Better — release date, cast, plot, trailer, interviews, first looks and all about the crime drama by the creators of Spooks

Better on BBC1 is a twisty crime thriller starring Leila Farzad and Andrew Buchan.
Better on BBC1 is a twisty crime thriller starring Leila Farzad and Andrew Buchan. (Image credit: BBC)

Better is a top thriller on BBC1 that follows a corrupt policewoman fighting for a second chance. Written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent — the creators of Spooks and Humans — the series follows DI Lou Slack (Leila Farzad) a renowned and respected detective. But what her colleagues don’t realise is that 19 years ago Lou sold her soul to a very clever devil indeed – ruthless crime boss Col McHugh (Andrew Buchan). Now though, a family tragedy has forced Lou to rethink her life and she wants to reclaim the honour and honesty she handed over many years earlier. 

Here’s everything you need to know about BBC1's gripping drama Better…  

Better release date

The five-part thriller Better launches in the UK on BBC1 on Monday 13 February at 9pm. The drama will also be shown as a box set on BBCiPlayer from that date. We’ll let you know where and when US and international viewers can catch the series in 2023 when we hear.  

Is there a trailer for Better on BBC1?

Yes a trailer for Better has now been released by the BBC showing how the crime drama unfold on the streets of Leeds, West Yorkshire, where the show has been filmed. Take a look below...

Better plot 

Better follows DI Lou Slack (Leila Farzad) who is generally regarded as the best in the crime-solving business. But what no one knows is that Lou’s success is built on corruption. 

Nineteen years ago, when Lou was a young officer at her lowest ebb, her paths crossed with Col McHugh (Andrew Buchan), a low-ranking but ambitious and ruthless member of the Leeds underworld. The pair struck a deal that changed their lives forever, allowing Col to become the rich and powerful head of a drug trafficking gang, while masquerading as a charming businessman and property developer. In turn Lou was able to resurrect her failing career but to do so she slowly slid into corruption, helping Col here and there as a special bond forged between the pair. 

But now, a family crisis sees Lou’s conscience finally emerge and she sets out to right the wrongs she has committed. And to find redemption she must bring down the extremely dangerous man she loves like a brother.  

Better cast — Leila Farzad on playing DI Lou Slack

Leila, who plays the lead role of DI Lou Slack in Better, says: “Better is a brilliant fresh take on the morality tale. I'm excited to have the opportunity to play Lou Slack, the vehicle through which we explore the multivalent layers of good and bad. A complex, flawed yet utterly human character. I feel very lucky to be a part of such a wonderful show with an incredibly talented team attached to it.”  

* Leila Farzad is best known for playing Naomi Jones in the series I Hate Suzie. She’s also been in The Fear Index, Landscapers and the ITV drama Innocent. Leila also voiced characters on the children’s cartoon series Peppa Pig.

Leila Farzad as DI Lou Slack in Better.

Leila Farzad as DI Lou Slack in Better. (Image credit: BBC)

Leila Farzad with Josh Hartnett in The Fear Index.

Leila Farzad with Josh Hartnett in The Fear Index. (Image credit: Sky)

Andrew Buchan as Col McHugh

Andrew Buchan is playing the charismatic but deadly gang boss Col McHugh. He’s known for playing Mark Latimer in the hit series Broadchurch and Andrew Parker Bowles in The Crown. Andrew has also starred in Cobra, The ABC Murders, The Honorable Woman, and starred with Jody Latham and Tamzin Outhwaite in ITV drama The Fixer, and BBC1 period drama Garrow’s Law. He played former Health Secretary Matt Hancock is in 2022 Sky Atlantic drama This England. He's starred in big Hollywood movies too, playing John Paul Getty II in the film All The Money In The World, about the real-life kidnapping of billionaire Jean Paul Getty’s 16-year-old grandson.

Better star Andrew Buchan as Col McHugh.

Better star Andrew Buchan as Col McHugh. (Image credit: BBC)

Andrew Buchan with Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch.

Andrew Buchan when starring with Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch. (Image credit: ITV)

 Who else is starring in BBC1 drama Better? 

The remaining cast in Better includes Peaky Blinders star Samuel Edward-Cook. He plays Lou’s husband Ceri who loves her very much but is deeply conflicted about her arrangement with Col. Zak Ford-Williams (Wolfe) is Owen, their teenage son. Cold Feet star Ceallach Spellman meanwhile plays Col's son Donal, and Carolin Stoltz (Liar) plays Col’s wife Alma. Anton Lesser (Killing Eve, The Trial of Christine Keeler) is ex-detective Vernon, and Olivia Nakintu (Vera) is DC Esther Okoye, Lou’s closest colleague on the force.

