Happy Valley 2 with Sarah Lancashire

Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions

Cut above: Catherine (Sarah Lancashire)

Sarah Lancashire is back in a second, gripping series as the fearless small-town cop

★★★★½ BBC1, Tuesday, 9 February, 9pm

SO FAR this winter we’ve had new series of Midsomer Murders and Death in Paradise. Both are hugely popular, marvellous entertainment, lovely settings – and ever so dull.

Returning Vera and Shetland are decent whodunits, lovely settings, etc. Endeavour 3 is perhaps the best of the comeback bunch.

But now we’re getting down to the good stuff. The much talked-about The People v OJ Simpson arrives this month, along with Better Call Saul 2, The Night Manager – and the second series of the superb Happy Valley.

Writer/creator Sally Wainwright did something distinctive with the crime format in series one. The story of small-town police sergeant Cath Cawood – the awesome Sarah Lancashire – was much more than a cop procedural.

Tommy Lee Royce returns

As anyone who has previously been immersed in Last Tango in Halifax or Scott & Bailey knows, Wainwright’s stories offer living, breathing characters whose lives can be ordinary, profound, flawed and funny.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 02/02/2016 - Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: **EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL TUESDAY 2ND FEBRUARY** Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall

Rock and a hard place: Catherine deals with a sheep

The good news is that series 2 picks up nicely where the first concluded, offering a further mesh of compelling narratives. The BBC now issues a long decree about what should be mentioned in previews such as this, so I’ll stick precisely to what is mentionable.

Catherine is getting back to rebuilding her life, now that the vicious Tommy Lee Royce – James Norton, fresh from War and Peace – is behind bars. However, his hatred of Catherine is resurrected when he learns she has discovered a rotting body…

Sarah Lancashire is again very believable in the emotionally challenging role of a police officer battling to be a good family member and cop in the drug- and poverty-hit Calder Valley of West Yorkshire. As we know from series one, her daughter committed suicide after being raped by Royce, and as she endeavours to bring up her daughter’s son, Ryan, this heartache comes back to haunt her in series 2.  [Read more…]

Happy Valley 2 is on in February

It’s hard to get too charged up over the recent return of Death in Paradise or Midsomer Murders, but the impending arrival of Happy Valley 2 is a different matter. The first series was seriously brilliant, boasting powerhouse performances from Sarah Lancashire and James Norton and receiving a glut of deserved awards, including a Bafta for best series. It will reappear on BBC1 next month and, as the pithy trailer above reveals, evil Tommy (Norton) will still haunt the drama following his capture by Catherine. Writer Sally Wainwright was also on the Bafta podium for crafting this emotional and riveting story. If you missed series 1, catch up with it now and get ready for the next instalment. Unmissable.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 18:00:01 on 08/11/2015 - Programme Name: Happy Valley series 2 - TX: 01/01/2016 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: **Early Release Image** Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) - (C) Red Productions - Photographer: Ben Blackall

Arresting drama: Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley 2

From Darkness, BBC1, Anne-Marie Duff

Claire Church (ANNE-MARIE DUFF), John Hind (JOHNNY HARRIS)

Ex-partners in crime: Claire (Anne-Marie Duff) and John (Johnny Harris)

Engrossing tale about a woman trying to escape her former life as a police officer

★★★ BBC1, starts Sunday, 4 October, 9pm

WE HAVE evidence that a new gang has muscled in to shake up crime shows on British TV. The members behind it are all women and the results have been pretty disturbing.

Claire Church (ANNE-MARIE DUFF) in From Darkness

Haunted: Former detective Claire

That’s because writers such as Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley), Abi Morgan (the forthcoming River) and here Katie Baxendale with From Darkness have moved firmly away from the jaded whodunit format into more haunting territory.

Their dramas offer more than crime scenes and forensics, but look into lives damaged by enforcing the law or being a victim of crime. Happy Valley was a character-driven portrayal of a female police officer’s private and case-related battles, while River is an off-kilter look at a detective traumatised by the loss of his partner.

