The new three-part ITV drama, ‘The Widower’ aired last night (March 18, 2014). The show aims to tell the story of Mark Webster, who was convicted for the murder of his first wife, and the attempted murder of his second. But what have the critics made of this, the latest attempt by ITV to dramatise horrific, real-life events.

Reece ShearsmithReece Shearsmith Is Excellent as Mark Webster

The show sees Reece Shearsmith in the lead role, who, as Mark Monahan of The Telegraph notes, looks nothing like Webster. But it “Shearsmith’s quietly depraved, just about plausible central performance that made last night’s first episode really rather watchable,” he added in his three-star review.

“With that curious man-boy face, he has a talent for characters that exist worryingly near the boundaries of sanity, and his prissily controlling Webster was both sinister and richly dislikable. You didn’t just want to see the poisonous little prig put away for good; you wanted to thump him first.”

Reece Shearsmith Sheridan SmithReece Shearsmith [L] and Sheridan Smith [R] in 'The Widower'

The Independent’s Ellen E Jones was also singing Shearsmith’s praises, claiming the League of Gentlemen actor is “in a league of his own”. Jones adds: “Webster's crimes are chilling enough, but Shearsmith's disarmingly mild-mannered performance revealed a further level of detestability. This actor doesn't need to crawl around like Papa Lazarou to send shivers down your spine.”

But it was The Guardian who couldn’t find glory in Shearsmith’s performance, or at least not enough to carve a semblance of joy out of ITV’s The Widower. “Maybe I've been spoiled by all the masterfully detailed, psychologically acute murder-y dramas we've had over the past few years from the US, Scandinavia and even occasionally from our own septic isle,” wrote Lucy Mangan, “and it's ruined me for simpler fare – but even allowing for that, the new three-part series The Widower (ITV) feels like thin gruel.”

The Widower continues this Monday (March 24) at 9pm on ITV.

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Reece Shearsmith The WidowerReece Shearsmith Impressed Critics in The First Episode of 'The Widower'