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Scott and Bailey series 5. Required viewing for all modern parents.

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I’ve been catching up on the latest series of Sally Wainwright’s police drama, Scott and Bailey, this week. I’ve always enjoyed the programme, with its perfect blend of sharp writing and great acting. But what has really gripped me about this latest (and last) outing for the Manchester detectives is the intriguing modernity of the subject matter.

Bailey has recently returned from the Met to a temporary promotion within her former department at the Greater Manchester Police. Never one to waste time on diplomacy, Rachel manages to rub her colleagues and friends up the wrong way pretty much immediately, in one case with heart-wrenchingly tragic consequences.

The personal dramas are always beautifully played in this series but for me, what is particularly striking, is the subject matter tackled in this three-parter. The central theme is how the Internet and smart phones have changed the nature of crime. This topic is explored through the murder case being investigated by Bailey’s team alongside a storyline involving Janet’s sixteen year old daughter and her fifteen year old boyfriend.

From the minute this sub-plot began to unfold, I realised that I was watching something that was utterly required viewing for any parent with a child approaching their teenage years in the digital age. In the era of snapchat and Instagram, it was immediately obvious to me that Wainwright had captured a snapshot of the minefields that lie ahead for our children, and that I’d be a fool not to take very serious notice of what she had to say.

It takes an accomplished writer to tackle issues before they have entered the public zeitgeist. It also takes courage to make an extremely popular prime time crime show evolve in the fundamental way in which this one has. Gone is the fabulous Amelia Bullimore’s Jill, the fast-talking, no-nonsense DCI who delivered investigative procedure like a verbal Gatling gun. But she’s been replaced by a subtler, more melancholic humour which matches a series that is clearly set to be a dark one, with a nihilistic conclusion which will undoubtedly negate any hope of a future return for the pair.

Despite the change of tone and pace, this instalment is looking like it might be my favourite. There’s no necessity for a romantic interest to be added to the story of either lead character. Scott and Bailey are simply our protagonists, not required to be defined by their relationship with a man.

Scott and Bailey has always been my preferred of Wainwright’s dramas, with Happy Valley being too self-conscious in its quest for northern authenticity and in being ‘hard-hitting’, whilst Scott and Bailey achieves this aim apparently without effort.

This superior drama will be greatly missed, but at the same time it feels like the right moment to end the story. I just hope that Wainwright provides us with another series of the same quality in the years to come.

 

Photograph from The Radio Times.

Has Sunday night TV become quietly subversive?

Young_love_burns_alongside_the_Home_FiresTo glance at the schedules you may not think so. Period drama still dominates ITV’s prime time slots and the BBC gives us The Antiques Roadshow and a crime thriller at 9pm. So far so predictable.

But look closer and you will observe two prime time dramas that break the mould in their own way. The brilliant Undercover, airing its second episode last night, boasts two black lead characters and a successful black family at the heart of its narrative. For a BBC drama, this is groundbreaking stuff. Not to mention the excellent, original plot line that exposes in the most unapologetic and blistering manner the endemic racism of the Metropolitan Police of the 1990s.

Over on ITV at the same time is the second series of Home Fires, another favourite of mine. It seems like pretty harmless period fare to the idle observer, but Home Fires has a predominantly female cast. There’s no male lead in sight. It is the Second World War from the female perspective. Although not as hard-hitting as Undercover, in its own quiet way, it is equally as subversive.

What is also unusual, are two prime schedule dramas; one a thriller and the other about war, which do not include a parade of violence, torture or shocking stunts to keep viewers coming back for more. Both shows rely on strong writing and powerful performances by their cast instead. This is also subversive in its own way, violent drama for thrills having become the mainstream in recent years.

However this revolution has occurred in Sunday night telly, long may it continue. As viewers we want original, human stories, we like to be made to think and reasses our ideas about the world. We don’t object to lead characters being black, Asian or female. It’s the programme makers and commissioning editors who are frightened of that. Make this type of drama part of the mainstream, then no one will say it is subversive to produce top quality, representative and honest drama in the future.

Is it really necessary to read a series in order?

The RetroReview

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I am currently writing the third book in my DCI Dani Bevan series of detective novels. Before penning this latest instalment I’d just completed the sixth novel of my Imogen and Hugh Croft Mystery books. As I was tapping away on my laptop this afternoon, I spent a little while considering how the tone of a book can vary greatly from one story to the next. Even if the characters remain the same, their circumstances change and hopefully, they learn some lessons from each new case they solve. But things change for the author too. I tend to find that if I’ve just completed a very action packed novel, my next will be more contemplative, perhaps focussing on the personal lives of the protagonists to a greater degree.
Does this mean it is essential to follow a series religiously from start to finish? Actually, I don’t think so. Each book…

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