Steve Coogan’s portrayal of Jimmy Savile in The Reckoning has been praised as “absolutely convincing” by critics.
Created by writer Neil McKay and executive producer Jeff Pope, the four-part series covers Savile’s upbringing, his career as a TV presenter for the BBC and his history of sexual abuse over decades. Four survivors of Savile are also dramatised in the series.
The Reckoning, which debuted on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Monday (October 9), has received praise for its portrayal of the disgraced presenter – but hasn’t convinced everyone on whether its existence is necessary.
In a three-star review on the Guardian, Coogan is described as “brilliant” in the role of Savile. “He captures the mannerisms, the voice, the vibe entirely without ever veering anywhere near caricature,” the review reads.
“He shows us the layers of charm and malevolence slipping and sliding over each other, depending on who was near and what he wanted from them, and then, at certain moments, the core of absolute depravity in whose service they were all deployed. Above and beyond that, Coogan was born to play creeps. Coogan has a calculating coldness he can easily push towards horror.”
The Evening Standard was similarly positive about Coogan’s performance, writing: “Coogan is staggering as Savile, absolutely convincing in truly chilling style. He manages to stay clear of pantomime villain territory, which Savile’s mannerisms could easily lead into, instead showing how both the relentless charm offensives and the predatory attacks were two sides of the same coin: ego.”
While the New Statesman said Coogan “captures the fathomless emptiness inside Savile,” they criticised the show at large for being “entirely gratuitous”. “The Reckoning exposes a rotten culture that serves up stories about abused women for entertainment,” it reads.
A review on the Radio Times, however, said the series “justifies its existence” despite its imperfections, praising Coogan as “probably the only person capable of playing him”.
Coogan recently reaffirmed his belief that the BBC made the “correct choice” in producing a drama about the disgraced presenter.
“It is controversial and I understand that,” Coogan said. “The BBC are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and I believe the correct choice is to be damned if they do.
“Broadly, it’s better to talk about something than not. The team had the right attitude and it was done with the cooperation of survivors. I think when it’s broadcast, it will vindicate itself.”
The Reckoning is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.