Scott and Bailey review (part two)

Roisin Muldoon blogs at But it can’t be from Dolly Clackett!

Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones), Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) and Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp)

More than its cases, Scott and Bailey is interested in its eponymous characters, their relationship with one another and their relationships with the people around them. As has become usual in police dramas, the idea that it’s difficult for ambitious and successful police to maintain successful relationships with people outside of the job is explored.

DI Janet Scott is a talented and meticulous detective, and she has a family at home who are important to her. Her marriage to the dependable but dull Adrian is failing, however. While this deterioration isn’t given a lot of space over the six episodes, the shorthand tells us what we need to know. Adrian is boring and unambitious, they no longer have anything to say to one another. Janet is being pursued by her colleague DI Andy Roper (played by Sharp’s real-life husband, Nicholas Gleaves) and, while this isn’t presented as ideal in any respects, it’s clear to see that they have more in common, have more sexual chemistry and a better rapport. This isn’t a sizzling office romance, however. Lesley Sharp plays Scott as fairly straight laced, and Andy comes across more as a lonely obsessive than an ardent lover and so I’d be really interested to see how this relationship might be developed in a second series.

Andy Roper (Nicholas Gleaves) and Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp)

Scott’s younger partner, DC Rachel Bailey, fares no better. The opening episode sees her being unceremoniously dumped by her long term boyfriend, Nick Savage. Rupert Graves plays this slimy, manipulative barrister really well so although the reveal that he has a wife and children stashed away in the country is shocking, it’s not unrealistic. Some of the criticisms around the show have suggested that it’s unlikely that a highly intelligent detective like Rachel could fail to see that her boyfriend of two years was leading a double life, but actually I think this is a really interesting piece of character development. Rachel is an intuitive detective and is able to see connections that others miss, such as her capture of the murderer of Susan Metcalfe in the second episode, and the connection she spots between the murder victims linked to Janet’s childhood friend Veronica. I think her inability or unwillingness to see Nick’s duplicity is an interesting way of exploring the popular narrative that a detective has difficulty maintaining personal relationships. When Rachel allows Nick back into her life after Janet’s stabbing towards the end of the series it’s unsurprising. Her confidence in herself is limited to her professional life.

Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) and Nick Savage (Rupert Graves)

When the series was being broadcast I griped a bit that it would be more interesting dramatically if Rachel behaved with more professionalism. She behaves illegally and immorally when she uses the Police National Computer to obtain Nick’s home address, and this breach of regulations compromises her professionally and personally. So does the information she passes to Nick Savage about Georgios Stelikos, which allows Stelikos to beat a rape charge, leading to his eventual (somewhat implausible) murder. With that said, I think I judged the show a bit too harshly on this matter because Rachel’s lapses in professionalism make the central relationship between her, Janet Scott and their DCI Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) richer and more interesting.

I can’t think of another detective drama that has a role like the one played by Amelia Bullmore in Scott and Bailey. The closest I can come to is DCI Innocent (Rebecca Front) in Lewis, but her character is usually more a disappointed mum than anything else. There is a real sense that this is a difficult character to write, and I think it took a few episodes for Gill Murray to become really interesting. Murray and Scott have been friends and colleagues for a long time, and there’s an element of trust and humour in their relationship. Gill gives Janet some space to work on the Veronica case, and when Scott comes back to work it’s Murray that tells her that she isn’t obliged to interview her attacker. Her relationship with Rachel Bailey is less well defined – she’s impressed by the younger detective’s talent and wants to give her opportunities but there isn’t the same rapport there. Rachel takes this personally, calling her ‘Godzilla’ behind her back, but Gill is neither disinterested nor uncaring, she’s just got a job to do.

Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore)

The mentor that Rachel needs – and gets – is her partner Janet. Janet allows Rachel the space to make her own mistakes, such as PNC-ing Nick’s car to obtain his address, but she is direct and honest about the implications of these actions. When Rachel gets engaged to Nick, Janet tells her in no uncertain terms that she’s being played, pointing out that if they were married, Rachel could not be compelled to give evidence against Nick should the fact that he had a sexual relationship with a juror come to light. Janet is direct with Rachel in a way that many of us wish we could be direct with our friends when they’re pissing us off, but she does want to look after her colleague. She takes her in when Nick makes her homeless, and in the final episode she risks her own job in an attempt to persuade Gill not to report Rachel to the police standards board for using the PNC illegally.

