×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Secret Smile

Seeking to generate a little summer heat, BBC America will air a half-dozen two-part thrillers under the "Crimes of Passion" banner, but the somewhat uninspired inaugural entry doesn't measure up with the best of British drama. Despite the first-rate cast, adaptation of Nicci French's novel leans on the "psychological" while proving short on thrills.

With:
Miranda - Kate Ashfield Brendan Block - David Tennant Kerry Cotton - Claire Goose Troy Cotton - Robert Lowe Laura - Susannah Wise Rob Pryor - Daniel Ryan

Seeking to generate a little summer heat, BBC America will air a half-dozen two-part thrillers through the Fourth of July under the “Crimes of Passion” banner, but the somewhat uninspired inaugural entry doesn’t measure up with the best of British drama. David Tennant is appropriately creepy as a ladies’ man who wraps himself in and around a young woman’s life, yet despite the first-rate cast, this adaptation of Nicci French’s novel leans too heavily on the “psychological” while proving short on thrills.

Recently seen in “Viva, Blackpool” and “Dr. Who,” Tennant is perfectly squirrelly as Brendan, who meets and beds architect Miranda (Kate Ashfield) after their chance encounter at a mutual friend’s party.

When the relationship flames brightly and then quickly goes south, however, Miranda is surprised to see Brendan back in her life — this time romancing her sister, Kerry (Claire Goose), to whom he almost immediately proposes.

In traditional Hitchcockian fashion, Miranda suspects Brendan is a psycho, having wooed Kerry strictly to retaliate against her. Unfortunately, her misgivings about his bizarre and potentially dangerous behavior fall on deaf ears, as Brendan deftly manages to keep twisting her efforts, couching her warnings as emblematic of Miranda’s jealousy and hostility toward him.

Alas, this formula grows rather tedious as relatives, friends and eventually the police continue to rebuff Miranda, leading to a series of modest surprises — the best of which also turns out to be the most predictable.

Ashfield is a sympathetic lead, and Tennant — with his darting, deep-set eyes — certainly plays unctuous with the best of them. Yet even with some nice trappings (including Edmund Butt’s atmospheric score), the pace plods along too slowly, perhaps because we’re privy to Brendan’s menace so early on without much action to show for it.

Admittedly, the Brits excel at this kind of understated drama, but there’s a fine line between restraint and a good nap. “Secret Smile” isn’t bad, certainly, but if this is the best BBC’s summer thriller filler can offer, even the channel’s most loyal viewers won’t miss much if it stays secret.

Secret Smile

BBC America, Mon.-Tue. May 29-30, 9 p.m. ET

Production: Filmed in the U.K. by Granada Television. Executive producer, Charles Elton; producer, Jake Lushington; line producer, Julie Clark; director, Christopher Menaul; writer, Kate Brooke, based on the novel by Nicci French;

Crew: camera, Jake Polonsky; production design, Stuart Walker; editor, Xavier Russell; music, Edmund Butt; casting, Di Carling. 3 HOURS

Cast: Miranda - Kate Ashfield Brendan Block - David Tennant Kerry Cotton - Claire Goose Troy Cotton - Robert Lowe Laura - Susannah Wise Rob Pryor - Daniel Ryan

More TV

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    CBS Awards $20 Million in Moonves' Severance to 18 Anti-Harassment Groups

    CBS Corp. said Friday it would award $20 million that was originally earmarked for severance for its former CEO, Leslie Moonves, to 18 different organizations that work to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. “These organizations represent different critical approaches to combatting sexual harassment, including efforts to change culture and improve gender equity in the workplace, [...]

  • Kevin Reilly Variety Cover

    Kevin Reilly Named Content Chief for WarnerMedia Streaming Service

    Kevin Reilly — a veteran television exec who has led programming at NBC, FX, Fox, and most recently Turner Broadcasting — has been tapped to head content strategy for the still-nascent streaming service that WarnerMedia plans to launch next year. Reilly, who has led programming at Turner brands TNT and TBS since 2015, will serve [...]

  • Food Network Strikes Multi-Year Deal With

    Food Network Strikes Multi-Year Deal With Ina Garten

    Food Network has struck a new multi-year deal with Ina Garten, the celebrity chief behind its signature daytime series “Barefoot Contessa,” the latest in a series of talent pacts being signed by the network’s parent, Discovery, The deal includes new seasons of the program, along with several hour-long seasonal specials, the Discovery-owned cable network said Friday. [...]

  • Ryan KadroPaleyLive NY: The News Is

    'CBS This Morning' Chief Ryan Kadro to Exit

    Ryan Kadro, the executive producer of “CBS This Morning,” told staffers of the A.M. program Friday that he would step down from his position in early January, citing a desire to find a new challenge. “Nearly nine years after we created CBS This Morning, I’m stepping aside and leaving it in very capable hands.  This [...]

  • Dirty John Remote Controlled Podcast

    Listen: 'Dirty John' Boss Talks Playing With Perspective to Dive Into John Meehan's Mind

    Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera. In this week’s episode, “Dirty John” showrunner Alexandra Cunningham sits down with Variety‘s senior features editor of TV, Danielle Turchiano, to talk about working with Connie Britton to develop a scripted version of [...]

  • Turner Greenlights Final Season of German

    Turner Greenlights Third and Final Season of German Gangster Series '4 Blocks'

    Turner International has ordered the third and final season of the hit German gangster series “4 Blocks,” which world-premiered at the Berlin Film Festival last year and went on to win multiple awards. The third season will comprise six episodes and will be directed by Özgür Yıldırım, who had co-helmed Season 2 with Oliver Hirschbiegel. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content