Scoop – Review

Worth seeing: for some minor insights into what went on in the run-up to the interview that pushed Prince Andrew out of public life, however don't expect to learn new
Featuring:Billie Piper, Gillian Anderson, Keeley Hawes, Rufus Sewell, Alex Waldmann, Alice Bailey Johnson, Amanda Redman, Andrew MacBean, Charity Wakefield, Colin Wells, Connor Swindells, Jordan Kouamé, Lia Williams, Richard Goulding, Romola Garai
Key crew:Philip Martin, Hilary Salmon, Radford Neville, Sanjay Singhal, Geoff Bussetil, Peter Moffat, Sam McAlister
Length:102 minutes
Episodes:1 - TV Movie
Broadcast date:5th April 2024


Sam McAlister (Billie Piper) is a junior producer on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, who generally books the off-diary guests that give the show a slightly quirky finale.

Prince Andrew’s (Rufus Sewell) private secretary Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes) is trying to improve his public image after no press turned up to an event he hosted to boost business.

She’s advised to contact “friendly” members of the press and invite them tea with Prince Andrew, to give him a chance to win them around, but she goes a step further. She contacts Sam McAlister and raises the prospect of a TV interview with Emily Maitlis (Gillian Anderson).

At a time when Prince Andrew has become embroiled in a scandal over sex trafficking allegations thrown at his friend, the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convincing TV interview could get the public back on side. But coming across as aloof could push them further away.


When Newsnight broadcast their interview with Prince Andrew, the consequences for him and the Royal Family were devastating, as the Queen’s second son was completely withdrawn from Royal duties. It’s no surprise when events of such historical significance prompt screen adaptations – but the spectacular downfall of Prince Andrew has led to two – this Amazon film based on the memoirs of the producer Sam McAlister and a rival project based on the book by the interviewer, Emily Maitlis.

This is a straight-forward narrative, which is an interesting reminder of how the events unfolded, but there’s not really much of an insight into the digging required for a real journalistic scoop – it was the Prince’s own private secretary who contacted the producer, after all. And when it got down to the detailed negotiations over the interview, that involved the presenter and the senior producer too.

The big problem for this as a drama is that it is so recent – and the implications of the real events were so significant – that there’s not a single person who won’t know what happened and what the consequences were. In a drama, we’d expect tension; Will they manage to persuade him to do the interview? How will it go? But there’s no-one who won’t know the answers to either of those questions – so the purpose of this film can only be to bring new information to the table.

The only revelation for anyone who followed the events in real time is that the original connection between Newsnight and the Palace came through Sam McAlister – but is that of historical significance? Does anyone really care who made the initial contact? The fact is that Prince Andrew did an interview with Newsnight – it didn’t go to plan – and he had to step down from public life as a result. Sam McAlister? Who’s she?

We don’t learn anything we didn’t already know – or at least anything we needed to know. Perhaps the only new piece of information was the fact that Sam McAlister was the first point of contact with the Palace – and the only people who need to know that are Sam McAlister herself and perhaps her family. So her Mum had to babysit her son while she went for a meeting at the Palace. And what?

With little new to add, this feels much like we’re watching a repeat of the original interview, but with the individuals involved not quite looking or sounding right, although by the end of it, you do get used to them.

It was interesting – although no surprise – to see how Andrew and his team initially thought the interview had gone well, until reaction to the broadcast itself started to come in.

History clearly shows that this interview had disastrous consequences for Andrew, but there’s little consideration – although it’s not the job of this particular production – of just how bad things might have been for him had he decided against doing it. It’s a part of the wider story that can’t really be ignored.

The suggestion is that through clever journalism, the Prince was persuaded to do an interview which was never going to be in his interest and those clever people at Newsnight brought the Palace to its knees. In reality, the Prince was already in a ditch and Newsnight threw him a rope; with proper preparation, he could have used the rope to climb out of the ditch – instead, his supercilious sense of entitlement and expectation of control insured that he just tied the rope around his neck instead. The interview was – in truth – his only chance of rehabilitation – but he messed it up.

People will remember the Pizza Express at Windsor and his inability to sweat – things he clearly thought would help – but instead became memes to taunt him.

But while Amanda Thirsk is portrayed as the woman whose poor decision brought down her boss – as if an interview could only have had career-ending consequences – the mistake appears to have been not in agreeing to the interview but in failing to prepare adequately – or perhaps a refusal to prepare adequately – and that’s where a lifetime of protection comes into play.

Perhaps the most interesting element of this film is the intercut sequence where both Emily Maitlis and Prince Andrew are separately rehearsing – batting questions and answers back and forth with their teams – this is where his fate was sealed, but it’s almost overlooked. This is where a more revealing “behind the scenes” story could have been told.

This film is little more than a dramatic re-run, slightly less compelling than the original broadcast. When there was almost no point to this first dramatisation of the historical interview, what will Emily Maitlis be able to bring to the table with her portrayal of the same set of events to make us want to sit through it all for a third time?