TV Review: Scoop

Some powerful acting makes the process of getting a controversial Newsnight interview rather interesting in Scoop

“An hour of television can change everything”

It’s something of a toxic relationship between the British public and their royal family, perfectly encapsulated in the situation we find ourselves in with duelling TV adaptations of how Prince Andrew’s cringeing 2019 Newsnight interview came to pass. They come at a moment when it is clear that he believes that his retirement from public life – as a result of the ensuing outcry – was a temporary measure, his return to the forefront of royal events an ugly reminder of what that family will tolerate.

First out of the blocks is Scoop, Peter Moffat and Geoff Bussetil’s screenplay adapting former Newsnight editor Sam McAlister’s book Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews. And since it comes from McAlister’s point of view, it does offer a singular vantage point. A story of how big interviews on shows like Newsnight come to pass with all of the behind-the-scenes wrangling, a focus on the storytelling rather than on the lurid details of the particular story.

Lest anyone need reminding, the interview took place amid the turmoil of Andrew’s involvement with convicted sex offenders Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell and the allegations of his sexual assault of a minor. Scoop reframes this as a study of the women behind the story – Billie Piper plays McAlister with relentless drive, this single mother determined to pursue this unique opportunity, and Gillian Anderson brings hauteur and inscrutability to Emily Maitlis, her interviewing a masterclass in letting hoists and petards do their own thing.

Keeley Hawes gets a strong role too as Amanda Thirsk, the Prince’s private secretary who cossets him against the outside world perhaps a little too much. Rufus Sewell’s transformation into Andrew in uncanny, particularly in the air of entitled arrogance that accompanies his every interaction, not least in thinking he can control the reaction of the media, particularly in the digital age, a serious flaw from which this institution has apparently learned so very little if the past few months are anything to go by.

All sorts of quality actors pop up in small roles too – Lia Williams as BBC supremo Fran Unsworth chopping jobs, Charity Wakefield as a hesitant Princess Beatrice trying to advise her dad, Romola Garai and Richard Goulding as fellow Newsnight personnel, Alex Waldmann as frustrated Royal PR Jason Stein, blink early on and you’ll miss Kate Fleetwood in the tiniest of parts too. At a scant couple of hours, Scoop does its job effectively if never quite becoming must-see TV in and of itself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *