‘State of Play’, 15 Years On


I recently watched the whole of the 2003 BBC drama series State of Play – not the US film of the same title; the television original.  I’m a fan of thrillers with twists and turns, so it suited me down to the ground and the plotlines have held up well.  What surprised me is how many changes there have been in daily life over the last 15 years.  Here’s what I spotted.

  • Smoking – characters smoke in the office, in hotels, in bars, in cars. And they don’t ask if anyone minds when they smoke in someone’s home.
  • What a phone can do – it’s an obvious one, but phones were for calls and texts. They weren’t for email, taking photos (separate cameras were used for that), maps or any of the other things we use them for now.  WhatsApp wasn’t a twinkle in a cyber eye.
  • Paper – hard copy still ruled and there’s paper everywhere. None of the characters walks around with a laptop or an iPad; they have (paper) notebooks.
  • Faxes – remember those? They’re used a lot in State of Play with one plot development turning on an anonymous fax sent from a fax and photocopying bureau.
  • Cars, driving and parking – people drive to work. That might be because they work on a newspaper and need to travel, but I’m not sure the same characters would be shown as drivers if State of Play were being made in London today.  I’d expect to see more cyclists.  There also appear to be no residents parking or other parking restrictions in the streets of north London.
  • Taxis – it’s all black cabs and they’re hailed in the street. There are no taxi apps.  There are no apps.
  • CDs – music was still on CDs and one of the characters works in a CD store. It’s a while since I’ve seen one of those on the high street.
  • Videos – video cassettes appear in the storyline and on shelves in characters’ rooms. 2003 was before mainstream use of DVDs and it’s certainly before online streaming.  A video cassette that’s relevant to the storyline shows a recording of a party that would now be taken on a phone.
  • Suits and ties – there’s a greater prevalence of suits and ties than I’d expect to see now, even amongst politicians who still tend to wear them more than most (politicians being a key constituency amongst the characters).
  • Rucksacks – these were the days of briefcases and the occasional bag over the shoulder.
  • Newspapers – shots on tube trains show characters reading physical newspapers that they’ve paid for, not free newspapers, and there are no iPads to access a news website.

And this was only 15 years ago…

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