Spooks series 7 : In the Press
The seventh series of Spooks was almost universally praised by the critics when it was broadcast in the UK in October - December 2008.
As the newcomer to the show, much of the publicity for the new series focused on Richard Armitage. There were interviews with him in the national and regional press (including a news story about torture in The Times), and also in many of the weekly TV magazines.
He also did several TV and radio interviews about the series on the day it started. See below for a list of his interviews.
Newspapers and TV magazines welcomed the return of Spooks in October 2008, and most them chose the opening episode as their Pick of the Day. Some of them also included it in their previews of the whole week's television.
Gareth Lean in The Guardian (27th October) said, "Rare is the returning British drama that gets you giddy but, back for its seventh series and resolving last year's big cliffhanger, Spooks returns triumphant. It's no secret that Ros is back, Adam is leaving and new boy Lucas North (Richard Armitage) has been rescued from a Russian prison, but how it all plays out is a delight."
In the Radio Times (25th-31st October), Alison Graham said that in spite of Spooks having reached its seventh series, "its standards are still toweringly high, and, if anything, it gets better with age". She described the opening two part story as "an absolute corker".
And in The Scotsman (26th October), Mik Duffy chose it as his Drama of the Week, saying that "the gripping spy drama gets a welcome infusion of new blood as Richard Armitage, finally escaping the grim TV gulag of Robin Hood, brings his Byronic presence to Section D. Playing Lucas North, an MI5 operative re-learning the ropes after a decade in Russian captivity, he's a compelling hero whose need to prove his loyalty adds a weighty Le Carré-like vibe to the high octane proceedings."
On the day the series started, The Times (27th October) chose to focus on the filming of a scene in episode 3 of Lucas North (Richard Armitage) being waterboarded. In a news item, they reported that he had actually been waterboarded for the scene. He was reported as saying that he was initially convinced by consultants from the CIA and FSB (the former KGB) that it was not a form a torture. But after experiencing it, he changed his mind and believes it should not be used. "The psychological damage of doing that to someone for even a minute would be indescribable," he said.
This story, and the issues it raised, was later picked up by a number of other newspapers, for example, the Daily Telegraph (28th October). And it was also mentioned in some of the radio and TV interviews that he did that day to publicise the new series.
The following Sunday, The Times' sister paper, the Sunday Times (2nd November) returned to the theme, reprinting an article by Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair about being waterboarded, and again quoting Richard's comments about his experience of it.
Later, in an interview with The Stage in February 2009, Richard Armitage said that the issue had been blown out of proportion. " There was no other way of doing it, other than actually doing it. And I was up for it, I said I want to experience what it feels like. But it got reported as if I’d said, “I want to be waterboarded” and it wasn’t like that at all. You just repeat it a few times and you remember the effect it had on you and reproduce that. It was no big deal but it was important for that moment."
The scene in question shows Lucas North experiencing a sudden flashback to his interrogation by the FSB while he was in a Russian prison. The views of Lucas being waterboarded are brief, but they are enough to show the nature of this form of torture. (Video clip...)
"The best drama on the box"
There was further comment from the critics as the series continued.
In the Radio Times (15th-21st November) Alison Graham called Spooks "the best drama on the box". The Observer's Mike Bradley described episode 6 as "riveting television" (23rd November), while the Glasgow Daily Record (29th November) previewing episode 7, had this to say, "It's clear Spooks is by no means losing its edge, as this run has been as breakneck and high-octane as ever. In the opener, a British soldier was kidnapped by al-Qaeda, with the warning he would be killed unless Remembrance Day services were cancelled, while Harry was reunited with his protege, the unstable but brilliant Lucas, played with aplomb by the brooding Richard Armitage."
In The Guardian (2nd December) Leigh Holmwood wrote, "I had feared the death of main character Adam Carter, played by Rupert Penry Jones, at the beginning of the series would have cast a long shadow but I have barely noticed his absence given the speed at which things have been racing along. The introduction of Richard Armitage as Penry Jones' replacement has more than made amends, while the return of the great Hermione Norris as Ros Myers, and her elevation to senior case officer, has been a genius move." He considered this series of Spooks to be its best ever.
On a more flippant note, Paul Flynn in Grazia (10th November) pondered whether Spooks could survive without Rupert Penry-Jones. Answer, yes.
