Thursday, 24 March 2016


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I liked the first series of Happy Valley; bit melodramatic, women talking, talking but some terrific characters behaving realistically. Wasn’t too sure the concept could stand a second series but I decided to give it a go.

It is finished now and I must admit I thought it was pretty great. Blew most recent Hollywood Oscar winners out of the water; real issues sensitively handled as opposed to some back-of-an-envelope what’s the word, treatment conjured up while lying on a California beach. The writer/director who is called Sally Wainwright wrote for Corrie back in the day and you can see her theatrical background and training: people meet one another coming down the stairs or in the canteen and unlike me, she is not bothered at all by plot-holes. If two people have to meet, they meet; if there is a relevant item on the TV News it comes on just as they happen to be watching the television; if two weeks ago someone buys a set of Scalextric, it has been captured on CCTV; violent rapists meet their just deserts, no trials, no evidence-based enquiry, just blown away. And this curve ball: ‘He also said he didn’t do that Vicky Fleming one ... and he told his mother, he wouldn’t have had to have done that last one if people hadn’t kept thinking he’d done that Vicky Fleming one’. Yeah? Really? Daryl said that, and Alison reported it while semi-comatose?

And yet: it shows, shows, shows. Never tells. Its intricate plots and subplots work because they are always  tempered by the unity of Wainwright’s vision, by the way she somehow tethers everything, no matter how wild or extreme, to boring, humdrum reality. As Rachel Cooke notes in her piece in The Times, she shows an almost 19th-century sense of the endless connections that exist between people who grew up together in a small town. An early scene, brilliantly and powerfully realised and barely two-minutes long was the moment when Catherine’s sister, Clare, bumped into Neil Ackroyd , a boy she’d known at school. She was pleased to see him, and he was, apparently, pleased to see her, but even as she glowed, having asked him round for tea, you felt uneasy. The invitation was too easily given, and too easily accepted, and she talked of him too enthusiastically afterwards, as if she was a teenager again.

At the very end . . . that tethering. Catherine wondering if there is bad-blood in her grandson, ‘ . . . a Pit-bull; a Rottweiler . . .’ and would she blow his brains out in some future scenario.

And not a word spoken.

Who else is writing stuff like this? Chasing authenticity? Certainly no-one reclining on a beach in California.

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