The effectiveness of Accused flew or fell on one thing - would we care, or laugh, at the sight of Sean Bean in a dress?
Sean Bean as Tracie, attracting the attention of Tony (Stephen Graham) As it happened, I ended up caring deeply for him, both as the brave, indomitable Tracie, and as the heartbreakingly lonely Simon, in the first of Jimmy McGovern's four-part drama examining the British justice system.
Simon was a man we could all relate to - undervalued at work in his classroom, consoled by literature at home, this was a tragic, timeless everyman, except this being Jimmy McGovern and 2012, his only solace was transforming himself into Tracie and hitting in the town in a frock.
Although Tracie's breasts were a little cartoonly pneumatic, Bean has revealed in recent interviews that he also realised in them great statements of power, and this became clear as he fought off derisive comments and stares from all around. He may have been lonely and fearful, but he was no victim.
Sean Bean in Simon mode, betrayed by his secretly married lover
Tracie gave Bean a comic timing we've not seen from him before ("I never claimed to be Cheryl bleeding Cole" was my favourite) as he made mincemeat of derisive alpha-males, and we cheered for him when he did, paying obvious homage to all those who've gone before, from Edna, to Lily, via the Joan Collins Fan Club. Les Dawson would have been proud.
The writing was razor-sharp, too, as Tracie's relationship with the secretly married Tony went its course. Apart from a little bit of gothic dramatics on the lakeside, it captured the sweetness and hope of early courtship with lipstick and a nervous bottle of wine at the door, the devastation as it all started to unravel, and eventually the horror of realising to what lengths people will go to cover their deep shame.
Sean Bean as Tracie - hopeful but heartbroken
All this in only one hour of screen time showed the confidence of McGovern and his co-writer Shaun Duggan to be economic with their words, and let their cast reveal their abilities. And Bean has rarely been better, showing a vulnerability and complexity many miles away from his usual tough-man.
PICTURES: Watch Sean Bean transform himself into Tracie...
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