Anne-Marie Duff as Claire

From Darkness is another drama delving into the psychology of a young officer, this one damaged by her experience working on the vice scene. Claire Church, played by Anne-Marie Duff, has run away just about as far as possible from her former life as a Manchester constable can get. She now lives quietly with her new partner and daughter in the Western Isles of Scotland.

Programme Name: From Darkness - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: - (C) BBC - Photographer: Nicola Dove

Escape: Claire’s home on the Western Isles

She is not pleased when her former boss, John Hind (a gruff Johnny Harris), turns up wanting her input after the remains of two women are found on a building site. He believes her knowledge of the Manchester vice trade 16 years previously could unlock his investigation.

‘Claire, what are you doing here?’ the city slicker detective says, on arriving at her island, home to 43 residents and no TV. She tells him that he should not have dropped by, that he’s become a fat, drinking, embittered, middle-aged police cliché.

[Read more…]

Why Happy Valley is the best drama on TV

Siobhan Finneran and Sarah Lancashire in BBC1’s Happy Valley. Pics: BBC

BBC1’s excellent Happy Valley reaches episode 5 tonight (9pm), following last week’s cliffhanger in which Catherine stumbled in a bloody mess into the street after her fight with Tommy. The violence in that episode stirred some media controversy, but overall Happy Valley has been a great ratings success. Here we look at what makes it one of the year’s stand-out dramas…

Sarah Lancashire 

The Bafta-winning actress has put in some fine performances in recent years, from Corrie to Last Tango in Halifax, but it will be a long time before she gets a role to draw out the full emotional range of her talents as Sgt Catherine Cawood has. Audiences of up to eight million have warmed to this woman carrying the mental scars of her daughter’s rape and suicide, but who is physically and morally tough, and sometimes dryly humorous despite everything. Where The Killing‘s Sarah Lund was a dour enigma, Catherine shows her emotional side and is liked all the more for it. She is also not perfect, venting her frustrations out on little grandson Ryan, sleeping with her ex, and she can be horrible to her sister, Clare. Sarah Lancashire has put in a brilliant performance portraying this woman battling demons past and present and must give Olivia Colman a run for her money at forthcoming awards ceremonies. Writer Sally Wainwright is talking to the Beeb about doing a second series – but surely she couldn’t put her lead actress through so much again?

Great characters and cast

What a cast. Steve Pemberton as the self-serving cretin Kevin Weatherill who sets the kidnap nightmare

Joe Armstrong as Ashley Cowgill

in motion and then tries to blame everyone else (by the end you almost think he’s more vile than Tommy); George Costigan as the tormented dad of hostage Ann (Charlie Murphy); Joe Armstrong as the villain Ashley Cowgill; Siobhan Finneran as Catherine’s sister, Clare; and, of course, James Norton has been very creepy as the deluded sexual predator Tommy Lee Royce. All of the main characters have been distinctive, believable and well-developed, which no doubt helped to summon terrific performances from the actors.

Setting

Sophie Rundle as Kirsten

So many dramas seem to get commissioned simply because they have pretty settings – Oxford (Lewis), Cornwall (Doc Martin), Northumberland (Vera), Shetland (you know where). But Hebden Bridge informs and enriches the story in Happy Valley. The ironic title picks out the fact that this community has a problem – drugs, with all the attendant criminal and social chaos they bring. The place is woven into the plot so that it’s almost a character. Ashley Cowgill facilitates the kidnap, but he’s also the frontman for the drug kingpins, and the whole narcotics epidemic is what Catherine asks her ex-husband early on to investigate. There’s more to this place than pretty scenery.

Sarah Lancashire in make-up

Six of the best

Well done to the Beeb for giving it six episodes. So many series are crammed into two or three (Prey, Undeniable), which limits the space for writers to showcase the characters, to reveal their contradictions and hidden sides. Whereas the best – The Fall, Broadchurch and the top US shows – always play out over a longer run and are a far richer experience. Sally Wainwright filled these six episodes with twists and violence, as you’d expect, but also tears, emotion and warmth.