The relationship between Janet and Rachel is consistently interesting, I think. It has neither the touchy-feely warmth nor the bitchy rivalry we’re used to seeing when female friendships are depicted onscreen. Their out of hours friendship is clear from the way that Rachel seeks advice on personal matters from Janet, but there’s a formality there that works in a really interesting way. Their friendship has been forged while working closely together in an emotionally demanding job where they’re responsible for one another’s safety on a daily basis, rather than from a common background or a shared outlook on life. While I struggled a bit with this to begin with, I’ve come to think that it’s actually quite a refreshing way to look at a relationship like this, and I’d be interested to see where this is taken if Scott and Bailey gets a second series.

I think Scott and Bailey is made more of win than of fail. There are some issues there, but considering that the first series was a short one I think it’s established a lot of really interesting ideas. I’m always pleased to see a primetime drama depicting professional women working in a professional way, and that’s something that is rarer than you might think. I’d like to see Scott and Bailey go on to a second series, I think it has the potential to become something really interesting. In the six episodes of series one, the wider Major Incidents Team was introduced but not really given the space to become an interesting character in its own right. The last episode ends on a note that suggests to me this could become a really good ensemble drama, as we see Janet, Rachel, Gill and Andy gathering in the pub after a traumatic day. I’d like to see where they go with that. It’s rare that a British drama grabs me (weaned as I have been on quality US imports), far less an ITV one, but I was genuinely interested by Scott and Bailey. I’d like to see some more of its form.

Scott and Bailey review (part one)

Roisin Muldoon blogs at But it can’t be from Dolly Clackett!

As you may have gathered from my previous guest blogs on New Tricks, I’m a bit of a sucker for police procedural drama. If there are women involved, even better.

Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) and Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp)

I’ve long been a fan of the wonderful Cagney and Lacey, and so I was excited and interested to see what ITV’s new drama Scott and Bailey would have to offer. It was being trailed as a British answer to Cagney and Lacey and I can sort of see why. The series ran for six episodes and while it was by no means impeccable I think it has many good points. Chief among them, in my opinion, is the fact that this is a primetime drama which was conceived by women and written by a woman, with the technical input of former DI Diane Taylor, who worked as part of Manchester Metropolitan Police’s Major Incident Team. It means that the show largely avoids the pitfalls and stereotypes that you usually get in cop shows about female detectives. But I’ll get to that later.

Suranne Jones conceived the idea alongside her friend and former Coronation Street co-star Sally Lindsay when they were chatting in the pub. Apparently they’re both fans of Cagney and Lacey, and although the finished show differs somewhat from their original treatment it’s easy to see the germ of that idea. Sally Wainwright was brought on board to write, and I think that a lot of the Northern humour comes from her – she’s previously written for both Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and most famously she wrote At Home With The Braithwaites.

One of Scott and Bailey’s charms is that while it’s not exactly funny, it’s very good at capturing the kinds of humour that people employ when they’re at work. This is a difficult concept for me to articulate, but a good example of it comes in the fourth episode, where porn star Vicky Birkinshaw is accused of murdering her husband. The man’s disappearance is brought to the MIT’s attention when his mistress becomes concerned as to his whereabouts and suggests his wife has a hand in it, as “she makes Myra Hindley look like a Blue Peter presenter.” I’m sure this line wasn’t intended to be one that could make you laugh out loud, but it did amuse me because it effortlessly combined the two worst things you could be if you’re in an ITV drama. For the rest of the episode the detectives refer to Vicky as Myra, which is a nice example of attention to detail in the dialogue.

Gestures towards naturalism

Given that, there are some frustrating things about the way the show’s dialogue has been written. I think Scott and Bailey tries hard to have naturalistic dialogue and rhythms of speech and it isn’t always successful. It stands out from other detective shows in the ways in which it approaches interviews and interrogations. The language used in these scenes is meticulous – this is especially apparent when Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) is leading the interview. She speaks slowly and very clearly, methodically working up to each point. It takes a bit of getting used to, and I admire the desire for these scenes to be realistic and authentic, but it doesn’t always work, and leaves the show feeling a bit uneven.

Part of the reason for this inconsistency is the nature of the cases themselves. It feels a bit like Scott and Bailey has only a limited interest in the cases its detectives are policing. In addition, the realism of the dialogue doesn’t quite match up to the depiction of the crimes themselves. In six episodes, two of the crimes revolve around gruesome sexual attacks and mutilations. Another is the murder and dismemberment of Vicky Birkinshaw’s husband in a snuff movie, a case which is rendered even more distressing and unsavoury by the revelation that Birkinshaw sold her teenaged daughter to an older man as a sex slave. These are lurid cases and while I can’t deny that these sorts of things do happen, I find the emphasis on these types of stories sits uneasily with the more realistic, procedural aspects of the show. To my mind, this is a shame because the ways in which we see these crimes being worked on is really interesting, and the cases let the detection down a bit.

Read part two here!