sat 13/07/2024

Happy Valley, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Happy Valley, BBC One

Happy Valley, BBC One

Wainwright puts Lancashire back in Yorkshire as copper with personal problems

Sarah Lancashire: traumatised by grief

There is no one writing more brilliantly for television at the moment. Sally Wainwright’s star has risen on the back of two hugely popular series that, more or less cheerfully, celebrate women of a certain age.

After the female buddy cop show Scott & Bailey came Last Tango in Halifax, a romantic comedy for pensioners with troubled daughters. Put them together and what have you got? Happy Valley stars Sarah Lancashire as a copper in rural West Yorkshire, but turns out to be rather more than a plucky merger of Wainwright’s twin interests in policing and life in the windswept northern moors.

This being Wainwright territory, Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Lancashire) is adept at smiling in the face of personal tragedy. Work is where she gets to be light and fluffy in an area of low-level crime and harmless druggies. At home she’s bringing up a grandson orphaned soon after birth by the suicide of his mother. His father is a rapist (James Norton) who has just come out of prison. He has anger management issues, and he’s still at primary school.

Hers is not the only hard-luck story. Where Catherine merely fantasises about wreaking revenge for her daughter’s death, apparently meek pen-pushing company man Kevin Weatherill (Steve Pemberton) is provoked by envy to go to a very dark place. Refused the raise he needs to help his daughters through private school, with his wife in a wheelchair, he accidentally discovers that the local holiday caravan park owner (Joe Armstrong) is a druglord. He enlists him in a plot to kidnap the boss’s spoilt daughter (Charlie Murphy), only to discover too late that his boss (George Costigan) has changed his mind: his wife has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he will pay the school fees himself. When Kevin goes to the police station to confess to Catherine, it's as if the words are lodged in his larynx.

It’s not just Wainwright’s fondness for a tension-releasing gag that pulls the wool over your eyes. The presence of Pemberton, an actor usually associated with black humour, would seem to promise at least a little light relief. But no, this looks set to be an unusual police drama about vengeance and conscience rather than some frothy flat-capped crime caper. The brutal abduction scene – by none other than Catherine's daughter's rapist – is like something out of The Sopranos, while the splendid Lancashire digs deep to present a woman traumatised by grief. You know it’s good when you care, and want to know what happens next.

It’s not just Wainwright’s fondness for a tension-releasing gag that pulls the wool over your eyes


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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this programme is fantastic, nail biting and i don't want to end

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