TV Review: Douglas Is Cancelled, ITV1

Review: Douglas Is Cancelled, ITV1
There have been so many trailers for new ITV1 comedy drama Douglas Is Cancelled I felt like I'd seen it before I hit the play button. And even when I'd hit the button and watched the first episode a lot of it was scarily familiar. But in a Good Way. 
Steven Moffat's four-parter takes a takes a satirical scalpel to contemporary cancel culture. When dishy but middle aged news anchor Douglas Bellowes (Hugh Bonneville) makes a casual sexist quip at a party it gets reported on social media and soon goes viral. Nuclear, in fact. Partly due to his co-host Madeline (Karen Gillan) quoting it in an ambiguous post that might have been defending him or might have been intended to start a pile on. Is she helping or being ruthlessly ambitious? 
It's a story that has been played out in real life numerous times in the recent culture wars with varying consequences. At times Moffat's script almost feels like a fly-on-the-wall documentary as we watch the predictable crisis management, fallout and escalation of the problem before our very eyes.
But Douglas is Cancelled is also much funnier that reality, with a plot that takes some neat stabs at the post-social media generation gap. Douglas' teen daughter Claudia (Madeleine Power) is constantly furious at her parents (perhaps that's always been the case with teens, only now that say "OK Boomer" instead of scream "I hate you so much"), while the snowflakey PA of Douglas' newspaper editor wife Sheila (Alex Kingston) is so anxious she can't speak. Which makes her a pretty crappy but very comical PA. It's the new world versus the old world. Who will emerge victorious?
The script is crammed with familiar headline references, including a cabbie being mistaken for somebody more important. Everyone is walking on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing and get sucked into a spat. At the end of the episode we meet comedy writer Morgan, played by Nick Mohammed, and when producer Toby (Ben Miles) accidentally ignores him he is terrified of being seen as racist.
The casting is positively 24-carat, also pulling in familiar names and faces from Joe Wilkinson to Simon Russell-Beale. The dialogue is snappy and fast-paced. TV shows about TV shows used to be the kiss of death but I guess hits such as The Morning Show and The Larry Sanders Show and even Alan Partridge have scuppered that theory. 
There's just one glitch in this matrix. When the offending remark goes viral it is referred to as a tweet. The result makes this feel at times as if it is some kind of period piece, when in fact it is bang up to date. I can see why they did that though. "There's been an X" just doesn't have the same ominous punch as "there's been a tweet..."
Douglas Is Cancelled, Thursday, June 27, 9pm, ITV1. All four episodes available on ITVX after broadcast.
Picture: ITV1



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