TV Review: The Reckoning – 7.5/10

I’m not an act, what you see is what you get…’

Based on Dan Davies’ book In Plain Sight, The Reckoning sees the BBC not just reckoning with the terrible crimes perpetrated by disgraced paedophile Jimmy Saville but also with the extent to which the Beeb itself was complicit. Despite mixed reviews from critics, I found The Reckoning a chilling and emotionally gruelling experience with a fantastic central performance at its core…

The Reckoning charts the rise and fall of former BBC DJ and TV presenter Jimmy Saville (Coogan) using the conceit of a series of interviews that led to Davies’ explosive book (the investigative journalist is portrayed here by Mark Stanley). Spanning decades and numerous sickening instances of abuse, The Reckoning is not an easy watch, but it does attempt to answer the burning question about how Saville got away with his many indiscretions so many times.

Coogan is an accomplished impressionist, as anyone who has seen The Trip can attest to, but his performance here goes beyond a mere impersonation and becomes something much darker. The way that his smile simply drops away when threatened brings to mind Bill Skarsgard’s dead-behind-the-eyes portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown from the IT movies and Coogan also captures Saville’s insidious abilities as a manipulator. More troubling is the portrayal of Saville’s deeply strange relationship with his mother or ‘The Duchess’ as he called her. It too often feels like an attempt to humanise or excuse Saville’s appalling behaviour and while that side of his life is well documented and so should have been included in some capacity, a bigger focus on the victims would have been preferable here.

The Reckoning fails to answer how the BBC allowed this monstrous man to commit such savagery over such a long period of time but it is at least an acknowledgement that mistakes were made and therefore is a step in the right direction. That it also made for gripping television is a fortunate byproduct of a situation that can only be described as a national disgrace.