State of Play was a 6-part British television drama serial, first broadcast on BBC One in 2003. Produced in-house by the BBC, in association with independent production company Endor Productions, it was created and written by Paul Abbott, directed by David Yates and starred David Morrissey, John Simm, Kelly Macdonald, Polly Walker, Bill Nighy, and James McAvoy. It tells the story of a newspaper’s investigation into the death of a young woman, and centres on the relationship between the leading journalist and his old friend, a Member of Parliament and the woman’s employer.
The serial begins with the murder of a young man, in what appears to be a drug-related killing, and the apparently coincidental death of Sonia Baker, the young researcher for MP Stephen Collins (Morrissey). As the deaths are investigated by journalist Cal McCaffrey of The Herald (Simm) and his colleagues (including Kelly Macdonald as Della Smith and Bill Nighy as editor Cameron Foster) it appears that not only were the deaths connected, but that a conspiracy links them with oil industry-backed corruption of high-ranking British government ministers. Philip played DCI Bell.
The serial was Paul Abbott’s first attempt to write a political thriller, and he initially made the majority of the plot up as he went along. He was prompted to write the serial after BBC Head of Drama Jane Tranter asked whether he would rather write something “bigger” than he had usually written so far in his career. The serial was Abbott’s third major writing project for the BBC, following Clocking Off (2000-2003) and Linda Green (2001-2002).
Transmitted on BBC One on Sunday evenings at 9pm, State of Play consisted of six one-hour episodes and ran from 18 May to 22 June 2003. Episodes two to five were actually premiered on the digital television station BBC Four at 10pm on the nights of the preceding episodes’ BBC One showings – episode six was held back for a BBC One premiere so as not to allow the final twists to be spoiled for those who did not have access to digital television. In 2004, the serial ran in the United States on the BBC’s BBC America cable channel.
In 2005 the serial was released on DVD by BBC Worldwide, in a two-disc set. Episode one features an audio commentary from Abbott and Yates, and episode six a commentary from Yates, producer Hilary Bevan-Jones and editor Mark Day.
Cast: David Morrissey, John Simm, Kelly Macdonald, Polly Walker, Bill Nighy, Philip Glenister, James McAvoy Series Writing credits: Paul Abbott(6 episodes, 2003) Series Directed by: David Yates(6 episodes, 2003) Series Produced by: Paul Frift …. line producer (5 episodes, 2003) Hilary Bevan Jones …. producer (3 episodes, 2003) Laura Mackie …. executive producer (3 episodes, 2003) Gareth Neame …. executive producer (3 episodes, 2003) BBC Television 2003