Having created and written supernatural successful youth drama Being Human, Toby Whithouse may have been expected to stick to the world of werewolves, ghosts and vampires. What he actually did is make The Game, a Cold War spy series for a mainstream audience.
“Toby is a big name as a writer/creator and the BBC were keen to get him on BBC1 and to a mainstream audience,” says The Game executive producer Hilary Salmon. “He is a massive spy thriller fan and The Game is a thriller with scary moments and high stakes but also a sense of playfulness. It’s set in the ’70s but made for the modern age.”
The six-part drama is set in London (it was shot in Birmingham) and stars Tom Hughes (Dancing on the Edge) as Joe Lambe an intelligence officer who is part of an M15 team investigating Operation Glass, a Soviet plot to overtake Britain.
Lambe’s back story is complicated by the fact he feels responsible for the death of an agent with whom he was in love. Finding out who killed her is a sub-plot in the serialised drama.
The cast also includes Brian Cox (Troy), Paul Ritter (Quantum of Solace) and Chloe Pirrie (Black Mirror). Niall MacCormick (Wallander) directed.
Being Human was Whithouse’s first show and for the BBC’s youth-skewed BBC Three channel, but The Game needs to reach a wider audience. While tipping a hat to Tinker Tailor and other John Le Carré adaptations with muted tones but this show has a faster pace while retaining some of the classic spy sleuth work.
“We didn’t want a crime show, we wanted a genre piece for a mainstream audience,” Salmon explains. “The game of the title is an intellectual one and there are scenes where our heroes are sitting in a room working out what’s going on out there, but these are balanced with real action and adrenalin and there are chase sequences and fights.”
Salmon says adds that the show is “quintessentially British in the same way as Sherlock”. BBC Worldwide is distributing the series and will be shopping it to buyers at MIPTV in April.
The show: The Game
The distributor: BBC Worldwide
The producer: BBC Cymru Wales
The concept: Cold War spy drama about a group of agents attempting to foil a Soviet plot to take over Britain
Will perform well: In territories that warm to British drama
Challenges: Competition from other spy/espionage series