A star rating of 3 out of 5.

It's hard to ignore the fact that the real-life story behind Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama was one of the most dramatic to unfold in 2019 and again this year. For many, it was the modern day equivalent to Footballers' Wives, and so the new Channel 4 drama is tasked with bringing a segment of that suspense to the small screen.


Based on transcripts of the libel hearing, the new series mainly takes place in the courtroom, offering a heady, claustrophobic feel for those watching while making the witness stand questioning an incredibly intense feat.

The war of the WAGS, dubbed the 'Wagatha Christie' trial, swept through the internet in October 2019 when those iconic words of Coleen Rooney's – “It’s ……….Rebekah Vardy’s Account" – became prime fodder for memes, jokes and pop culture moments alike.

In Vardy v Rooney, you witness the consequential 2022 libel case unfold and with it, are offered a glimpse into the real lives of those in the headlines.

The series delivers much-needed insight into the 2022 High Court trial that the public didn't get to see at the time. But the drama also feeds our fascination with needing to know the intricacies of legal cases and in this particular case, the live coverage and Tweets at the time that fed that insatiable need in a more dramatic way than this series.

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While the content of the show was never going to be a contender for the best drama of the year, the "action" of it all proves to be somewhat anti-climactic.

Dion Lloyd as Wayne Rooney and Chanel Cresswell as Coleen Rooney in Vardy v Rooney.
Vardy V Rooney: A Courtroom Drama. Channel 4

In the first episode, we learn about the libel case and we hear Rooney's accusations from Vardy's perspective. This choice in narrative – putting Vardy's account in front of the viewer first – proves to be influential. The lasting impact of such a decision is that when watching, there are moments of undeniable sympathy thoughtfully dotted throughout the two episodes.

We hear of the resulting online abuse Vardy had to endure after Rooney's social media posts in 2019 - and her decision to sue Rooney is one that you question throughout watching, especially when the defence, David Sherborne (Michael Sheen), manages to underline discrepancies between Vardy's online and offline behaviour.

Her insistence at not using the term "leak" as it relates to Rooney's accusations is also a battle of "linguistic gymnastics" that Sherborne draws attention to.

We also hear of Vardy's deteriorating mental health at the time and the threats to her family and children, but also bear witness to some unfortunate mishaps in the libel trial - one of those notable moments being when Vardy doesn't understand the context of the term "Davy Jones' locker" that led her to ask (very seriously) who he was.

The result? A courtroom that quietly erupted into laughter and left her red-faced on the stand.

Natalia Tena as Rebekah Vardy in Vardy V Rooney: A Courtroom Drama
Natalia Tena as Rebekah Vardy in Vardy V's Rooney: A Courtroom Drama. Channel 4

For that reason, Natalia Tena's performance is a strong one that really does prop up this series. Her portrayal of Vardy is one that is unexpectedly sympathy-inducing, dynamic and will force many viewers to consider Vardy's thoughts and feelings. It's a line of thought that many people online probably don't give as much time to, compared to the ongoing comedic dialogue around the entire affair.

This is something that the series manages to do very well: shine a much-needed light on our collective relationship with social media and its role in this longstanding saga. The vitriol, trolling and subsequent storm of social media messages targeted at Vardy are uncomfortable truths of this trial, and while the memes may have been enjoyed by many at the time, in Vardy v Rooney, we see just how that played out in real time.

Rooney is questioned by Hugh Tomlinson KC (Simon Coury) about how she felt engaging with and saving multiple memes about Vardy - the copy and pasted faces of the pair on Scooby Doo images, and Agatha Christie book jackets plastered with Rooney's face. There's an argument that Rooney was "delighted" at the online praise she received, to which she passionately replies: "I don't wish that upon anyone."

The cast of Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama.
The cast of Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama. Channel 4

We learn of Vardy's constant and looming threat of panic attacks as a result of the 2019 social media post, and how Rooney felt unable to call out the trolls who were targeting her former friend.

While Chanel Cresswell's Coleen Rooney is engaging and a force to be reckoned with, seeing her write out her social media posts veer on the side of unnecessary.

There's no denying that this is a case that fascinated us all and like any good legal drama, tense courtroom dialogue keeps it interesting. However, large portions of the series rely upon on-screen text messages and frantic reading to keep up with the onslaught of WhatsApp's that Vardy and Rooney exchanged with each other, and others in their social circles.

While I'm not averse to reading on screen, at times it feels like Vardy v Rooney relies too much on those messages (and the context they provide) and not enough on the performances and pacing of the drama.

Ultimately, the series manages to capture and memorialise a significant pop culture moment. The 'Wagatha Christie' affair was an intriguing display of drama, but it also managed to be an "antidote" to the suffering that usually dominates the news, as discussed in the closing moments of the final episode.

While we watch on with mixed feelings about the two women at the heart of this drama (and the real-life case it's based on), it's clear to see that there are still negative feelings harboured on both sides.

Images of recent social media posts, Vardy's interviews and news of each of their tell-all documentaries flash up on the screen, signalling to the viewer that while this Channel 4 drama may be over, it certainly won't be the last we hear of Vardy v Rooney. But perhaps for the sake of us all and the threat of similar lacklustre dramas, it should be.

Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama will air on Wednesday 21st December on Channel 4 at 9pm. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


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