A week in drama


I watch all TV drama as a viewer and as a writer. I can’t help it. Having written scripts for TV – soap and sitcom, thus far – I can’t help but view what I consider to be superior homegrown drama with one eye on the skill of the writer and the mechanics of the writing. In the case of Five Days, which ran every night from Monday to Friday last week (and whose final episode didn’t come out on my Sky+ due to the series link refreshing each day and a clash being missed, so I had to finish the run on iPlayer on this tiny screen – grrrrrrrrrr), the writer I found myself admiring was Gwyneth Hughes. She also wrote the previous Five Days in 2007, about a missing mum, which was packed with top-flight British TV acting talent and was based around police procedural. As I remember it, the final outcome didn’t quite merit the five nights I’d invested in it, but it was clearly a quality piece of work.

This second helping – different setting, different characters, different cast, same reliance on policework – had a much more satisfying outcome. No need to go into plot, but it began with an apparent suicide off a railway bridge and an abandoned baby in a hospital toilet, developed into a full police search and drew much of its tension and intrigue from relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim communties in what must have been a Yorkshire town, as it was somewhere near Scarborough, which was named. Not being a Coronation Street viewer, I hadn’t really come across Suranne Jones before, but she was very strong in the central role of a police officer, keeping her end up in an incident room largely staffed by blokes, and having to deal with the inevitability of Alzheimer’s with her mum, Anne Reid (who seems to get all the old lady parts now). David Morrissey, who doesn’t do substandard drama, gave depth and heart to a detective with family problems of his own, and the likes of Hugo Speer, Bernard Hill, Ashley Walters, Shaun Dooley, Shivani Ghai and Steve Evets added further ballast. I must admit, I enjoyed the direction, too, from Toby Haynes and Peter Hoar: stylish and artistic but never to the detriment of the story being told. No idea what he’s done before, but the music, by Craig Pruess, was also outstanding. Although to be honest, I was concentrating hardest on the script, which had to deal with a wide range of characters, and did so with skill and good humour. Most threads were satisfactorily tied up, and I didn’t second guess the action.

This is what British TV drama can do, and I for one am relieved to know that it can still do it, backed by a broadcaster bold enough to strip it across five days. I’d pay my licence fee for stuff like this.

Meanwhile, over on ITV1, I’ve been irritated and underwhelmed by new comedy drama Married Single Other, whose decent cast (including the ubiquitous Dooley) are battling against clunky exposition and a patina of arch wit that seems to make every character sound like every other character ie. arch and witty. That said, I haven’t written a piece of drama that’s actually been on telly since EastEnders and that’s eight years ago now, so maybe I’m not in a position to nitpick.


9 thoughts on “A week in drama

  1. Suranne Jones is really good. Don't what Corrie, and assumed someone with a mispelt first name would be rubbish. However she was also excellent in ITV's 3 part 'Unforgiven'.[SPOILER ALERT]People getting flung up the bonnet of cars in dramas is getting really old though. They need to think of something new with equal dramatic impact.

  2. Our dishwasher died, taking all our elctricity with it, during the final part so we also had to finish off on i-player! Well worth the effort though.I particularly appreciated the extended time-frame being made clear. Possibly still too rapid for a real investigation but much better than most poilce shows which wrap each case up in a few screen days.

  3. I thought that Five Days petered out terribly in the last couple of parts.And I couldn't quite work out why it was called Five Days. Yes, I know that it was on for five consecutive days, but fictionally, how did the title relate to what was happening? Was it five specific days in the investigation?

  4. I have tos ay I was rather disappointed by the ending. Top notch performances from a great cast – for my money, Pooky Quesnel is one of the finest actresses working on TV today – but I thought the ending was daft, and the whole terrorism thing shoehorned in. There was lots that really didn't ring true about it, but I'm prepared to forgive it because it was the sort of thing that people who bang on about US drama being superior to our own should watch and think again.It knocks bollocks like FlashForward into a cocked hat. I can't bring myself to watch Married, Single, Other. I don't care for Shaun Dooley. He looks like a guinea pig.

  5. I watched the first few episodes of this and agree it was very good, especially the bit when she went to her mums house and the cake just said 'HA' and she said she was worried sick so was I.P.sAndrew you should do a podcast on your own while richard is away it could just be 10 minutes if you don't have much time just saying what you want to say, maybe about the news and reviewing tv and moviesI would listen to it and if richard complains say its revenge for AIOTM you could call it IMHO or something…

  6. Andrew – just catching up on this and spotted what seemed to be a bit of an anomaly between episodes 1 and 2. Didn't we see the person who abandoned the baby leave the disabled toilet via the window? The cat got in, if you remember. Episode 2 has Suranne Jones & David Morrissey watching a CCTV recording of a hooded figure taking the baby into the toilet, but leaving the way they came in, via the door. It was so glaring, I'm assuming it's some really clever plot device.

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