Monday, 14 June 2010
Grim Up North
For anyone who caught ITV's brilliant 4-part drama FATHER AND SON screened over four consecutive nights last week will know how well British television can deliver strong stories about relevant issues. Written by the late-great Frank Deasy, the drama handled the balance of gritty subject matter and familial frailty with verve. Although there is a sneaking suspicion that ITV may have commissioned the drama as a response to gritty American television successes like The Wire, it did feel very British and very real. The drama is set in the violent underworld of Manchester and deals with a former gangster of Celtic stock (Dougray Scott) returning to Manchester to help his estranged son (Reece Noi) who has been convicted of a shooting he didn't commit. It's all done very confidently and Manchester is very much the beating, throbbing, tangled backdrop of everything that's going on. It's always a refreshing presence when UK dramatists decide to create stories set in the North of England as there aren't very many of them and there's a whole lot of England beyond the M25. The Angry-Young-Man/ Kitchen-Sink films of the 1950sand 1960s were very much profound stories about complex Northern characters struggling with existential angst. These films were celebrated globally and remain potent examples of distinct British storytelling. Even the recent FOUR LIONS is a successful British comedy about a rag-tag group of Muslim Jihadists in Sheffield planning a suicide mission. For the wealth of stories one can create about people in North England it's disappointing no one has tried making a film about the middle-classes residing in cities away from London. ITV's COLD FEET is a great example of a character driven series about professional people living in Manchester, although the original script set the characters in North London but was moved to Manchester because it was cheaper to film there and would be easier for British television audiences to relate to.
For all the Full Monty's and Billy Elliot's, the North of England is still lacking in its versions of Notting Hill or Fish Called Wanda's. Perhaps a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant called Bradford doesn't have the same ring to it but surely it's worth a try... isn't it?