Scoop review – Netflix’s drama about Prince Andrew is an embarrassment of riches | Films | Entertainment

Wishful thinking is an unforgiving mistress. The Duke of York learnt that in late 2019 after he agreed to an exclusive one-on-one interview with BBC Newsnight journalist Emily Maitlis to answer uncomfortable questions about his personal ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The meme-worthy hour of television was intended to end the social-media hubbub. Instead, shortly after the programme aired and the public backlash reached fever pitch, Buckingham Palace announced that the second son of Queen Elizabeth II would be stepping back from public duties.

Philip Martin’s terrific dramatisation of the negotiations that brokered the bombshell interview draws inspiration from the memoir of Newsnight’s ­indomitable talent booker, Sam McAlister, a perpetually caffeinated force of nature dressed in all black with leopard print boots and portrayed on screen with gusto by Billie Piper.

“An hour of television can change everything. It’s like magic,” she promises Andrew (Rufus Sewell) and his private secretary, Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes).

McAlister’s no-nonsense approach to the job in the shadow of impending staff cuts creates friction with BBC colleagues.

“I’m not a snob but she’s very Daily Mail,” complains Newsnight deputy editor Stewart Maclean (Richard Goulding) to his cool-headed boss, Esme Wren (Romola Garai). Scriptwriters Peter Moffatt and Geoff Bussetil slowly tighten a knot of tension in stomachs as Maitlis (Gillian Anderson) rehearses questions, neatly intercut with the Duke polishing his responses ahead of the ill-fated showdown on two chairs, positioned six-feet apart in the South Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace.

“It’s like a gunfight in a western,” quips Maitlis dryly.

Scoop is an embarrassment of performance riches led by Piper’s spirited single mother and the duelling double act of Anderson and a prosthetic-embellished Sewell, who leaves the interview with cheerful self-confidence (“I thought that all went very well!”).

Wishful thinking indeed.

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