Lie With Me review – a Down Under dud with EastEnders’ Janine

An unfaithful husband leads to bigger problems for soap star Charlie Brooks in Channel 5’s improbably silly drama. Forget Australia – she’s better off on Albert Square

A body bag, an evidence bag, a shiny bracelet, a watery grave, a large, posh house where – surely! – everyone should have been so happy and a woman in a police interview room being asked how long she had known the deceased. An older woman comes out of the big, posh house with a young child and says: “She keeps asking for Mummy! What can I possibly say?”

Ah, my dear. Tell her, once the opening credits have rolled and the obligatory “Five weeks earlier” caption has appeared, that she is in a mid-to-low-ranking TV drama and that everything will fall into place over the next four hour-long parts, broadcast on consecutive nights, so she won’t have to wait too long and risk her interest fading. Oh, and tell her to enjoy being in Australia – the budget doesn’t usually stretch to that.

For that is indeed where we are with Lie With Me (Channel 5). The Fallmont family relocated to sunny Melbourne from England for a fresh start after Mr Fallmont – Jake (Brett Tucker) – proved unable to keep it in his pants. Or so his wife, Anna (former EastEnders stalwart Charlie Brooks), reckoned, though she now understands that she was being paranoid. She is on medication to stop her irrational fantasies taking over again (in between, she mutters the mantra her therapist has given her: “I am not my past.” To which one can only mutter back: “You reckon, babes.”)

So here they are, in Jake’s home country, with his mother next door (in Antipodean terms) and awaiting the arrival of a new nanny so that Anna can start the new job that Jake’s friend has kindly arranged for her.

Is your spider-sense tingling yet? If it’s not, from this synopsis, it will be after the first 10 viewing minutes. Because Jake/Tucker is an actor with a strong Disney-prince vibe and the whole thing is infused with that most pleasingly retro of assumptions (or, if you prefer, the most unfashionable but eternal truth) – that the more handsome a man is, the less he can be trusted.

And that’s before the nanny, Becky (Phoebe Roberts), shows up. She is a peach in human form and also gets on with the kids. Gardener Liam (Alfie Gledhill) warns her that the Fallmonts are a troubled couple: “Get out while you can.” But, even after Anna chucks a bottle of her fluoxetine through the window during a row, the big-hearted nanny thinks she’ll stay.

She becomes a confidante for Anna as her suspicions about her ever-texting husband grow and she watches him disappear from work every lunchtime with his female assistant, Caroline. Eventually Becky suggests confronting Caroline and warning her off. She doesn’t quite say “as unhingedly as possible”, but Anna has found a bracelet in Jake’s car and is quite suggestible by this stage, so takes the ball and runs with it.

Need I tell you there is a super-duper twist shortly before the end? I’m sure I do not. Need I tell you exactly what that twist is, and that we get an extensive, 80% hilarious sex scene to prove it? I’m almost equally sure I do not. Lie With Me is one of those productions that doesn’t compel you to watch by dint of innovation or fresh insight into the human condition, but invites you in to see how they’re going to resolve this one this time. It’s a warm bath, not an invigorating shower. It even had Anna meeting a snake on the driveway of her new home as she returned from a jog in the opening five-weeks-earlier scene. “This country is full of things that could kill you!” she told Jake when she made it beyond the front door of Dunforeshadowin’.

Brooks is woefully miscast as what is essentially a vulnerable character (and the middle-class accent is hit and miss, too, anchorless RP being an absolute bugger for anyone not born in the purple – or John Lewis green – to get right). She does, however, come more into her own as her inner steel is unsheathed. The great news is that she’s coming back as Janine Butcher to EastEnders shortly – a part that always allowed her to show not just her dramatic chops but her considerable comic talents. I hope the producers haven’t forgotten in the intervening seven years what they can throw at her. Lie With Me might be a swing and a miss, but she always knocked Janine right out of the park.


Lucy Mangan

The GuardianTramp

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