The Moorside tells the tale of Karen Matthews, the idiot who claimed her daughter, Shannon, had been kidnapped when she was hidden under a bed the entire time. Karen thought she could hoodwink the media in the same way Kate and Gerry McCann hoodwinked them into thinking they were great parents by leaving their children alone in a foreign country. Whether Madeleine was subsequently kidnapped is still up for debate, but the full truth about the Matthews family was quickly uncovered.
Beginning on 19th February 2008, the day it all began, the first episode is split into timeframes – 14 hrs after Shannon’s disappearance, 36 hrs, 7 days, 13 days, 22 days, and so on, and follows a predictable path in every way you’d expect as a child has gone missing and the whole community come together to look for her.
The big name, here, is Sheridan Smith, and she takes centre stage as Karen’s best friend, Julie – who we first see as an overly-feisty woman going through an anger-management course, as she’s the one organising the community search to bring her home – something they don’t trust the police to do, and quite rightly, too, as the police are usually only interested in eating donuts.
It’s interesting to see the background stories that didn’t make the news, although how much of that is truth, I don’t know as it states some scenes have been dramatised. However, I don’t understand why this story is being told now – it’s one year off the 10th anniversary and I doubt Shannon wants to be reminded of this as she’s close to University age.
Gemma Whelan perfectly epitomises the Jeremy Kyle participant-cum-inbred-cum-walked-headlong-into-a-wall look, and looking so coked-up she can’t even remember how many children she’s got – but then she gave birth so often she may as well move into a shoe(!); and despite the supposedly-traumatic situation, when DC Christine Freeman (Siobhan Finneran)’s phone’s ringtone plays out Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, Karen gets up and starts dancing, which is not the normal behaviour of someone who’s had a child kidnapped. There’s also good support from Sian Brooke (Sherlock Series 4) as Karen’s other best friend, Natalie.
There’s still a bit of dark-ish humour in place such as when Julie’s son states that one of his friends has claimed she’ll be found “chopped up and in a wheelie bin”, and when the wheels are beginning to come off, Julie retorts: “Karen isn’t clever enough to have made all this up!”
Now the first episode has been broadcast, I will say that it ended on an interesting cliffhanger moment…
I initially assumed this two-parter would take us up to the moment where the truth comes out, but while I can’t say how part 2 pans out, all I can say is that it was good to see it delve into the aftermath, and it is an improvement, so if you’re in two minds about watching it after seeing the first part, then do stick with it.
The Moorside concludes next Tuesday on BBC1 at 9pm, and is available to pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release on February 27th. Also, click on the packshot for the full-size version.
You can also watch the first episode on BBC iPlayer until March 8th.
Episode 1 Score: 6/10
Episode 2 Score: 8/10
Director: Paul Whittington
Producer: Ken Horn
Writer: Neil McKay
Julie Bushby: Sheridan Smith
Karen Matthews: Gemma Whelan
Natalie Brown: Sian Brooke
PC Steve ‘Kinchie’ Kinchin: Dean Andrews
DC Christine Freeman: Siobhan Finneran
DC Alex Grummit: Steve Oram
DS Paul Brennan: Paul Opacic
‘Scouse’ Pete Brown: John Dagleish
Stacey Bushby: Kirsty Armstrong
Alice Meehan: Catherine Breeze
Sheryl: Sally Carr
Neil Hyett: Darren Connolly
CID Officer: Stephan Fleming
Craig Meehan: Tom Hanson
Peter Bushby: William Hunt
Rev Kathy Robertson: Rebecca Manley
Petra Jamieson: Faye McKeever
Tiffany Bushby: Cody Ryan
Ian: Martin Savage
Callie Brown: Macy Shackleton
Debbie: Erin Shanagher
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.