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ITV's Liar never lived up to its initial promise - and that's a problem


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One of the most interesting portrayals of rape I can ever remember seeing on television was way back in 2001 in Holby City. Even all these years later, I can remember the basic plot: two nurses/flatmates, Keri and Liam, returned home after a night out.

Too drunk to remember much, Kerry was later certain that she had said no, whilst Liam was equally as convinced she had said nothing, taking her silence as consent. The ensuing storyline looked at how their friendship crumbled to nothing and the effect upon their wider circle of friends.

ITV's Liar, which concluded on Monday night, initially seemed to promise something similar. The very premise of the show was founded on the grey areas and uncertainty over who was telling the truth over an alleged case of rape.

For the first couple of weeks, both Laura and Andrew, the central characters, seemed entirely plausible and entirely suspicious. The trailer showed a moment where Andrew turned to her and insisted "But I haven't done anything" - much as Liam did in 2001. It was a fresh twist on a whodunnit.

Yet as the show continued over its six week run, the truth came out rather earlier than we might have expected. Andrew, it turned out, was the liar (and a serial rapist to boot), and the story became something rather different.

Reflecting the real life statistics (only 5.7% of reported rape cases end with a conviction), Laura's case was found to be lacking in evidence and Andrew walked free. What followed was a far reach from what was originally billed as Laura sought her own justice, investigating Andrew's past, desperate to find something, anything, to convict her attacker.

That Andrew was the eponymous "liar" should not have come as a shock. In 2017, to depict a woman's testimony as false would not only be dangerous, but also out of step with reality. Whilst there have been news stories reporting false accusations of rape, they are few and far between.

As the Harvey Weinstein case and the #MeToo hashtag have proven in recent weeks, the truth is that women have no need to make up sexual assaults: they're happening far too frequently anyway. So it was more or less clear from the start that Laura would emerge as the truth-teller.

What wasn't clear was that Andrew would become a teeth-gnashing villain. From the moment his crime was fully revealed, Ioan Gruffudd took on a role so sinister that it bordered on pantomime. Rather than exploring the initial crime further, and its effect upon the main characters and those around them, the programme placed Laura and Andrew in increasingly ridiculous situations, eventually leaving us with an open-ended conclusion which will lead to a second series where, it seems, Laura's rape will not even be the main issue anymore.

Along the way, we were introduced to superfluous characters, like Jill Halfpenny's Jennifer, and irrelevant storylines such as the affair between Laura's sister, Katy, and her ex-boyfriend. As the show widened to look at life around the central crime, all it did was make Laura's experience less important and less interesting.

Liar had the potential to present a rape-story in a way which would have explored all of its complexities. Instead, we got a sensationalised story of vigilante revenge, with rape merely acting as its leaping-off point.

We don't need a second series. We needed the first series to live up to its promise.

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