Without You Review: Friel Time

WITHOUT YOU: Thursday 8th December, ITV1, 9pm

What do we have here? A drama based on a novel without a Wikipedia page eh? A bold risqué move there if we ever saw one. Nonetheless, we must plough on, with Without You, based on the psychological thriller ‘What To Do When Someone Dies’, starring Brit drama staples and West End darlings Anna Friel and Marc Warren. As always for ITV, the mission is to not senselessly fade into the background and to present something of a challenge for the viewer.

In the first episode of the three part series, we meet (well, we say ‘meet’, we nod politely to the fact that they’re letting Anna Friel on television again) Ellie Manning, happily married and engaging in Boy Scout Innuendo with her significant other played by Marc Warren, him of Hustle fame, State of Play or making subtle allusions to being fellated by Moaning Myrtle’s head on Doctor Who. Whatever your preference.

So far, so slightly cringy and droll. But not to worry, because if ITV1 know anything about television, it’s how to appropriate a cold, crushing death, whether that be dealt under the inquisitive aged eyes of Angela Lansbury, or Peter Andre’s sincere foray into R n’B. Either way, the point remains, and Anna Friel is widowed within the first ten minutes of the programme.

From this point on, the rest of the drama’s focus cultivates in Ellie’s inevitable grief and knotted confusion over the unusual circumstances of her husband’s death. (Why she’d want to be engaging in midnight sensual vigils with Marc Warren’s ‘flirt-acting’ however remains a slightly bigger mystery for us) with many inevitable “He’s not coming BACK, Elliesâ€? And of course a couple of “He was having an AFFAIR, Elliesâ€? thrown in for extra ambiguous value. We’re riled up, can you tell?

As it transpires, the episode follows Ellie as she tries to uncover why her beloved was found in a car crash with a mystery woman by the name of ‘Milana Livingstone’ (Because all mistresses in ITV1 dramas must sound like Italian shoes to necessitate an air of exotica) which she does by rolling around forlorn in tea dresses, typing annoyingly slowly into a search engine that looks suspiciously like a less satisfying version of Bing, and discussing the matter with a ghost version of Marc Warren, who isn’t much help and just tells her how he only married her because she looked fit in a pub quiz once. Brutal.

In the end however, we concede that Without You did lure us in with an intrigue that was charmingly woven throughout the narrative and Friel fully uses the gutsy Northern charm that first made her in the first place very well, taking her very much back to her roots. Is this a step backwards? Not necessarily. That was probably being referred to as a “Lancashire ho-potâ€? in a 90s lad mag once. Nonetheless, with believable characters and many unanswered questions already hovering over the climax of episode one, we want to hear more of Without You’s story. And we hate all that Agatha Christie folly.

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