In the last few days I had the pleasure of meeting a real life TV script editor, and a real life TV scriptwriter. They were both brilliant and full of great advice. I also tried spam (the luncheon meat, not the Viagra emails) for the first time, which was probably much more of an Event than it should have been.
But forget about spam. I've been revisiting the work of Jimmy McGovern. I was informed a few days ago that he is a small man, in specs. Suffice to say, he is also the scriptwriter who has produced, in my opinion, the best gritty British dramas to ever appear on our dusty smudgy TV screens. I revisited him because we had to watch "Breaking the Waves" for class, and I'm half convinced that Lars von Trier is a Danish McGovern. Or Jimmy McGovern is a Scottish von Trier.
I'm a fan of McGovern’s genuinely harrowing "Hillsborough", the plodding but sexy "The Lakes", and the sad and criminally forgotten "Priest", which is so forgotten, in fact, that it hasn't even made McGovern's Wikipedia page. But the best thing he's ever written, or one of the best things anyone's ever written, is "Cracker", starring Robbie Coltrane as Fitz, the world's best contemporary detective character.
Fitz is actually a psychologist, not a detective, with every flaw under the sun but a wit and frankness to remember. The stories cover everything you'd ever hope for in gritty psychological drama, and then some. Religion, race, sex, politics, society and lots and lots of mysterious crimes. Cracker is brilliant not only because of Fitz, but because the fascination with the crimes isn’t the whodunit, but the whydidtheydoit. I realise that isn't as pithy. One of the most interesting but (psychologically) disgusting stories, which serves as the subplot through a number of episodes, covers the painfully gradual decline of one of the coppers.
People have been recommending McGovern's latest, "Accused", so I watched the first episode of that. The absurdly glowering opening credits are followed by the silent revelation that Christopher Eccleston, possibly the most intimidating actor on TV, is increasingly resembling an overcooked parsnip.
I can remember little of the rest of the episode, but it may have been because I knew not to invest in the character because we'd never see him again. Each episode follows a new character's story.
One thing I don't think McGovern writes all that well is women. They're always over-confident (when they're not fragile little Catholic daffodils), often nonchalantly sexually promiscuous in a manner that would never be anywhere close to sympathetic in a male character, and they still do the ironing. The only difference between McGovern's women now and the women written in the '60s is that McGovern's women iron feistily.
I found this on Google Images. My favourite part is where it warns the reader that "Robbie Coltrane is not the burglar".