The Lakes (TV Series 1997–1999) Poster


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One of the best TV dramas of the 90s.
dmnkeen19 November 2000
Nobody can accuse Jimmy McGovern of settling for a quiet life. His dramas, right from "Needle", through to "Cracker" and "Priest", to this masterpiece confirm him as one of the most exciting writers in any medium to emerge in the last decade.

And a masterpiece is what "The Lakes" is, even considering its flaws. Occasionally, McGovern seems more concerned with hitting home his messages (about Catholicism, country-versus-city, sexual politics, etc) at the expense of his characters, but he still creates dramatic situations which are credible, raw, and overwhelmingly moving without succumbing to sickly sentiment.

Focussing on the story of Danny, a Liverpudlian drifter and compulsive gambler, who marries Emma, the daughter in a devoutly Catholic family living in a small Lake District town, and who is implicated in the drowning accident which claims the lives of four local children, McGovern wrings every piece of emotion from his storyline, and supplies a script which his excellent cast are obviously having a field day with.

John Simms is remarkable as Danny, perfectly realising the inner conflict facing his outsider character who craves to do the right thing while aspiring to escape the emotional prison he finds himself in. Robert Pugh and Mary Jo Randle as the parish priest and would-be middle-aged lover handle their roles with compassion and truth, and Paul Copley as Randle's unknowing and decent husband also deserves some kudos.

In fact, the entire cast is outstanding, all perfectly getting under the skins of their characters, and the action is all brilliantly orchestrated by director David Blair, who brings all the initially disparate plotlines into one immensely satisfying whole.

In an age of endless costume drama, "The Lakes" comes like a blast of welcome fresh air, and very few other dramas produced in the 1990s (with the exception, maybe, of Alan Bleasdale's "GBH") come anywhere near matching its heartfelt intensity.
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Wet & nasty...
Malc-35 November 1998
Jimmy McGovern's terrific mini-series contains arguably one of the single most haunting images in modern TV, as Danny Kavanagh (played strikingly by John Simm) staggers out of the icy lake bearing the first of the drowned girls. Although nothing else (perhaps inevitably) sticks in the mind to QUITE the same degree, McGovern's writing & Simm's performance help create one of the sharpest British serials of recent years.
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Naughty and nice...
dmnkeen22 November 2000
I've just watched this again and the misgivings I had when I first saw it have dispelled somewhat. Following on the heels of, and attempting to continue, the first self-contained (if open-ended) saga of Danny and the residents of the small Lake District town he finds himself in might seem foolhardy and unnecessary, but the finished result proves these assumptions wrong.

True, "The Lakes 2" (as it is called on video) does stray into soap opera territory at times; some changes in certain characters behaviour does require a seismic suspension of disbelief; and some plotlines almost fall into self-parody. But, as with the first series, what pulls you into this drama and keeps your attention throughout is the incredible combination of superior acting, writing and directing.

Danny, the hero of Part One, takes more of a back seat here as the action focusses on the Hitchcockian story of the teacher who murders his philandering wife; the devout Catholic mother who sleeps with her priest; the bitch of a rich girl who gets more than she bargains for at the hands of three local rapists; and, best of all, there's Chef who, despite being run over repeatedly at the end of the last instalment, proves that he is still as nasty as ever, polluting the lives of all around him, especially his long-suffering but sluttish wife.

The Chef storyline actually provides a brilliant backdrop to the foreground drama of rape and infidelity, simply because the character is such a great creation: an immoral bull of a man who uses sex as a weapon, hates everyone around him, and who is motivated by an unrelenting vengeful streak against the (obvious) culprit who ran him down. Charles Dale plays Chef perfectly, making him one of television's most memorable and despicable characters who gets his delicious comeuppance courtesy of two very strong women and a rusty straight razor! Compare Dale's performance here with his Mr Nice Guy character in "Coronation Street" and you'll see just how good this actor is.

