Director Matt Lipsey writes...
Vexed began for me, as most projects do, with a call from my agent asking if I wanted to read a script. That bit was normal, nothing out of the ordinary. The next bit was the bit that was right out from left field: "it's for a new cop show", she said.
I think the words "we need a new cop show almost as desperately as we need a new talent show" came out, or words to that effect. "No, apparently this is different" she went on to explain. Yeah right! Then I found out that it was written by Howard Overman. I'd already had a chance to read an early draft of Misfits (it was fabulous as a piece of writing - and went on to become fabulous as a piece of telly) so the cynic in me was temporarily set aside.
The pitch at its most simplified is this: a cop show that's not a cop show, or, Moonlighting for the noughties. Two mismatched police officers forced together in the line of duty. She is a slightly repressed and insecure, diligent hard worker who does things by the book and he is a wholly unreconstructed lothario for whom police work just gets in the way of the more important job of enjoying himself. No surprises then that they hate each other - but life is never that simple, never that black and white. I only had episode one to read but it was more than enough to hook me. Not to harp on about it but anyone who has seen Misfits will know what Overman is capable of - nothing is ever quite what it seems. And Vexed didn't disappoint. Funny, clever, ballsy, razor sharp, and often deliciously, dangerously wrong.
We have here the refreshing notion of a cop that doesn't really care that much about being a cop. It's an idea that will clearly offend those of us who believe that our boys and girls in blue are singularly motivated by the desire to protect the rest of us. But there is some real mileage in this. Jack is not a bad guy - he's scammed a bit here and there - but he's not bent. However neither is he the maverick, nothing-by-the-book kind of guy. Oh alright... he is maverick. But not in the stereotypical way of so many police dramas of the past. Yes, he throws the book aside because it gets things done far more efficiently - but that's only so he can skive off early to Tony's café and enjoy a real cup of coffee.
So what of Kate and the central dynamic? Isn't that all a bit of a cliché? She's by-the-book and he's a maverick. Again this is where the writing is so good because although they seem to be diametrically opposed, there is something inevitably seductive about Jack's approach, and what we see is how Kate is drawn out of herself and despite her best efforts she finds she is, like we all are, more than capable of straying off into the long grass. She doesn't so much hate that he does nothing by the book but that it works so bloody often. She's as much about competitive point-scoring as she is about crime-solving.
Fantastic; here we have a couple of cops that behave like normal, flawed people. Kate's insecurities make her all the more vulnerable and Jack's machismo is softened by charm and slips just enough to see that he is as human as she is. They bicker and squabble like an old married couple and gradually (I say gradually, we only have three episodes to tease this out) they start to get under each others' skins and we see the glimmerings of something more between them.
This show will live or die by the central characterisations. If you don't at least begin to fall for Jack and Kate by the end of episode one, if you don't start to love their dysfunctional, often volatile relationship, then episode two may not be for you. I think we have cast this extremely well (but then I am completely biased) and in my next blog I will tell you why... not about being biased, but about the casting.
Matt Lipsey is the Director of Vexed, which begins Sunday 15th August at 9pm on BBC Two. He also directs Psychoville, which is returning for a Halloween Special.