Sky have a “commitment” to creating new drama, I’m not sure whether the commitment has been imposed upon them by regulators, if it’s a marketing ploy or whether they actually genuinely want to invest in it… but if it leads to more shows like Mad Dogs, then I’m all in favour of it.
At the centre of the show and all of its promotion is a fantastic cast of British actors. It reunites Philip Glenister and John Simm from Life on Mars and they’re joined by Marc Warren (Hustle) and Max Beesley (Hotel Babylon, um.. the job centre ads). They make a great ensemble, it’s utterly believable that they’ve known each other for years but don’t necessarily have a lot in common.
The premise is that these four guys have travelled to the beautiful Majorca to stay with the fifth member of the group (Ben Chaplin) who is rolling in it and a bit sinister. Over the course of the first episode he deteriorates from ‘slightly odd’ to ‘batshit crazy’. The pacing of this descent is beautifully paced, it’s both gradual and rapid, the four guys and the audience start of just a bit unsettled by his behaviour, but as the episode goes on they get more and more freaked out until reaching a level of utter panic.
It’s this pacing that made the first episode absolutely gripping to watch. Thanks to the introductory video segment (and of course the advertising) the audience knows that the fun blokes holiday of drinking and mucking about is going to deteriorate into something more horrific, but watching the characters gradually work their way to the same realisation is fascinating. With lesser actors it may have been cheesy or felt manipulative, but from the minute you meet the characters, even though you don’t necessarily like them, you are completely engaged with each of them. The characters and their relationships also inject a lot of humour along the way, breaking up the suspense with some proper laugh inducing comedy.
I thought this first episode was absolutely brilliant, I was gripped from the very first second, massively frustrated every time it went to adverts and continue to be annoyed I have to wait another week for the next episode. My only concern would be that the high standards set by this gradual build up will be unsustainable through the next three episodes, that it might turn into a bit more of an action adventure than a psychological thriller. But, even if that’s the case, the quality of this first episode has already made this show a stand out of the year so far.
Other reviews: The Guardian didn’t like it much (“Rather than building menace, the snail-like pace dissipated it.”), The Telegraph liked it more though (“like any competent suspense thriller, it made you ask questions throughout. The episode bubbled with foreboding, right up to the cliffhanger”),