Party Animous

She didn’t say it. For once I watched the whole of the closing credits to Party Animals, it being the final episode of the series, and the announcer didn’t say that the series would return next year. Not that she even said ‘And that was the last in the present series …’ She said nothing at all about the proceeding programme which sort of suggests that despite a late ratings upturn (which I’m sure was because of my previous appeal for viewers) this is another show that will indeed go the way of Glasgow Kiss, Attachments and apparently Lillies, one series wonders all consigned to television history. At least this one managed to keep its time slot right the way through.

What ultimately killed Party Animals really was its pre-publicity, or at least the viral version of it, pitching it as This Life for the naughties, wall to wall sex and sarcasm amongst the young political bucks. When in fact at its best it was more like a British version of The West Wing; all of the elements you’d expect from a political drama, the affairs, the scandal, the ideology but delivered with heart and passion and humour. It bravely aped the US format of plots A to C, ongoing plot arcs mixing with stand alone stories working towards tonight’s finale in which all of the various dangling story strands twisted together in surprisingly positive ways.

This final episode was a perfect example of what the series did best (see I’m already talking about it in the past tense – I don’t hold out much hope) twisting stories and relationship in and around one another, the relationships between the characters tested and ultimately controlled by party affiliations. With the crucial by-election too close to call and vital photos of Ashika, the Tory candidate embracing her former boyfriend, James Northcote, a shadow cabinet minister turning up on the desk of Scott, the Labour campaign manager and her new boyfriend. Would he release the photos damaging his relationship but saving his Dad’s old seat from the opposition? In other words would he put his party or his woman first?

As I said last time, one of the issues the series had to deal with from the outset was the viewer’s own party affiliations opposing sympathetic characters and confronted the issue head on. Personally I can’t stand either Labour or the Tories so I could rise about it all. In the end the decision was made for Scott because (and are you keeping up?) Danny (still Adric), his visiting brother and Labour researcher sent them to the local paper instead – because Scott had slept with his office crush on Kirsty (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer’s Faith trapped in the body of Willow) after a party and denied it had happened. The brothers fell out and made up and Danny reminded Scott that Ashika was a Tory and therefore scum and Scott reminded Danny that when their flatmate was killed she’d visited to check that everything was ok and therefore nice. Shades of grey.pp

Meanwhile, Danny and Kirsty’s boss, MP Jo Porter was nursing a drink problem and a failed marriage and both of them were attempting to get her sober enough to fight back against her critics after she drunkenly boasted about a coo attempt – her main critic being, you guessed it, James Northcote. One of the series best inventions, Jo was the most dimensional character, sharp as nails when she needed to be, a lush the rest of the time. When all about suggested to Danny that he should jump the good ship Porter before she sank, he stayed loyal and unlike some other series you understood why, you believed in her because she was human, helped by Raquel Cassidy’s typically layered performance.

Not that all of the characterization was perfect by any means. For all the sympathy injected into Porter, Northcote was a bit one dimensional and about as twattishly shifty as you’d expect a Tory MP having an affair would be. Sophie Montgomery, the journalist buzzing around the group stopping off now and then to sleep with Scott never really fulfilled her initial promise particularly in the closing episode where she clearly should have been the one to help the pictures on their way instead of having them appear in the rather anonymous local Gazette – a midnight meeting with Danny, him lied to, her rejected, both by the same person, both wanting revenge. And god forbid the gay character, Matt Baker, Kirsty’s counterpart in Northcote’s office should get the storyline of his own, spending most of the duration the series being Ashika’s confident.

The look of the series never failed to impress, shot in a controlled hand held style without resorting to pointless montage sequences to reflect location ala the likes of Torchwood, often ignoring boring establishing shots and expecting the viewer to realise that the scene is in the House of Commons, constituency offices or the brother’s flat. That helped to keep the pace up and only in this final episode was there captions – this time unobtrusively counting down to election day. No incidental music either telling the viewer what to think, with only a bit of well chosen pop music playing out the episode into the titles. It’s a shame that a soundtrack won’t be forthcoming.

I was biting my nails right through to the announcement of the by-election result, weirdly hoping that Ashika would win it, shushing Kirsty along with Danny. That’s what the best shows do – they get under your skin and become interactive at crucial moments (Torchwood being the exception – I was shouting at that for opposite reasons). But I really would like to have more of this series, to see the aftermath, even if I fear there isn’t much more for it to do – this closing episode felt like a stop, most of the stories finding closure. Except there’s always that dangling question of what exactly Scott wrote to Ashika in that text message. I mean what could he say? Sorry about those photos ruining your political career -- want to have lunch?

5 comments:

  1. Lynda Robinson9:20 am

    I also enjoyed this series! I have just watched the last episode and I played the last minite over and over seeing If I could make out what Scott texted to Ashika.....Was it 'I love you' 'I'm sorry'.........Please BBC lets have series 2. Party Animals was brilliant up there with 'The State within' 'Lillies'
    More More More!

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  2. Nice review, Stu. Just to be killingly pedantic, Attachments did actually get a second series...

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  3. Did it really? Unless I only watched the second series ... hmm ...

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  4. It's killing me to know what that last text to Ashika said...it looked like three words

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  5. Loved this show, but what was that last text message say...?

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