* See bottom of this feature for more on all the characters in Better.

Samuel Edward-Cook as Ceri.

Samuel Edward-Cook as Lu's husband Cer. (Image credit: BBC)

Interview: Andrew Buchan and  Leila Farzad on starring together in Better

Col and Lou have known each other for 19 years. How did their deal start?Andrew says: "Col was sent over to Leeds to handle that branch of the crime family, and got nabbed for a minor misdemeanour by Lou Slack. He ended up wriggling out of it by giving her a tip-off, and then that soon became a bit of a tit-for-tat relationship, and they ended up climbing their own individual ladders." 
Leila says: "They started to mutually benefit over the years. She would look one way, and he would say, ‘I’ll give you somebody else, somebody bigger, a worse crime.’ This was how she was able to justify it to herself. They are incredibly intertwined, and they are now at the top of the police and crime worlds."

What’s your take on your characters? 
Leila says: "I hope that women recognise in Lou a resilient person who is seemingly keeping all her stuff together, but is also struggling with all the inside gumpf that she hasn’t quite dealt with." 
Andrew says: "There’s been a familial trauma that Col’s been sitting on, which is very much dictating his thoughts and feelings when we meet him. When he first started out, he was very careful, calm and, at times, ruthless. Now, he is a slightly more fractured, more emotional being."

How does each of them view the other? 
Andrew says: "They know too much about each other, but there’s also such a deep, rooted respect there." 
Leila says: "And there’s a really latent distrust of each other, too. The relationship would be a very different beast if they could fully trust each other!"

Is it possible for Lou to remove herself from this relationship? 
Andrew says: "Their lives, businesses and career ladders are so entwined… The question is, ‘How does either of them get out of that?" 
LEILA says: "Yes, they are very codependent and their roots have sort of grown together, like a big tree. So how do you separate them?"

What triggers a potential change in their arrangement? 
Leila says:  "A big catalyst is Lou’s son getting very sick, which forces her to face up to the bad things she’s been doing that she has been able to compartmentalise up to this point. That’s why the whole, beautifully constructed Jenga starts to fall away!"

You both had to master new regional accents for this series. How did you find that? 
LEILA says: "Actually being there [in Leeds] was so important, in terms of chatting to people and feeling the cadence of the accent, because it isn’t just a sound – it’s like a force that makes you move and feel differently."
Andrew says: "It was a huge vocal workout because, when I was doing Col’s Northern Irish accent, my mouth had to be a very different shape. But it was exciting! And, like Leila, I had a brilliant accent coach."

What did you particularly like about this script and your roles? 
LEILA says: "I liked the fact that there is a strong female lead who’s so flawed. I find great relief in seeing people like that, perhaps because I’m a flawed person myself! The writers are so clever at looking at the grey areas, rather than it being a black and white, binary story about good and bad guys. Better is a brilliant, fresh take on the morality tale." 
Andrew says: "I’d never come across a role like Col before, and I guess it was only really in the acting out of it that you look back and go, ‘That was a very complicated character to play!’, which is what we all hope for!" 

Leila, how important was your involvement in Billie Piper’s Sky Atlantic comedy-drama I Hate Suzie in terms of landing this leading role? 
LEILA says: "I Hate Suzie was a massive game-changer for me! Doors that were firmly shut suddenly opened, and people who had previously always said, ‘No!’, were suddenly saying, ‘We’ve always loved you!’ I feel very lucky, but I’m also aware that these things can be ephemeral."

Finally, Andrew, you recently played former Health Secretary Matt Hancock in Sky Atlantic’s pandemic drama This England. Would you ever follow him onto I’m a Celebrity…?! 
Andrew says: "Absolutely, definitely not!"

Who's who in Better — out guide to the main characters

Here's a brief guide to all the characters in Better...

DI Lou Slack
(Leila Farzad)

The respected Leeds cop has close ties to local crime kingpin Col. 

Col McHugh
(Andrew Buchan)
The softly spoken Northern Irish drug trafficker is a ruthless operator. 

Ceri Davies
(Samuel Edward-Cook)

Lou’s husband has benefited from his wife’s link to Col, but is uneasy about it. 

(Zak Ford-Williams)

Lou’s teenage son develops a serious health problem that makes her reevaluate her life.

(Ceallach Spellman)

Col’s son is keen to get more involved in his father’s illegal activities. 

(Anton Lesser)

Conflicted Lou approaches the police whistleblower for guidance on her dilemma. 

DC Esther Okoye
(Olivia Nakintu)

Lou’s closest colleague on the force is unaware of her double life. 

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.