I watched Douglas Is Cancelled and it left me questioning everything I put online

Douglas Is Cancelled: how many episodes itv
-Credit: (Image: (Image: ITV))

Over the last couple of years the phrase ‘cancel culture’ has started to get used more and more. This term refers to an individual deemed to have acted or spoken in an unacceptable manner and therefore boycotted, or shunned, usually on social media, and sometimes fired from their job.

In an age where we all seem to be glued to our phones you’re hearing more and more stories about people who’ve said/done questionable things in the past, and how people’s attitudes to those actions have changed in the present. The concept of new ITV comedy-drama Douglas Is Cancelled is therefore an interesting one — because in recent times we’ve all seen examples of this.

Despite its obvious connotations to real-life events, writer Steven Moffat has clarified that is definitely not the case. Speaking in a recent interview with Metro, former Doctor Who showrunner Moffat responded to whether real life scandals had inspired his four-part script. “Not much, because the incidents I assume you’re referring to don’t have much in common with what we’re talking about,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt in terms of I suppose talking about the show, but the reality is TV presenters have been getting themselves in trouble all the time forever.”

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Douglas Is Cancelled tells the story of Douglas Bellowes (Hugh Bonneville), the lead presenter of Live at 6, which is somewhat of a newsier version of The One Show. He’s joined on the sofa by the younger (and as she says, ‘hotter’) co-presenter Madeline (Karen Gillan). During the first episode it emerges that at a family wedding Douglas got tipsy and made a sexist joke, which a bystander heard and then tweeted about. Luckily for Douglas the person who penned the tweet didn’t have many followers and therefore not many people saw it — that is, until Madeline retweeted it.

What follows is three more episodes with one overarching question: who holds the power? Douglas or Madeline? As the series goes on, the severity of the situation grows, culminating in a chess match-style interview between Douglas and Madeline in episode four. Upon finding out about the tweet, Bonneville’s character is blissfully ignorant to the power of social media and the effect it could have on him. Fans of W1A, Paddington, or many of the other things he’s done, will know that the actor can play hapless characters really well.

The standout performance in Douglas Is Cancelled is arguably Karen Gillan. She’s given a lot to do and viewers used to seeing her as Amy Pond in Doctor Who, or Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will be taken aback by her work here. In the early half of the series you’re confused as to why Gillan’s character Madeline would turn against her so-called ‘best friend’ and you sort of resent her for that.

As the series goes on you quickly come to understand why and soon find yourself rooting for Madeline — with the actress showcasing some of the best acting I’ve ever seen from her in episodes three and four. Despite Gillan's character seemingly being the embodiment of feminism, Madeline herself admits that's not the case. She says on several occasions that she believes in 'human rights' and not women's rights.

Alex Kingston plays Douglas' wife Sheila in the series - and has admitted that she based her character on a real-life person
Alex Kingston as Sheila in Douglas Is Cancelled -Credit:No credit

As an overall watch I enjoyed Douglas Is Cancelled but considering it came from the brain of Steven Moffat, one of my favourite writers, I always thought I would. Much like the majority of the writer’s other work, it’s really well put together and makes you want to keep watching episode after episode. Not only does the show have a strong core cast but also good supporting players like Alex Kingston as Sheila, Ben Miles as Toby (who will really creep you out in episode three), and Madeleine Power who plays Douglas and Sheila’s daughter Claudia, a product of a modern society who will no doubt be deemed a 'snowflake' by many.

A good programme is one that makes you feel something and truthfully, after watching Douglas Is Cancelled, I felt slightly anxious about the types of things I put on the internet. The four-parter, which begins airing terrestrially on ITV1 on Thursday, June 27, should act as as a stark reminder that you may want to be careful about everything you say/post, as you never know who is watching or listening.

Douglas Is Cancelled is available to watch on ITVX. For the latest TV & Showbiz news, sign up to our newsletter.