Hard Cell Review: Catherine Tate in a Unique yet Uninspiring Mockumentary

The producer Leopard Pictures revealed that through Hard Cell, they’re working on a feature film adaptation of a Michael Morpurgo novel. The runtime of the six-part series is approximately 30 minutes and stars Catherine Tate in a pivotal role.

– Hard Cell review does not contain any spoilers –

Hard Cell Is Reformed With the Versatility of Catherine Tate as a Performer

The complex cell is the metaphor for the prison cell in which a criminal is kept with no chance of parole or release. It’s usually where one stays until the time comes for them to be let out. In some cases, the criminal may be granted an early release if they are reformed and deserving.

Hard Cell Review: Catherine Tate in a Unique yet Uninspiring Mockumentary

The six-part series is a departure from her previous shows and she portrays multiple characters in their elements. Hard Cell is quite a tonal shift from Catherine’s previous work. It’s a mockumentary that follows inmates and staff at HMP Woldsley, giving an insight into the brutal but often humorous world of incarceration.

Tate’s comedic chops and ability to play multiple roles were crucial for the show’s success. This show is unique in the TV landscape and was pitched as a mixture of The Office and Orange Is The New Black. It is quite an original idea and stands out as something different and new.

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Cliches and Abandoned Plots Accumulate in the Hard Cell’s Plot

There’s no genuine pathos to this. It’s improper storytelling. The show is laugh-out-loud funny, and everything people love about Catherine is there, but you will see moments of great tragedy, natural warmth and real drama that frame and offset the comedy. Tonally it’s different from the known space.

Hard Cell Review: Catherine Tate in a Unique yet Uninspiring Mockumentary

They were given the freedom to find their tone and style, which is incredibly rare these days. The narrative has some exciting elements, but they aren’t explored enough, leaving it feeling underwhelming.

The show starts by establishing the setting of a women’s prison. It tells the stories of the inmates through their characters, who are played by Tate, and their interactions with other fellow inmates. The women in prison seem to be so used to being in an enclosed space that they seem comfortable talking about their issues and problems.

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The Hard Cell’s Narrative Lacks Depth and Intensity

As the series progresses, Laura’s character grows more and more sympathetic. Her interactions with the inmates are very humane. She tries her best to understand their problems, even though she is often stuck between being a human being and her professional duties. The first episode of Hard Cell does not really have much of a plot. It lays down the foundation for the rest of the series by introducing the characters and showcasing how they are all connected.

Hard Cell Review: Catherine Tate in a Unique yet Uninspiring Mockumentary

It is challenging to empathise with the characters in Hard Cell because they don’t seem to be fleshed out. The Netflix mockumentary has a lot of potential. But it falls flat in knowing how to capitalise on them.

But it is so poorly executed that you don’t get much idea about their relationship. There were glimpses of what could have been developed into something more substantial, but those moments never made it on screen. The narrative builds up without concluding and is lost in its obtuse nature.

The writing has done justice to some of the scenes, but not all. The scenes involving Tate’s character are among the best. The way the writers handle the various characters creates a divide between them and the protagonist. Catharine Tate is a strong character, fragile in some parts and self-assured in others.

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Stream it or Skip it?

Initially, the audience might be pulled into it, but it fails to keep your interest throughout its runtime. When you look at the acting performances, especially Tate, she has shown her versatility. But when you look at the writing, it lacks depth and fails to impact you as an audience member.

Hard Cell is streaming on Netflix

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The Netflix mockumentary has a lot of potential. But it falls flat in knowing how to capitalise on them.


  1. I didn’t even know a new Catherine Tate show was being released until today! I watched it expecting it to just be her and her funny business but the humour excelled, yes there have been negative reviews about toilet humour but the extent of these are far outweighed by the rest of the plot, characters, Catherine’s execution and all of the superb humour, I wasn’t bored for a minute and thoroughly enjoyed her return, fingers crossed for season 2!!

  2. Critics have been hard on the show for some reason, but I loved it a lot, and what I find funniest is how all the negative backlash this show has received was somewhat subtly brought up within the dialogue.

    People need to learn that all comedy, no matter genre or presentation, is not serious, which is what contributes to the shock and laugh factor. It’s only when you take it seriously that the whole point of comedy itself flat lines.

    If people are getting offended by a show as light hearted (but equally dramatic and entertaining) as this, then the future of comedy stands no chance.

    PS: personally I love the way I worded this so will be copy and pasting my opinion on other websites that share the same, dry opinion.

  3. mate, regardless of your subjective opinion–she’s calling attention to the prison industrial complex, and with that the activism to make it more just. I’m sorry that makes you a wee bit uncomfortable but honestly, it should be, as a necessity, uncomfortable. Further to refer reiterate seemingly factual statements about the prison system based on a .gov site is incredibly biased and limited. The idea that someone might be released earlier because they are “deserving” is reiterative of entitlement. reflect, please.

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The Netflix mockumentary has a lot of potential. But it falls flat in knowing how to capitalise on them.Hard Cell Review: Catherine Tate in a Unique yet Uninspiring Mockumentary