A multi-faceted, ITV produced, standalone drama which uses its title to encompass the many different scenarios that “Cheating” can be applied to, as co-stars Katherine Kelly (Leah) and Molly Windsor (Rose) go head to head in a claustrophobic thriller set amongst the hallowed halls of what is intimated to be the University of Oxford.
Leah is an up and coming academic, desperately trying to get a foothold in the exploitative, competitive realm of academia. Harbouring hopes of becoming a renowned name in the sociological world, aside from teaching her many classes she is in the midst of writing her first book. Within her final year cohort resides self entitled, spoilt and unloved Rose, a very bright student with very little appetite for application of her talents and who harbours sociopathic characteristics.
With a toxic fixation of being ‘noticed’ by her teacher, Rose embarks on a series of attention seeking, corner cutting measures which bring her sharply into focus on campus. Spurred on by her academic integrity and not wanting to besmirch her Father’s reputation as an esteemed, retired, sociological Professor in his own right, Leah takes a stand against Rose’s tactics assuming she is dealing with just another student who is trying to cut corners. This does not go down very well and what follows is four high stakes episodes of cat and mouse conflict with a bucket load of collateral damage.
Windsor- who’s remorseless and cold demeanour is key to the moderate success of this series- steals the show by passing off Rose’s criminal antics with child like contempt. The female leads are joined by Tom Goodman-Hill who has perfected the role as self absorbed, hapless partner (a role he played similarly in Humans) by floating through the story not realising that his selfishness is what accelerates widespread damage.
What stops this show from being truly great are the number of tired clichés which surround the plot. The inappropriate teacher-student relationship, two dimensional characters making decisions that normal folk can’t identify with and the over egged posh accents over emphasised by the cast who would have you think the higher education environment is purely for the upper classes. This is compounded further by the borderline questionable ‘commonness’ of Lara, a seemingly token-black working class-done good fellow academic who seems to be the only one with an inkling of what is going on but who simply acts as a story device for discussing relationships and career choices!
Not bad for an easy watch and definitely not the worst thing British TV has produced in the last couple of years but ultimately quite a shallow story with a rushed resolution.
Viewed: February 2021