Jess and Bilal Hasna as Elliot in Dead Hot. Matt Squire/Prime Video

The hyper-stylised world, the fast-talking discussions, the constant energy bleeding off the screen – it's all slightly headache inducing, and leaves you feeling somewhat bewildered and bombarded pretty quickly.

This isn't helped by the knottiness of the plot, which might be diverting with its mysteries, but which throws too many kooky concepts and out-there scenarios at the audience for the world, or the stakes within it, to feel real.

All of this means it can be difficult to connect with the characters and their struggles, or know how to even start engaging with the mystery.

In the case of most thriller series, you're able to tell when someone is acting strange and can make some deductions. Here, everyone is acting a little strange, and it's largely impossible to tell the difference between what's being driven by the heightened world and what's a specific character choice.

Of course, this approach isn't impossible. A blend of stylised wackiness and emotional realism has been achieved in a number of series before, and can be hugely successful.

Vivian Oparah stood outside talking to someone in a doorway in Dead Hot
Vivian Oparah in Dead Hot. Matt Squire/Amazon MGM Studios

Here, in the first two episodes of Dead Hot, it just doesn't come together, with both the grip of the mystery and the character work suffering.

It's a shame too, because the cast Coben and her team have assembled here is top draw. Hasna and Oparah do have great chemistry together, and prove themselves more than capable of fronting a show. Oparah has already proven this, not least with her BAFTA nominated turn in the film Rye Lane, but Hasna by no means feels out of his depth.

Both of them understand the assignment and deliver it well. They're big performances, and they may not be to every viewer's sensibilities, but they do fit in to this world neatly.

Then, there's the supporting cast, including the likes of Rosie Cavaliero, Peter Serafinowicz and Penelope Wilton, all three of whom dedicate themselves to the tone and the rhythm of the show entirely.

Wilton is a particular stand-out as Elliot's bigoted, controlling grandmother, delivering cutting one-liners and killer looks, clearly having a whole lot of fun in the role.

However, all in all the central problem with Dead Hot is that it feels like it's trying too hard. Trying too hard to appeal to a young audience, to keep the twists coming, to baffle viewers with its 'quirkiness'.

There are impressive feats on display, from the performances to the production design, but when there's so much going on that, after two episodes, its somewhat difficult to summarise the central plot, or what the central mystery involves, then something, somewhere, has unfortunately gone wrong.

Dead Hot will premiere on Prime Video on Friday 1st March. Try Amazon Prime Video for free for 30 days. Plus, read our guides to the best Amazon Prime series and the best movies on Amazon Prime.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10 – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.