Spooks series 9 : In the press
Richard Armitage's final series of Spooks met with enthusiasm and some criticism in the UK press.
The weekly TV guides in many of the British newspapers (18th September 2010) chose the first episode of the series of Spooks as a Pick of the Day on Monday of that week.
Writing in The Guardian, Jonathan Wright said, "Perhaps because it exists in a hyper-real bubble where Britain is always under threat and conspiracies abound, Spooks is an admirably consistent series, an under-valued attribute in TV. That's all the more the remarkable when you consider how often its main characters change."
Describing the first episode, The Times said, "There's a new government, a topical terrorist threat, some super-fly submarines - and, most pulsing of all, Richard Armitage as Lucas, tearing through it all with his tense stares and scepticality. The seeds for another blast of a series are sown."
In the Daily Telegraph, Gerard O'Donovan wrote, "No other long-running series on British television takes such obvious delight in knocking off its principal characters. Spooks still delivers high class escapism at its slickest and most entertaining."
The Daily Mail's Nigel Andrew chose Spooks as a Pick of the Week, and began his preview, "There was a time when British TV drama seemed to have forgotten how to generate real, visceral excitement. And then, along came Spooks, like a massive shot of adrenaline. This spy series might not be the most accurate reflection of the work of MI5 (to put it mildly), but for pace, style, suspense and, yes, excitement, there is nothing on British TV to touch it."
The Daily Star said that "the latest series looks better than ever," while The Independent's Gerard Gilbert described Spooks as "BBC One's consistently gripping spy saga."
The first episode was also a Pick of the Day for Monday in the TV guides of many of the Sunday papers (19th September). In The Observer, Mike Bradley said, "TVs best spy drama returns with a blistering opening episode... Superb."
The CrimeTimePreview website said of the first episode "This is a cracking opener to the series, with plenty of tension and action. But there is also some fleshing out of character here, and between the shoot-outs and shouting we learn more about the principals and meet intriguing new faces" (beware some spoilers in this article).
Time Out, a London listings weekly (16th-22nd September) also previewed it, in a slightly sniffy tone. It thought that Spooks' "moment has passed", but says it remains "irritatingly watchable".
Stuart Heritage wrote about the first episode in The Guardian (18th September) comparing it with 24. Discussing why it has survived into its ninth series, he said, "Another reason for its longevity is because, you know, Spooks is good. Like, actually really good. Without any narrative gimmicks, it can squeeze more into an hour than 24 managed in six months. The first episode alone contains a funeral, an assassination, political intrigue, al-Qaida, Somalian pirates, double-crossing prostitutes, drugs, explosives, bomb-filled submarines and electromagnetic pulse bombs. In terms of scale and suspense and sheer balls-out momentum, there's hardly anything homegrown that can touch this."
He continued, "But don't worry, things haven't got too world class. The dialogue remains jaw-droppingly woeful."
Catherine Gee reviewed the first episode of the series in the Daily Telegraph (20th September). She concluded, "It’s all fairly daft (well, as far as we know – MI5 may actually be dealing with these kinds of preposterous events every day), but happily Spooks remains as tight, gripping and exceptionally watchable as it was in series one."
The Guardian's (21st September) John Crace said, "The highlight of the night – and any other night, come to think of it – was the start of the ninth series of Spooks (BBC1) which is still as compellingly watchable and implausible as ever."
In The Independent (21st September), Brian Viner, a newcomer to Spooks, said, "The entire episode, and no doubt all eight previous series, required a sustained suspension of disbelief, but it was very slickly done, with a few smart nods to reality."
ABC1 broadcast the ninth series of Spooks from March 2011. Press reaction to the series was mixed. Previewing the new series in the Herald Sun (30th March), Dianne Butler admitted that she doesn't like Spooks that much, "But I really liked this week's opening episode. It's a lot of fun. And so's the new Home Secretary." However, in The Age's Green Guide (31st March), Sacha Molitorisz thought Spooks was past its best, acknowledging the "slick cinematography" but calling it "style at the expense of substance."
Previewing episode 3, Bob Hart in the Herald Sun (13th April) wondered "why is it that every time I see [Lucas North] in action, I am reminded of the Sherrif of Nottingham's slippery pal?" Lissa Christopher, writing in The Age's Green Guide (14th April) thought that the show "continues to roll out satisfying, alarmingly plausible plots. [...] The main characters are fascinating, occasionally dangerous and so clever and competent as to stretch credibility to breaking point, which is all part of the fun."
Previewing the sixth episode in The Age's Green Guide (5th May), Michael Idato praised the "dazzling set design, beautiful photography and a compelling colour palette that explores the richness of shadows."
In the Herald Sun (11th May), Dianne Butler still wasn't enamoured with Spooks. She wasn't impressed with the Lucas North/John Bateman storyline, although she admitted she hadn't watched all the episodes in the series.
The Herald Sun's (18th May) preview of the last episode was very positive. "Every series of Spooks seems to be better than the last. And this episode - the last in the series - is clearly the best. [...] Watch, breathe deeply, then hold your breath and be amazed."
The series was also shown in New Zealand on UKTV from March 2011. In a preview in the New Zealand Listener (26th March) Fiona Rae said, "The series, now in its ninth season, is a rip-roaring adventure featuring bad guys of all stripes being thwarted by the good-looking and dangerous men and women of MI5."
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