A star rating of 2 out of 5.

The Teacher, not to be confused with FX's A Teacher, is the latest addition to Channel 5's original drama slate and, like the latter, also revolves around a high school English teacher. But unlike the US series, in which Kate Mara's character entices one of her students into a sexual relationship that spans several months, The Teacher centres on a single alleged incident.


Sheridan Smith (Four Lives, Cleaning Up) plays Jenna Garvey, the titular educator who is accused of "inappropriate behaviour" with one of her pupils –15-year-old Kyle (Samuel Bottomley) claims that the pair had sex, but she has no memory of the night in question.

Is she really capable of such a thing? Or has Kyle peddled a lie? And if so, why?

The Teacher Channel 5

Unlike the 2020 drama, which adopts a quieter, more introspective approach to the themes of consent, gender, trauma, emotional manipulation and power, The Teacher is first and foremost a mystery thriller that is less concerned with unpacking that subject matter, and more focused on keeping viewers on their toes.

"I love the fact that you don't know if she's telling the truth or not," said Smith in a press release.

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But while we've come to expect that from Line of Duty, for example, which encourages audience speculation and seeks to yank the rug out from under you, it feels misplaced here given the themes that are being explored.

That's not to say that the Channel 5 thriller won't stimulate discussion about the aforementioned weighty topics, but they are largely an afterthought. Unlike A Teacher, which spends significant time and care digging into the deep-rooted and long-standing impact of the wound inflicted upon victims of abuse, The Teacher does the bare minimum. It refuses to hang around, instead more concerned with incident and tension.

Smith said that the series makes for "incredibly uncomfortable viewing", and she's not wrong.

The Teacher starring Sheridan Smith
Galgóczi Németh Kristóf / Chalkboard TV

And yet, we stuck around for all four episodes, unable to resist what was on offer – guilty pleasure is a phrase that should, by and large, be outlawed, but it's wholly applicable here. If we were to compare The Teacher to a meal, it would be a KFC banquet box: absolutely terrible for you, entirely devoid of goodness, but you just can't help yourself.

Between the clunky, heavy-handed dialogue – "One bad word and your reputation could crumble" – and the paint-by-numbers approach to drama – strained father-daughter relationship? Check. Alcohol abuse? Check – there is very little depth, quality or originality to be found, with most of the credit reserved for Smith, who keeps the series afloat.

She is well cast as Jenna and does her best with the material she's been dealt, convincing both in the lighter moments and those in which the titular educator is spiralling emotionally. But she's undoubtedly worked with stronger scripts during her career and even she struggles lift some some of the dialogue, which is saying something.

Bottomley, too, deserves praise for his ability to ground his performance as Kyle in a series which often leans into the absurd. He captures the naivety of youth with a deft touch and there is a sincerity to the raw displays of emotion we witness from him as tensions continue to build – a sincerity which is often lacking elsewhere.

Most viewers will stick around until the final credits roll to learn how this whole sorry saga will be resolved. On that basis, you could argue that it does its job as a piece of entertainment, but that's not a synonym for good.

The fact that we watched the lot stemmed from unremarkable narrative ploys such as twists and cliffhangers, rather than compelling, well-executed characters and engaging dialogue.

The decision to spin this subject matter into a thriller rather than a drama sealed its fate from the word go. While that approach will give viewers an instant shot of adrenaline to carry them through, this is a series that won't live long in the memory.

The Teacher will launch on Channel 5 on Monday 31st January at 9pm with all four episodes being stripped across the week.


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