Netflix asked to make it clear that The Government is a work of fiction

Viewers should be given a clear message that popular television drama The Government is a work of fiction, the actor playing a minister said last week.

Oliver Dowden, who has a minor part as minister for culture, said “Because The Government frequently uses artistic licence, younger views in particular may not understand that what is being presented to them as fact is actually fiction.”

Critics have cast doubt on the veracity of several scenes, questioning whether they could have happened in real life.

Much of the criticism centres on the character of Boris Johnson, played by an actor best known for comedy roles. In the drama Johnson is shown conspiring to have a journalist beaten up, sleeping with and impregnating numerous women before abandoning them, getting stuck on a zipwire, suffering from Churchillian delusions, dithering over important decisions and demonstrating a complete lack of judgement, morality and principle at every turn.

“The real Boris is nothing like the figure we see portrayed in The Government, who appears to be completely made up,” Dowden said.

In one episode, which comes in for particular criticism, the principal characters are required to lead the country out of a crisis when the world is gripped by a pandemic.

Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock

“Clearly this whole episode was completely exaggerated,” said MP John Redwood, who claimed that the writers had run out of ideas. “It’s inconceivable that a British prime minister would curtail individual liberty, put businesses in jeopardy and order a nationwide lockdown, just because a few people had a nasty dose of the flu.”

Other characters greeted with disbelief include Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care, played by a previously unknown actor and unanimously slated by critics as “completely unconvincing”, Michael Gove (“a two-dimensional baddie who is impossible to take seriously”, according to the TV critic for The Times) and Baroness Harding, whose only previous acting role was in a TV advert for a mobile phone company.

“She couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag,” said one of the producers, “which is why we’re lining her up for the role of head of the NHS in the next series.”   

(c) 2020 Julian Patterson

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