I love Scott and Bailey. I had thought that with Suranne Jones’ success in “Dr Foster” that we might have seen the last of this Manchester-set Police drama so I was delighted to see it back for Series 5. There are only three episodes but I know that for the next three weeks this is going to be the highlight of my television viewing.
There have been changes. Amelia Bulmore is no longer in it as Scott and Bailey’s boss, DCI Gill Murray and I still haven’t got over the departure of Tracie Bennett who was absolutely brilliant as Rachel Bailey’s Mum. Also, Sally Wainwright, writer of the exemplary “Happy Valley” who created this alongside Diane Taylor has handed on the script-writing duties. The whole conception of the show is fascinating, if a little complex. The idea was originally drawn up by Suranne and co-star Sally Lindsay, who plays her sister, who were lamenting the lack of strong parts for women. They took it to Nicola Schindler of Red Productions who commissioned Sally Wainwright to produce a script. ITV felt it needed a bit more work before they green-lighted it so Wainwright joined up with Diane Taylor, an ex Detective Inspector from Greater Manchester Police to add that touch of authenticity. It shows that it is very much a labour of love from all the women concerned and its strength has always been in its depiction of women, aided by a superb cast. By the last series Amelia Bulmore had written a number of episodes and put her character very much through the wringer as she struggled to cope with alcoholism.
Scott and Bailey’s two Sallys – Wainwright and Lindsay
This is a drama which has always held its “Coronation Street” credentials close. Set in Manchester with Jones and Lindsey and Bulmore all much- loved Street alumni. This connection goes further as writer of this episode (and a number of others) is Lee Warburton, who apart from being the first man I have mentioned in relation to this programme also took his turn in the Street as Tony Horrocks (1995-8).
At the start of the episode Rachel (Surrane Jones) has returned after a year in London, where if the brief montage shown was anything to go by she had a good time. She turns up back at her old job after her secondment in vice without having told best friend Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) that she was back. I was initially a little concerned because what you need in this programme is someone to rankle Rachel and put her back up as this is what Jones is so superb at (cf: “Dr Foster) and I thought that their boss had always served this role but new character Anna (Jing Lusi) will fill this gap with aplomb. There was (as there was in “Happy Valley”) a wonderfully excruciating moment when someone takes banter too far . In this case it was Anna who had got inappropriate by saying “the bitch is back” about Rachel and got the Suranne Jones hard stare which may even eclipse the force-field of a Sarah Lancashire “Happy Valley” hard stare.
Keeping the comparisons with “HV” going is that both shows have real humour in the blackness and the humour is driven by the writing and characterisation. When Rachel arrives at the crime scene after a year away she is greeted by the on-site pathologist, Scary Mary, with “Hello stranger. Put on weight? We need to crack on.” Rachel, whose sister is staying with her at her flat has a fondness for air fresheners, Bailey tells Scott, “The other morning I woke up, I thought I’d been embalmed” and when Rachel is appointed Acting Detective Inspector for the case she is told by her superior, Supt. Julie Dodson (Pippa Haywood), “Be ready to brief a Gold meeting at 12 and don’t come dressed like Little Mix”. Warburton in his scripts has not abandoned the two locations which really brings out the best in the characters – the ladies loo (about 20 mins in) and having a cigarette in the alley (about 30 mins). These are Scott and Bailey essentials as it is the scenes between Jones and Sharp which add much to its greatness.
There’s a pretty explosive plot going on as well, it’s not all fag and loo breaks. This is intense, modern crime where phones and computers play a part. There’s serial killing going on, fairly randomly and it becomes evident from the Dark Net (still never sure what that is although as Rachel says “It’s not illegal to use the Dark Net” it always seems to bring up things that are) that someone is killing and filming and it could be a grisly version of “Dare” that the police officers are dealing with. Technology is moving so fast that the police cannot keep up with it. A potential love interest for Rachel if the twinkle in his eye is anything to go by SCAS Neil Simpson (Gregg Chillin who despite his name previously smouldered throughout “Da Vinci’s Demons”) tells her, “In terms of internet crime the police are like your granny trying to programme the video player.” How our use of modern technology is impacting our lives is also brought home dramatically for Janet whose family is plunged into chaos caused by boundaries being overstepped.
I would imagine (although I don’t want to know) that this plot line will continue for the three episodes as it is a crime spree which has continued for seven years I don’t imagine it will be solved too quickly but I will be there hanging off every line and watching the best girl-cop duo ever (yes, it far eclipses “Cagney and Lacey”) and some of the best performances you’ll see this year on television.
Scott and Bailey Series 5 began on ITV at 9.00 pm on Wednesday 13th April. It is available on catch-up on the ITV hub