Writing that is engrossing

The final two episodes pack quite an emotional wallop, and by then most of the crime element of the story has been resolved, except the whereabouts of Tommy. Instead, writer Sally Wainwright takes the time to explore the fallout from the kidnap – for victim Ann, for Ashley Cowgill and particularly for Catherine, who is in complete turmoil having been traumatised by her confrontation with Tommy. In most series concerned with a crime, the impact of the violence is glossed over – the baddies are arrested or killed, and the cops walk off into the sunset unscathed. Sensitive, heartfelt writing brings Catherine and the story alive in these episodes. Catherine is bloody-minded, angry, unreasonable – but we know what she’s been through. And scenes such as the one in which she tells Nevison about Ann’s rape are just wonderfully written and very moving. It’s a very fine drama.

Check out…

BBC1 Happy Valley
Sally Wainwright on the Happy Valley controversy

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Happy Valley, BBC1, Sarah Lancashire, Steve Pemberton PREVIEW


Rating: ★★★★

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 29 April, 9pm

Story: When accountant Kevin Weatherill enlists a local dodgy businessman into a badly thought-out extortion plan, he sets off a sequence of disastrous events that will impact on a small Yorkshire town and its local police sergeant, Catherine Cawood.

OF THIS week’s four major new drama series, Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley is the most engrossing.

Vera and Hinterland conform to the whodunit procedural format. While they will delight many

viewers, they are the usual murder-investigation-solution plot we’ve seen a million times.

ITV’s Prey has the advantage of the very popular John Simm in the lead, and runs Happy Valley a close second in raising anticipation levels. But Prey, an adrenaline-pumping, action-packed thriller, is very different to the BBC1 six-parter.

Sarah Lancashire, seen recently in Wainwright’s other acclaimed hit Last Tango in Halifax, takes the lead here as a police sergeant in a beautiful West Yorkshire town blighted by drug crime.

Sarah Lancashire as Sgt Cawood

She plays Catherine Cawood, a good cop with a life that’s been through the storms. As she tells an addict head whose about to set light to himself in a playground, ‘I’m Catherine, by the way! I’m 47, I’m divorced, I live with my sister – who’s a recovering heroin addict – I have two grown-up children. One dead and one who doesn’t speak to me. And a grandson!’

And that’s not the half of it. She is shaken by news that a convicted drug dealer, Tommy Lee Royce, is out of prison after eight years inside, and we can guess that this news is going to affect on her in a big way.

But already there is more going on here than you get in 10 series of Midsomer Murders.

In a second story string there is Steve Pemberton as Kevin Weatherill, an accountant in Nevison Gallagher’s firm. He wants to send his daughter to a posh school and asks for a raise. When Nevison (George Costigan) initially blows cold, Kevin, being greedy and stupid, decides to involve a local crook in a scheme to extort the money from Nevison.

Fine cast, fine setting, great plot

This plotline bears a staggering similarity to Fargo the movie, with Weatherill as the Jerry Lundegaard

character, who sets in train an appalling chain of events through his bungling and selfishness. And by the end of the episode, we realise this tragic twist is going to entangle Sgt Cawood too.

Sally Wainwright, who also helped to develop the very successful Scott & Bailey with Suranne Jones, has created characters who immediately pull you in to a rich, finely balanced story. All the cast are terrific, with Lancashire as believable as ever, Pemberton perfect as the man you want to punch, and Joe Armstrong menacing as the ‘businessman’ Weatherill involves in his scheme.

The setting – a lovely town with major problems – is interesting without having to be chocolate-box twee.

There will no doubt be tears for these characters before the end, but Happy Valley should have viewers committed to their journey by the conclusion of episode one.

