Peter Kingdom is nice. Really nice. As a solicitor in a small (but undeniably nice) Norfolk town, he knows everybody and everybody knows him. He drives a nice, if quirky, car (a bit like Bergerac, only, well… nicer), has a jack-the-lad assistant (who is probably nice), an alcoholic sister (who would be nice if she’d stop ogling blokes and knocking the pop back), a mad (but nice) secretary. Oh, and a dead brother. Which is not so nice.
But how could Kingdom, the latest Sunday night drama offering from ITV1 be anything other than nice? It has Stephen Fry, the very epitome of British niceness, in the title role of Peter Kingdom, marking his return to British television drama since 2005’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays. And it’s the presence of Fry that raises Kingdom from being just another run of the mill Sunday nighter. Not to mention a cast made up of Hermione Norris, Celia Imrie and Karl Davies. Davies formerly played the second Robert Sugden in Emmerdale, and in his post soap days, is surprisingly good as Kingdom’s assistant, Lyle.
The first episode is a run of the mill affair that barely troubles the scorer, as Kingdom deals with the affairs of a deceased widow and tackles her bad tempered offspring. As a story, it may as well have just stayed in bed with the Hollyoaks omnibus and cup of tea, but I suspect I’m never going to be tuning in to Kingdom for any pushing of drama envelopes.
Normally this would be the kind of drama I’m happy to ridicule (and do so on a routine basis), but there’s something undeniably engaging about Kingdom. Much of this is down to Fry – I could watch him reading the phone book to be honest. But that aside, there’s enough of a mystery about the character to keep me interested – is his brother really dead, for starters?
Plus I refuse to believe that any person can be this nice. Indeed, Kingdom’s sister asks why he is so damn nice. And he just shrugs kind heartedly and avoids the question. Is there a well of anger hiding beneath Peter’s comfortingly crumpled exterior just waiting to bubble to the surface? I do hope so.
It’s never going to win any awards, but who cares? The Norfolk backdrop looks beautiful, the characters are quirky enough to be interesting, and it has a cameo from Phylida Law as Peter’s aunt. Now that’s worth the admission price alone.
But really, when it comes down to it, I think I just like the idea of driving round Norfolk in an open-topped car and standing on a beach looking wistful while the sun sets.
Cup of tea, anyone?
Kingdom starts on Sunday 22 April on ITV1 at 9pm