2016 was a crowded year when it came to television, filled with powerful dramas like River, Marcela and DCI Banks and then along came Paranoid, a British crime drama that does little to improve or reinvent the genre, but it is so well made that it ends up being essential viewing. Nice to see was the show seeming so unassuming at first and then, almost out of nowhere, it becoming a show that demanded your attention, refusing to let you go thanks to the performances involved.
Centered upon the small town of Woodmere, it begins with a murder and like all good detective shows, the local constabulary, each one of them a fairly colourful character, become involved. The cast is a rich one made up of television regulars like Indira Varma, Robert Glenister, Neil Stuke and even Mr. Clarkson from Waterloo Road himself, Jason Done. Though the town is a small one, it still holds many secrets and the filmmakers play up that aspect as the show moves along from episode to episode until it soon becomes a kettle that is boiling over. The big bad of it all is Big Pharma, a common evil in this day and age and as the fine detectives come closer and closer to solving their case, so too do they end up getting tangled and mired into a web larger than they ever expected.
Like any good drama, while the crime or whatever plot device the show is built around is important to a degree, it is the cast of characters that make it interesting and compelling enough to return for each and every installment. This particular show is not short on them and unlike the previously mentioned programs; there is no one central character, instead the focus being split among many. While it can be argued that an ensemble could not be as powerful or dramatic as those television dramas that single out one certain man or woman, Paranoid proves that wrong. Of this cast there are many standout figures, whether the creepy psychiatrist, the overbearing mother, the frustrated son or the born again Quaker. Of them all, it is Varma and Glenister who stand out more than any other. Both are detectives on the case and like the rest of the cast, have something to be worried or paranoid about, making the title of the program quite apt. Glenister and Varma’s characters are cut from the same cloth – both of them smart and capable, yet afraid and vulnerable at their core. While they both have different problems that are exhibited in various ways, it makes for incredible drama seeing how the writers play them out and resolve their individual conflicts.
For the most part, the show is quite tense and the further it goes on, the more it becomes so. There are moments where it tends to lighten up a little, more often than not when it takes time out to deal with the love-life of Varma’s character, and while the entirety of the show is good, these small scenes make it all just a little bit better. Varma is incredibly charming for her part, giving us something we have rarely seen from her and she alone could have made the show worth watching. Suffice it to say, there are many great performances within and when you factor in the solid writing and direction, Paranoid is a show that may not have been on your radar, but it should have been if only for the actors involved. One thing that is highly doubtful is if it will receive a second series, but be that as it may, it stands alone perfectly well and can be gobbled up in eight, delicious episodes, a perfect crime-ridden time for those looking to scratch that particular itch.