If the concept of a TV drama set in a woman's prison was one potentially fraught with cliché, the critical and commercial success of Bad Girls is a testament to fine writing, performance and production. With no preamble or scene setting, Series 1 immediately plunges the viewer into the world of Larkhall Prison, its inmates and staff. This approach leaves the characters to reveal themselves at varying pace, with each episode bringing new details about their life on the outside. Given the nature of the setting, it is unsurprising that the show is an ensemble, female-dominated... piece. Simone Lahbib, Mandana Jones and Debra Stephenson are all excellent in the three key roles, with impressive support throughout the cast. Male characters are generally relegated to the sidelines, with the exception of sleazy warden Jim Fenner (played with skin crawling accuracy by Jack Ellis). The sexual realities of the environment are handled realistically and sensitively, and not for nothing is the word "uncut" splashed across the cover: there are some quite disturbing scenes, especially in the earlier episodes. On the DVD: The DVD enhances the show's attempts to capture the atmosphere of prison, with sharp contrast between light and darkness and the constant barracking, cat-calling and snide asides sounding crisp, clear and suitably nasty. Of the impressive 70 minutes of extra features much will only be of real interest to absolute devotees. A documentary examining work on the forthcoming third series may go into admirable detail, but how much interest a costume truck can actually be is perhaps debatable. The footage itself is a little unpolished, but does provide the cast members with an opportunity to reveal themselves, as does the extensive interview section. Not only do the main actors give valuable insights into their characters, but it is also interesting to see how the process has influenced their opinions on the prison system. A feature on a book signing in London certainly puts the show into an audience context, but the collection of outtakes (presented in a, supposedly intentionally, amateurish and tacky manner by Lahbib) is at best superfluous. There is more than a hint of trying to find material to fill the space, but overall this is an impressive effort. --Phil Udell [show more]
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