That's not to take anything away from the rest of the cast: they are all fine, and Bob Mason's world-weary police sergeant deserves a special mention. The team of writers and directors (including original scribe Jimmy McGovern) manage to create a seamless whole, and this is well worth watching and rewatching.

Is it as good as the original? Not quite, but if you take this as written before you sit down to watch, there are just as many enjoyable and striking things on offer here.
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Astonishingly impactful television!!
prose25 June 1999
This remarkable series has already been repeated on Australian television, and as far as I'm concerned it can be repeated each year, and nothing will come anywhere near it. The sharpness of Jimmy McGovern's script, the breathtaking performance by John Simm, the direction of David Blair, and the awesome landscape of the Lake District form the foundation of this 4-part series.

There are many layers and sub-texts to this story. My family were still discussing it for months after the first viewing. Not all the decisions made by the characters in this story will be popular with viewers, but they are realistic indeed. So realistic that one is likely to feel uncomfortable with the result.

As a rites of passage tale, "The Lakes" is almost mythological in its strength, gritty realism, and impact.

I look forward to the further work of this remarkable writer.
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Best TV drama ever
swindon6 July 2004
Absolutely the best mini series ever made. Intelligent, challenging, realistic and funny, even hilarious from time to times. Issues dealt with are not easy; child's death, betrayal, gambling, revenge and wrath. How to be "a good catholic" in modern world but still in a very small village where everyone knows you and tour business? And most importantly, does love really forgive anything? The Lakes has magnificent acting all the way. It's impossible to name one actor/actress above other, they're all fantastic. This is an definitive must-see. Everything in it so real, so touching and it makes you really wonder your actions and value as a human being.
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Another brilliant series from the pen of Jimmy McGovern
Muchi15 April 1999
After watching the first series of the Lakes I wondered if McGovern could match his wonderfully complex and intriguing stories in the second series. Well I don't think anyone could have been disappointed. With even more tie ins, parallel stories and character development than the first series McGovern has again proved that he has one of the best minds in British drama. The star performance of the series was again from John Simm as the gambling addicted outsider Danny. Special mention must also go to Kevin Doyle as John who seemed to have a lot more fun with his new homicidal tendencies. All in all the Lakes has again brought me and a lot of others great pleasure. If you have not yet seen the first or second series I strongly recommend you find it, it will be the best bit of television you'll see all year.
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The first season is pure genius; the second is slightly flawed
Ryu_Darkwood15 April 2008
Let's just say that McGovern has done a great job in creating a story about how a small community can be influenced by a horrifying incident. The first season is brilliant. I loved the withheld ( often sexual) tension between the characters and the way how they appeared as persons you might meet in reality. The second season isn't bad, but it's just too long for its own good. There are too many uninteresting side-tracks about boring characters. Also, I couldn't quite relate to some of them anymore, they felt too much as made up caricatures. Though at some occasions it does reach the level of the first one, as a whole it's very disappointing. They'd better made it into 4 or 5 episodes instead of the 10 it eventually got.
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One of the best - EVER!
Samppa7415 June 1999
The Lakes is definitely one of the best tv series I've ever seen. I love it! It's wet, sexy, violent and well written.
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The Beautiful Lakes
sarahmillyhannah2 August 2010
More than 10 years on since it was first made i still love to watch this. I own it on DVD and have also seen the re runs on BBC3. I could watch it over and over again. I love the atmosphere of the series, the beautiful setting and the acting has to be the best I have seen on TV in a mini series ever. Because of how series 2 is set and some of the bad events in it, it almost makes Cumbria seem a scary setting and it gives it a lovely dark atmosphere. Agreed series 2 can seem more soap than story in places but not overly. I love the hotel scene where its set, I have even visited the hotel and had a ride on the Ullswater, but not actually had chance to see room 34! Chef has to be one of the best characters ever in a series and played wonderfully! Yes it is far fetched in places, but its wonderfully entertaining and addictive, you watch one episode and you have to see them all!!
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Series 1 of `The Lakes' it's not!
prose14 June 1999
Warning: Spoilers
The final image from the first series of `The Lakes', of Danny Kavanah gambling with the only thing he has left - his life - is where this extraordinary story needs to have ended.

