Babylon, Channel 4, TV review: Get ready for some satirical comedy, idealistic drama and heart-pumping action

The car chase and standoff between the armed response unit and some bank robbers was, however, helpfully couched in sheepish self-awareness: 'Bank robbers? What is this? 1971? Who are the suspects? The Bay City Rollers?'

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The Independent Culture

There was another series with a lineage tracing back to The Thick of It on Channel 4, the large-scale Metropolitan Police dramedy Babylon.

Co-writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain honed their skills concocting swear bombs to detonate in a fictional Whitehall and there were plenty of the same going off here. In fact, it’s easy to imagine Babylon’s characters stepping into a meeting with Malcolm Tucker. All except communications chief Liz Garvey (Brit Marling), anyway. With her boundless optimism, American accent and penchant for walk’n’talks, she seems more like a loan from The West Wing.

Liz was getting agitated and idealistic again last night, this time over “Metwork”, her idea for an online channel to regain the public’s trust, and her colleagues’ use of smear tactics. “With respect, I am getting a little tired of being the angel on your shoulder,” she complained to her boss, Met Commissioner Richard Miller. He frowned. Between this role and The Missing, actor James Nesbitt must have the hardest-working eyebrow muscles in television. 

I know what Liz means. I’ve been rooting for the devil on Richard’s shoulder, cynical schemer Finn (Bertie Carvel), ever since Babylon’s patchy pilot aired in February. Yet, as the show grows in confidence, it’s becoming obvious there’s enough room to accommodate a variety of potentially clashing tones – satirical comedy, idealistic drama and, in this episode, even some heart-pumping action.

The car chase and standoff between the armed response unit and some bank robbers was, however, helpfully couched in sheepish self-awareness: “Bank robbers? What is this? 1971? Who are the suspects? The Bay City Rollers?”

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