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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty, sexy politics!, 2 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Party Animals: Complete BBC Series 1 [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
When Party Animals was first broadcast on BBC2 it passed me by completely. It wasn't until it got a repeat run on BBC4 that a friend told me I should watch. I'm beyond glad that I did.

It basically intertwines the personal lives of the central cast with a glimpse of the political rivalries that are so prevalent in Westminster. Jo Porter is a Labour MP with a dry sense of humour who is fast approaching complete exhaustion, with her work and with her life generally. Her researcher Danny is utterly faithful to her. Kirsty, a second researcher (more of an intern) joins Jo's office and Danny soon develops a crush. This provides one of the central plot lines of the series - the geeky, lust-struck puppy who longs for his aloof, manipulative colleague. It's an interesting dynamic and Matt Smith (now better known as Doctor Who) plays the role of Danny with spark whilst Andrea Riseborough is infuriatingly difficult to decipher as Kirsty, but it's Raquel Cassidy as Jo Porter who steals the show, flitting between gritty determination to succeed and manic depressive alcoholism via way of some fabulously unpredictable mood swings.

Jo has something of a rivalry with Conservative MP James Northcote (well known TV face Patrick Baladi). Unfortunately James isn't an especially interesting character, and is mostly rather weak and delusional, sure that he can enjoy the best of both worlds with both his wife back home in Devon and his researcher Ashika. That said it's refreshing that the MP having an affair isn't portrayed as a sleaze, just as a regular man in love (or so he thinks) with two people. Shelley Conn, however (you may know her from Mistresses or Strike Back) gives the performance of her life as Ashika, a vastly complex woman with ambitions way beyond being a political researcher which will ultimately mean the end for she and James. Also working for James is Matt Baker, a gay researcher who comes under stick from fellow politicians for his sexuality. However the programme avoids stereotyping once again, and Matt is portrayed as a grounded, dedicated worker who stands by Ashika regardless of where her career takes her.

Rounding off the cast (and probably the most central character) is Scott Foster. He's Danny's brother and a lobbyist who is quickly becoming severely disillusioned with his work. A tragic event at the beginning of the series takes him on a personal journey which is only enhanced when he strikes up a relationship with Ashika - this despite her being a Conservative, whereas Scott's own father was a Labour MP. Andrew Buchan gives a truly standout performance in the role, and has quite rightly since gone on to enjoy success in a host of television drama such as The Fixer, Garrow's Law and most recently The Nativity.

Not one of the eight episodes is a filler; each one drives the plot forward whilst continually developing the characters. By the end of the series the dynamics have changed so much that it could almost be a different show, and yet it totally works, possibly because the episodes cover quite a large time span during which much changes in these peoples' professional lives. Beautifully shot, outstandingly acted, intricately storylined... I could go on but I'd be here all day!

I'd go so far as to say it would earn a place in the Top 10 television dramas ever made. It's such a crying shame that it never received the publicity or audience it so deserved. Buy it - you won't regret it.
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