Before settling down to watch Hacks, Channel’s 4’s spoof programme about last summer’s phone hacking scandal, I already had a couple of preconceptions about what it would be like. These were rather contradictory though, one coming from a Spectator review which blasted the programme for its unrealistic and crass portrayal of the media industry, and one from my fifteen year-old brother who, glancing over my shoulder at the laptop screen, remarked: “Oooh, that looks like it’ll be funny!”
To be honest, they were both right. While Hacks was undeniably crass at times, and will no doubt be criticised for its light-hearted portrayal of a scandal which shocked millions of people when it was exposed, it was also incredibly funny. Very little attempt was made to disguise the characters in this satire, which shows life in the newsroom of The Sunday Comet, part of Stanhope Feast (Michael Kitchen)’s media empire. The newsroom is ruled over by editor Kate Loy (Claire Foy), who enjoys terrorising the other staff members, such as Royal Correspondent Tabby (Celia Imrie) and her assistant Zoe (Lisa Greenwood). But the stars of the show, in my opinion, were Kavyan Novak as Ray Musharaff, impersonating such figures as Prince Philip and Janet Jackson in an attempt to sniff out stories, and Eleanor Matsuura as Stanhope’s pretty but overprotective young wife Ho Chi Mao Feast, who is willing to go to any lengths in order to keep her ageing husband alive.
Hacks was written and directed by Guy Jenkin, who has also worked on Drop the Dead Donkey and Outnumbered, and while the humour is sometimes a little too obvious, there are also lines which sparkle with wit. (“Did you hear Piers Morgan is suing us? He’s outraged his phone hasn’t been hacked!”) My main complaint would be that many of the journalist characters are poorly developed, and few of them stick clearly in my memory.
While journalists are understandably concerned about this portrayal of our profession, Hacks should be taken as what it is, a satire rather than a documentary. Perhaps for some it is too early to laugh at the events of last summer, and for some no doubt the time will never be right for such a programme, but for those who are ready for it, Hacks will surely be an enjoyable watch.
Hacks is available on 4oD until January 31st.
(Disclaimer: By professing my opinion about this fictitious programme, in no way am I condoning the phone hackings themselves.)