Channel Hopper - Top Boy
Affecting urban ensemble drama starring Ashley Walters and Kierston Wareing
Vaulting ambition and its often dire consequence are at the heart of London-set Top Boy (Channel 4, Mon 31 Oct–Thu 3 Nov, 10pm) just as it is inherent in every drama from Macbeth to The Sopranos. Some observers will no doubt draw parallels between this four-parter and season five of The Wire with its depiction of young men having to make a tough choice between keeping criminal temptation away or maintaining the tragic status quo often to keep up a family tradition.
Contrasting the ugly human behaviour on display, Top Boy looks good, no surprise given that its director Yann Demange previously worked on films for Britney Spears and sprayed a lovely sheen onto Charlie Brooker’s zombie romp, Dead Set. But ultimately, Top Boy will rise up or fall flat on the strength of the story and characters and from the first episode, Ronan Bennett quickly and skilfully gets everyone nailed down for us.
There’s the thrusting 26-year-old Dushane (Ashley Walters) who believes that nothing remains for him now other than making the most of a life in crime; 13-year-old Ra’Nell has to step up to the plate at home due to an absent father and mentally ill mother but which road will he take?; the pregnant and penniless Heather (Kierston Wareing) has less than legal plans to make a comfortable life for her unborn child. Exploitation, betrayal and doing the right thing are the fuel for this energetic and affecting drama.