Ordinary Lies is a new six-part series of interlocking stories set in a suburban car showroom, purporting to make us question how well we really know the people we work with. The first episode features Jason Manford as Marty, who is about to shake up his hitherto extraordinarily ordinary life. Marty is on his final warning at work, and is late yet again, when his instinct kicks in: he phones his boss and says that his wife has died.
According to the BBC’s description, the show is about, “how a simple lie can spiral out of control”. Yet it is not an ordinary lie, and the absurd events which follow are not the unforeseen escalation of a seemingly harmless fib, but the logical consequence of a patently ridiculous lie. Did anybody really think it would end well? However, Jason Manford has just the right amount of everyman likeability and charm to make us get on board and root for Marty. He plays it like he’s just trying to pull a sickie, something we can all relate to.
The show does seem slightly confused as to what it wants to be. Marty’s story is primarily a drama, with humourous moments woven in. So far, so good. But some of the subplots feel more like a generic police drama, with colleague Beth (Jo Joyner) in the midst of a search for her missing husband.
With the structure as it is, though, these subplots will no doubt have their time in the spotlight, and will soon feel less like uninvited dinner guests. So Ordinary Lies is likely to be a grower, as we trace the fall-out from Marty’s lie, while the likes of Max Beesley, Michelle Keegan and Mackenzie Crook will all have their characters’ stories told. That interweaving of familiar and new narratives should help keep this fresh. The premise may be a little forced, but once you buy into it there is plenty to like about Ordinary Lies. It will be interesting to see what other monumental lies are exposed in this supposedly “ordinary” workplace.
Photograph: Ben Blackall