"One of the highest achievements of popular drama"
In an article in The Guardian (4th December) about episode 7, Mark Lawson praised the whole series. "In the rush to publicise and review what's new, long-running dramas are easily taken for granted. But it needs to be acknowledged that Spooks (BBC1) is one of the highest achievements of popular drama. This week's episode - twisting, shocking, breathlessly gripping - was typical of the smart writing, affecting performances and atmospheric direction maintained over seven seasons. [...] Tending to cast the sort of actors that other casting directors covet, the producers have also dealt effortlessly with character attrition: Tuesday night dispensed with two more series regulars, through death and treachery."
In her Radio Times blog (4th December), Alison Graham praised Spooks again. "Hasn't this been the best ever series? I've always been a fan, but suddenly Spooks seems to have grown up into a beautifully polished, clever, adult drama that's just so flipping exciting. [...] The series has intelligently exploited the terrorist threat without scaring the hell out of its audience. And it's also had some good, strong, prescient stories about the resurgent Russian threat and global financial meltdown. [...] At the end of the first episode of the current series, smooth spy Adam (Rupert Penry-Jones) was killed in a bomb explosion. His absence, in other, lesser dramas, could have spelt disaster. Yet Spooks glides on, with Richard Armitage fitting in seamlessly as Lucas, Adam's replacement."
The final episode
Most of the TV magazines chose the final episode as Pick of the Day, and many had short features about Spooks, including interviews with Richard Armitage, Peter Firth and Gemma Jones. The general consensus was that the series was well up to the standards of previous years, and the viewing figures were good, at around 5.7 million for each episode. The final episode on 8th December attracted 6 million viewers, the highest audience of the series.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph (8th December) Gerard O'Donovan said of the final episode, "It’s all terrifically exciting – the streets and Underground tunnels of London have rarely been used to such climactic effect – with great performances from everyone involved. Not only that, it also sets up a great cliffhanger ending that will leave fans absolutely gagging for the next series."
TV and radio
Although still filming the third series of Robin Hood in Hungary, Richard Armitage returned to London to do a series of TV and radio interviews on 27th October, the day that new series of Spooks began.
Early in the morning, he was a guest on BBC Radio 2's The Sarah Kennedy Show. It was an eagerly anticipated interview. Sarah Kennedy, a fervent fan of Guy of Gisborne, had first requested an interview with Richard several months earlier. But on the day itself she was ill, and Richard Allinson stood in for her. Listen to the interview...
And later in the morning, he appeared on ITV1's This Morning, talking to Eammon Holmes and Ruth Langsford and was met by a large number of fans waiting outside the studios (right). Watch the interview...
Earlier in the day, he had recorded an interview for BBC Radio 6 Music's Chris Hawkins Show. It was broadcast in five parts the following week. Each morning he talked about his career and chose a piece of music that reminded him of a certain time in his life. The tracks ranged from Grease (a childhood Christmas present) to Keane. Listen to Monday's interview..., Tuesday's interview..., Wednesday's interview..., Thursday's interview..., Friday's interview...
On Tuesday 25th November, The One Show (BBC One) included a feature about the shooting of a scene from episode 6 of Spooks at a house in London. Richard Armitage spoke very briefly about the filming. The item can be viewed online by UK viewers at The One Show's blog... Or download a video clip here...
Finally, the BBC Spooks website has a video interview with Richard about Lucas North, recorded during the filming of the series. UK visitors can watch it here...
A large number of interviews with Richard Armitage appeared in the national press in the week leading up to the beginning of the series, including The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the DailyExpress, the Sunday Express, and in the TV magazines of the Daily Mirror, Daily Star and Sunday People.
There were also articles in many regional papers, although in some cases they were syndicated articles that appeared in more than one paper.
Two Midlands newspapers carried special features about Richard joining Spooks (he was born and grew up in the East Midlands). There was a full page feature on the front page of the Coventry Telegraph's 'WeekEnd' supplement. He was a student at Pattison’s Dancing Academy in Coventry (now Pattison College), so the article was advertised on the front page of the main paper as "Coventry's own Spook! Former city student joins top TV show". And Birmingham's Sunday Mercury also had a feature about his new role in Spooks.
And there were short interviews with Richard in most of the weekly TV and other magazines that week.
There were also some website interviews, for example, at the sites of the satellite broadcaster Sky, Digital Spy, and Radio1's Newsbeat.
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