SET amid the dreaming spires of a university town, ITV’s big drama Cheat opens tonight – and will keep viewers gripped.
The four-parter runs nightly until Thursday and stars Mr Selfridge and Coronation Street’s Katherine Kelly as a lecturer, Dr Leah Dale.
Dr Dale accuses student Rose Vaughan, played by Molly Windsor, of cheating on a course assignment.
Tensions then spiral horribly out of control, leading to fatal consequences.
But the new drama has the hallmarks of some of the biggest serial hits of recent years.
Here, TV writer ROD McPHEE looks at other suspense sagas echoed in Cheat . . .
Bodyguard: Carnal cravings at work
Bodyguard centred on the forbidden relationship between a top politician and her close-protection officer[/caption]
BODYGUARD became one of Britain’s biggest dramas on the back of a forbidden relationship between a top politician and her close-protection officer.
But the sex between Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes in the BBC1 bonkbuster is echoed in Cheat as we also see Dr Dale in a fantasy sequence sleeping with someone she works with – betraying her husband with hunky academic Stephan Wilson.
He is played by smouldering American actor Parker Sawyers, whose big break came playing former US President Barack Obama in 2016 film, Southside With You.
Stephan’s such a source of irresistible desire for Dr Dale that the first episode sees her unable to control her lust when she thinks about him. And the steam does not stop there, with series director Louise Hooper hinting at a whole lot more.
In line with the show’s girl power feel, it will not be a man taking control either, like in Bodyguard. Louise said: “I don’t want to give too much away but there might be another sex scene. But it was really important to me that the woman involved is not passive, she’s active.”
And, unlike other dramas, they did not have the need for a so-called “intimacy coordinator”.
Katherine said: “I’d never heard of one – we did it all ourselves.”
Killing Eve: Serious girl power
Killing Eve has two female characters who are obsessed with each other[/caption]
LIKE spy thriller Killing Eve, Cheat boasts two female characters who are obsessed with each other.
Cheat’s Katherine Kelly, who plays Dr Dale, says: “In Killing Eve they’re pitted against each other but there’s layers.
“Sometimes there are representations of women and they’re just bat-s**t crazy. I don’t want to portray women as psychotic – but there can be strong emotions which do cause danger.”
Dr Foster: The messy marriage
Beneath their professional veneer, Suranne Jones and Bertie Carvel play a warring husband and wife in Dr Foster[/caption]
FROM the outside, Cheat’s Dr Dale and her husband seem happy – two middle-class professionals with a beautiful home and healthy relationship.
Dr Dale and her husband, fellow academic Adam, played by Mr Selfridge’s Tom Goodman-Hill, hit trouble over fertility problems and she gets fed up having sex just to get pregnant. Katherine says: “You think she’s a happily married woman and then you think, ‘Oh maybe she’s not so keen on her husband. Does she want a baby? Doesn’t she?’”
Liar: A major porkie
Liar, with Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd, is created around a central ‘lie’[/caption]
LIAR and Cheat each have a lie at their heart – and the search for the truth sees the central characters resort to desperate measures.
They try to discredit each other, with viewers uncertain who the victim really is.
In Cheat, the lie is lesser but Dr Dale and Rose don’t let it drop and it is not clear who we should back.
Katherine says: “I hope people change their minds about whose side they’re on. It’s not cut-and- dried.”
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Endeavour: A-spiring backdrop
CHEAT’s backdrop of college quads, shot a lot in Cambridge, may remind viewers of detective series Endeavour – set in Oxford.
But just like ITV’s Inspector Morse spin-off Endeavour, Cheat’s backdrop belies the sinister goings-on.
Cheat director Louise Hooper says: “Here’s this wonderful world of spires and punts – but actually it’s dark and screwed up.
“We liked the contrast between warm, lazy days and that underbelly with danger and emotions bubbling.”
It is not set in a specific place, but the college backdrop sets the mood. Louise says: “You want to really feel that world.”
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