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The Chase
cast: Keith Barron, Gaynor Faye, Nicola Stephenson, Nicholas Gleaves, and Heather Peace

creator: Kay Mellor

400 minutes (12) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Warner Vision DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Emily Webb
The Chase is the latest offering from one of Britain's most prolific writers Kay Mellor (Band Of Gold, Playing The Field, Fat Friends) and her first for the BBC after a long-time deal with ITV. Set in a struggling veterinary practice in Yorkshire, where George Williams (Keith Barron) heads the practice with his daughter Anna (Gaynor Faye), and her husband Tom (Nicholas Gleaves). George's second daughter Sarah (Nicola Stephenson) lives in London, where she moved following the death of her mother - and the discovery of Tom in a compromising situation with one of the surgery nurses, Fiona (Heather Peace).

The 'will it/ won't it get out' storyline about Tom's fling with Fiona is the central storyline in this series with the other employees of The Chase offering sub-storylines, including the tense marriage between practice manager Deborah (Janet Dibley) and hen-pecked vet Rick (Reece Dinsdale), and the growing attraction he and nurse Clare (Sunetra Sarkar) share.

The Chase is typical fare from Mellor who writes beautifully for the 'Sunday night' drama viewer. There's just enough drama (though you know what is going to happen) with down-to-earth Yorkshire humour and mannerisms that make you (or at least me) think that a move 'up north' would be the answer to my problems.

The standout performance in this (though all are excellent) is Janet Dibley as Deborah, the harridan practice manager. With the growing realisation that her marriage is ending after years of emotional neglect of herself and her husband, Deborah desperately tries to make a last-ditch attempt to save it. In episode seven, the actress Janet Dibley (who also starred as the slimming group leader in Fat Friends), usually pursed and hardened in keeping with the character, softens, and you can see in Rick's eyes that he can see the woman he fell in love with. This was the most poignant part of the series for me. (It all centres around her looking after Anna's baby and, without giving too much away, it is revealed in marriage counselling that she had a miscarriage with their second child and has never really dealt with it.)

Mellor's strength is in her characters. They are the type of people that viewers - well, the ones that watch ITV "the people's channel" or Sunday night drama (Where The Heart Is, Down To Earth, etc) can relate to. This is not to denigrate people who enjoy these shows as I watch them often. They are the type of shows you can enjoy with your feet up and a cup of tea.

Gaynor Faye, Mellor's real-life daughter, is the lynch pin of the series and though you could claim that her mum keeps her in work (she was one of the leads in Fat Friends), there is something very real and appealing about her. Less appealing is the character of Sarah, played by Nicola Stephenson, who I found very irritating, along with her dumped London boyfriend, played by Aussie actor Matt Day (with a shocking British accent).

The Chase had me hooked from the first episode and I love anything that Kay Mellor writes. Her strength is the fact that you feel like you could know the characters; such is Mellor's knack for characterisation. Gaynor Faye also writes an episode, obviously inheriting her mum's knack for writing, and Susan Tully, who was Michelle in EastEnders, and has created a very successful directing career for herself, directs a few episodes.

It is light drama but entertaining and compelling nonetheless.

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