The women of Deep Water, a British drama that purports to be similar to Big Little Lies but falls flat.

Review: Deep Water serves up mediocre little lies

Tara Ward reviews Deep Water, a new British drama that’s been compared to Big Little Lies that lands on TVNZ OnDemand today.

There’s three shows called Deep Water currently available on TVNZ OnDemand, but only one is a new British drama about the lives of three very different women living in the Lake District. This Deep Water is adapted by Mrs Wilson screenwriter Anna Symon from a series of novels, and is a mystery-drama that promises a disappearance, plenty of secrets and lies, and husbands with needs. Lots of husbands, lots of needs.

Deep Water’s premise is spookily similar to Big Little Lies: a group of busy mothers, brought together when their children attend the same school, find themselves intertwined in a ‘world of sex, blackmail and murder’. It sounds more exciting than the stories I eavesdrop on when I pick my kids up from school, and I’ll always watch a show that wants to prove women don’t turn into boring zombies the minute they become mothers.

Sadly, the first episode of this six-part series treads murky waters. It’s a slowly paced hour that introduces us to the three central characters: disorganised Lisa (Marcella’s Anna Friel) who owns a dog kennel business, physio Roz (Sinead Keenan) who’s struggling to pay her husband’s gambling debts, and Kate (Rosalind Eleazar, Harlots), the wealthy overachiever who bakes perfect cakes for school projects and lives in a beautiful home. They’ve little in common other than their kids, and at this point in Deep Water, lead separate lives.

Anna Friel (Marcella) stars in the BBC drama Deep Water.

We’re thrown into the deep end in the opening scenes, when Kate’s family takes their yacht for a spin on Lake Windermere. There’s a scuffle between Kate and Lisa’s sons, and one boy falls into the lake. Did he slip, or was he pushed? Later, Kate accuses Lisa’s son of bullying, and Roz discovers her daughter has been stealing at school. There’s trouble everywhere for these women, on top of coping with work pressures and troubled marriages.

While these frazzled women do their best to stay afloat, part of Deep Water’s problem is that they are spectators in their own lives. Things happen to these women, rather than being driven by their own agency. Roz is sexually propositioned by a client who offers to pay her husband Winston’s debts, Lisa has sex with someone who randomly follows her into a bathroom at a dinner party, and Kate stands by and watches as her husband saves Lisa’s son from drowning. These women are forced to react to the things done by the men around them, which feels strange in what is purportedly such a female-centric show.

Take Roz, who’s about to be evicted because of her husband’s gambling problem. She’s visited by a shady client who makes an inappropriate “business proposition” because his wife doesn’t “fulfill his needs”. What does that mean? She won’t pick up his wet towels? She refuses to comb his back hair? I need more details! Roz refuses, but she’s so broke her gormless musician husband had to sell the spare tyre in the car. You can guess what will happen next, and it doesn’t involve playing ‘Moonlight Sonata’ on Winston’s saxophone.

Anna Friel and Rosalind Eleazar as two of the women in Deep Water.

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Maybe they should rename Windermere to ‘Men Have Needs Town’  because Lisa has a similar conversation with Kate’s married brother-in-law. After five seconds of chit chat (“men have needs” he tells Lisa, please throw him off Kate’s boat next), they have sex in the upstairs ensuite, watched by a mysterious figure. Is it yet another man with needs?  Hard to know, but now Lisa’s biggest problem is that she left her g-string on Kate’s bathroom floor.

With that kind of knicker related stress, it’s no wonder Lisa forgets the things written on the calendar. “I’m juggling too much, Joe!” she tells her husband. “Then drop a fucking ball!” he replies. Steady on Lisa, the man has needs. At the end of episode one, Lisa’s carelessness has major consequences for Kate’s family, which is hopefully the event that brings these women together and kick starts Deep Water into becoming the quality TV drama it has the potential to be.

I wanted to love Deep Water because I’m also a working mother who forgets things even when they’re written on the calendar. The acting is strong, there are gorgeous shots of the Lake District, and it tries to shine a light on the pressures modern women face. Ultimately though, it lacks the bite of shows like Big Little Lies. The Monterey Five were complex and angry and brilliant women, beautifully imperfect in every aspect of their lives. We only see the surface of the Windermere Three.  They’ve got needs too, but I’m just not sure what they are.

You can stream the first episode of Deep Water on TVNZ on Demand right here


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