Series 2 is an overly obvious attempt at extracting every last cent (penny?) from the story. On a positive note, practically all the original cast (with the exception of David Westhead, who only briefly appears in the first episode) returned, and character development, on the whole, was rewarding.

However, this series suffers from the use of several writers and directors, with some improbable plotlines and not a small degree of disjointedness. For instance, I couldn't see the point in pursuing the story involving the doctor and her lesbian former lover. And would a mid-forties married woman having an affair with her priest never consider the possibility of pregnancy? This latter storyline was an obvious ploy by McGovern, who penned this particular episode, to display the Church's response to such situations. I had trouble believing that the characters involved would be that careless. Lucy Archer undergoes a complete transformation between Series 1 and 2, and almost overnight develops from a ditsy reactive 16-year-old to a calculating, erudite, Dickens-reading 20-something - a bit hard to swallow, if you'll pardon my pun!

On occasion the writing bordered on the brilliant. I'm referring to the "The milk's off!" scene, which takes place in the Quinlan household during one particularly chaotic breakfast time, as well as the card game scene in the hotel in the final episode. The outdoor scenery of the Lake District, breathtaking in Series 1, takes on a threatening and malevolent presence in this follow-up series.

I tolerated this series, and even enjoyed it, but only because of my fondness for the main characters. This was due to the superb standard of acting and the believability of characterisations established by the brilliant Jimmy McGovern in Series 1.
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One of the best British shows
ereinion22 December 2008
I remember watching "The Lakes" with greatest thrill and anticipation. It was one of the few high quality shows to see on TV at the time I saw it (2001). The cast consisted of pretty much unknown actors to me, but I was thoroughly impressed by them all. Especially John Simm and Robert Pugh, who plays a very interesting part of a priest with an inner conflict.

Also the lovely Kaye Wragg was noteworthy, not only because she was the only "fox" in the show but also because of her performance and interesting character, that of a local wild girl who changes as the show progresses. The central character Danny Kavanagh (Simm) also goes through great transformation, affected both by the tragedy that he witnesses and his relationship with the girl whose name I forgot. He transforms from a wild, fun-loving delinquent to a serious adult.

This series is a real treat for those who love drama and intrigue. There is a portion of bloody murder and sex also thrown in. But what captivates the most is the fascinating character study. There are no two-dimensional characters. We see the good sides and the bad sides in them all. And the performances are really strong, as I said. There is so much to enjoy in, if you know how to appreciate it.
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Hard hitting drama, brilliant writing and acting.
filmgoose21 April 2012
Firstly the only reason I gave it an 8 was because i felt the sequel really let the first series down, it was good, just not amazingly good. There's so much great acting in this show and the writing for the first series is equally as good, which is all you need for a brilliant show. From the first episode there is so much emotion and it really hits you hard in the chest, I really began to feel the whole sense of loss of the whole community.

The second series is a lot more like a soap, various plots, constantly changing from household to household without as much hard hitting emotion from the first series. For a soap it is very good but soaps aren't really my cup of tea I'd prefer it to focus on fewer plots and expand on them.

I genuinely recommend this show to anyone.(well maybe not young kids/teens because of all the violence and sex etc.)
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Unnecessary Sequel
Gerald-826 May 1999
The Lakes was a typically powerful piece of Jimmy McGovern-written television, with many memorable images and characters who will live in the mind for a long time.

This second series was, frankly, quite unnecessary. There was a sense at the beginning that some storylines and characters were going to have to be contrived in order to wring more out of the situation and it teeters dangerously on the edge of becoming soapy.

However, Jimmy McGovern is still an extraordinary writer (though someone else wrote some of the episodes) and the second series is very well directed and acted, so still compulsive stuff - I just prefer to think this story finished after the first series.

I hope that credibility is not stretched any further and this portrait will end with this one.
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