Burn Up (2 stars)

Burn Up


BBC1, Wed 23 & Fri 25 Jul, 9pm

Meet Tom McConnell (Rupert Penry-Jones), VP of Arrow Oil, the most powerful business in the world. He’s square-jawed, blue-eyed with a cut glass accent and a line in motivational patter to rival stick-thumping Lydia’s ‘You want fame . . . ?’ speech from the opening credits of Kids From Fame. ‘You think gold’s valuable?’ Tom barks at his employees. ‘Gold is for earrings!’

Promoted to the top floor, Tom’s devoted company ways are immediately tested when a climate-change activist, enraged that Arrow’s activities have rendered her Inuit homeland uninhabitable, publicly issues him with a writ. Further denting his loyalties is the burgeoning suspicion that Arrow’s erstwhile CEO (who happens to be Tom’s father-in-law) may have been involved in the mysterious deaths of six oil workers in the Saudi Desert. These episodes drive him to team up with Arrow’s head of renewables, Holly Dernay, (Neve Campbell).

This sprawling two-parter, scripted by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty), certainly contains all the ingredients of a challenging topical thriller. Yet, Beaufoy’s attempt to mix drama with current affairs is so ham-fisted it renders the piece unintentionally funny. The talented cast are left to chew over some horribly stilted dialogue (‘It’s not wind, it’s solar-powered actually.’), while struggling to breathe life into the depthless characterisations. Claire Skinner and Marc Warren struggle bravely in the roles of icy Lady Macbeth-ian wife and effete government fixer respectively, but it’s Bradley Whitford’s crass, psychotic, born-again Christian oil lobbyist who really exemplifies the crude dilemma at the heart of this piece of tosh.