A star rating of 2 out of 5.

A lot of recent press coverage has drawn parallels between BBC One's Showtrial and mega-hit thriller Line of Duty, as both programmes come from World Productions and feature scenes set in interrogation rooms. While that might have attracted a few extra clicks, I fear it won't do the show any favours in the long run because anyone expecting edge-of-your seat suspense will find little in this flat legal drama.


The story kicks off with privileged university student Talitha Campbell (Celine Buckens) being arrested in connection with the disappearance of one of her fellow pupils, Hannah Ellis (Abra Thompson). A recent feud between the two of them makes her a prime suspect in what police view as a likely murder and things quickly get personal for DI Paula Cassidy (Sinead Keenan), who despises Talitha's arrogance and longs to see her taken down a peg.

Fighting back is Cleo Roberts (Tracy Ifeachor), a duty solicitor with a troubled past of her own, who has a track record for taking on seemingly hopeless cases. She's one of the only people capable of tolerating Talitha's obnoxious behaviour, largely out of a desire to work on a case with some bite after a long period defending small-time crooks. She'll have her work cut out for her here, especially after the case captures the imagination of the entire nation.

Showtrial doesn't really do subtlety. The show's attempts at social commentary leap out of the screen and whack you over the head. Likewise, several performances feel heightened in a way that would potentially work on the stage, but sometimes seems a little silly under the magnifying glass that is a television screen. The worst offender is Keenan's DI Cassidy, who snarls every comment to Talitha with near-comical venom and channels a Lex Luthor-esque evil genius when she gets a step ahead of her nemesis.

Celine Buckens and Tracy Ifeachor in Showtrial
Celine Buckens and Tracy Ifeachor in Showtrial BBC

Buckens and Ifeachor are playing things similarly broad in their respective roles of 'spoilt party animal' and 'steely legal hotshot', neither of whom feel for a moment like real people. That said, it's hard to deny that there is campy fun to be had in watching this odd couple interact, with most of their conversations dominated by delightfully passive aggressive trash talk. But these exchanges make the show strike a rather odd tone and nowhere is that more obvious than the interrogation scenes.

More like this

I'm tempted to say that the show fails to capture the excitement of an AC-12 interview, but it might be that writer Ben Richards genuinely wasn't trying to. While Ted Hastings and his crew are all business all the time, Cassidy runs a looser ship as her interrogation meanders aimlessly, allowing Talitha time to make cheeky wisecracks about sex and drugs, before abruptly jumping back into the tragic fate of a murdered young woman. These sudden gear changes prevent the tension from ever really building, while the exaggerated characters in the Showtrial cast make the whole thing seem a bit farcical.

It feels like Richards wants his script to be considered edgy and insightful, but neither is true at this stage in the series. There's a chance things will spice up a bit later on, with the media bias angle alluded to in the opening yet to materialise, but the quality of the writing thus far makes me a tad sceptical. There's some entertainment in the show's more playful moments, but if you genuinely want a gripping legal drama, this ain't it.

Also, if you saw the first instalment, here are our burning Showtrial episode 1 questions that we need answering.


Showtrial airs weekly on BBC One starting from Sunday 31st October at 9pm. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.