Cast: Sarah Lancashire Catherine Cawood, Steve Pemberton Kevin Weatherill, James Norton Tommy Lee Royce, Adam Long Lewis Whippey, Joe Armstrong Ashley Cowgill, George Costigan Nevison Gallagher

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Scott & Bailey 2 – Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp PREVIEW

Bailey (Suranne Jones) and Scott (Lesley Sharp). Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½

ITV1, starts Monday, 12 March, 9pm 

Story: The detective constables Scott and Bailey return to duty on Manchester’s Major Incident Team. Rachel Bailey’s estranged brother turns up on her doorstep. She takes him in with a warning that he must put his criminal past behind him. Janet Scott tells her husband, Adrian, to leave the house after he rows with her mother. Meanwhile, the badly burned body of a disabled man turns up.

Sisters are doing it for themselves in a range of new hit dramas on UK television just now. Scott & Bailey has women all along its production line and returns after a quiet launch last year that still managed to wow an audience of 9.4 million viewers. That’s pretty huge in these multi-channel days.

It was created and written by Sally Wainwright (At Home with the Braithwaites) and has a good cast led by Suranne Jones (the former Corrie actress who came up the idea for S&B with Sally Lindsay, who also stars here) and Lesley Sharp.

A witness objects to Rachel’s line of questioning

Women on top
Their boss is Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore, who has also written episode seven of this series), and we meet her colleague and best mate, the formidable DCI Julie Dodson (Pippa Haywood, playing a vastly different character from mousey Harriet in Prisoners’ Wives).

Men pop up too. They tend to be the immature, dumb detectives, the nagging husband or inadequate brother. There must be quite a few of those around, judging by the loud chord S&B seems to have struck with female viewers.

So what are the unique selling points of S&B (apart from lacklustre men)? First, it’s strongly character-focused. The opening episode is 10 minutes old before it gets into any serious detective work.

Troublesome brother
Rachel’s estranged brother, 28-year-old Dominic, appears out of the rain one night. She reluctantly takes him in on the proviso that he stirs clear of armed robbery. He seems too reticent and inept for that line of criminality. This is a bloke who can’t put a pan on the cooker without nearly burning down the flat.

Meanwhile, Janet’s husband with the appalling haircut is kicking off about having the mother-in-law staying with them. When he flounces out during a row, Janet tells him not to come back.

‘Men are just shit, aren’t they,’ Rachel says to Janet. And she should know, having been dumped in series one by that caddish Rupert Graves just when she was expecting an engagement ring.

Marriage troubles await Scott

Burned bodies
The show’s other strong point is that it avoids the forensic porn so many shows thrive on. The case being investigated here in a two-part story is about a disabled man’s burned body being found, soon followed up by another burned corpse.

Both men were tortured. Now, if this were Silent Witness we’d be taken on a pointless fingertip journey through each victim’s viscera. S&B doesn’t confuse voyeuristic gore with dramatic storytelling and the visual horror is never exploited.

Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are appealing as Britain’s very own Cagney and Lacey – they’re fine performers and dissimilar enough to make believable friends. And the moments that stand out are the small, truthful scenes, such as Scott and Bailey paying a painful visit to the wife of the second victim.

Sexy colleague
It’s a moment that says something about their tough job, and the women doing it.

If only the men would get their act together. In episode two Rachel finds herself waking up next to a sexy colleague and old flame. Now, what are the chances of Sean turning out to a faithful, witty and thoroughly decent chap?

Cast: Suranne Jones DC Rachel Bailey, Lesley Sharp DC Janet Scott, Amelia Bullmore DCI Gill Murray, Nicholas Gleaves DS Andy Roper, Ben Batt DC Kevin Lumb, David Prosho DC Ian Mitchell, Tony Mooney DC Pete Readyough, Delroy Brown DC Lee Broadhurst, Sally Lindsay Alison, Vincent Regan DCS Dave Murray, Tony Pitts Adrian, Pippa Haywood DCI Julie Dodson, Liam Boyle Dominic

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