Ordinary Lies review: Jason Manford is surprisingly good

The series is set at a car showroom in Cheshire and each episode focuses on the personal life of a different member of staff

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The Independent Culture

So, Jason Manford can really act, can't he? Drama snobs may not have held out much hope for Ordinary Lies, a new six-part series on BBC1, with its cast of ex-soap stars, poor-man's-Ewan-McGregor Max Beesley, and a stand-up trying his luck. But they'd have been surprised. This was an hour of quality drama, showcasing what writer Danny Brocklehurst (The Driver, Shameless) does best: ordinary people in dowdy cardigans facing up to a crisis.

The series is set at JS Motors, a car showroom in Cheshire, and each episode focuses on the personal life of a different member of staff. First up was Marty McLean (Jason Manford) an unhappily married salesman whose struggles had not gone unnoticed at work. After being put on a final warning by boss Mike (Beesley), Marty was late for work once again and resorted to a rather extreme lie to save his job; he told the boss's PA Kathy (Sally Lindsay) that his wife Katrina had died.

A predictable midlife crisis ensued, but one made intriguing by Manford's performance as a man whose motivations seem unknowable, even to himself. Did Marty really think his office romance with shoulder-to-cry-on Grace would have a happy outcome? And what was it about the thrill of a successful deception which so improved his selling technique?

Meanwhile, the script introduced other characters and storylines in preparation for future episodes. There's grieving head of sales Beth (Joyner), hypochondriac Pete (Mackenzie Crook) and party girl receptionist Tracy (Michelle Keegan), all with stories yet to be told. For now, though, Manford has proved himself, and Ordinary Lies has passed the most important test of any new series – I'm already anxious to catch episode two.