Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society

Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society
June 2020

    Michaela Coel
  Exploring consent
Television www.rts.org.uk September 2013     1
Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society
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Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society
Journal of The Royal Television Society
                                                                                                                   June 2020 l Volume 57/6

    From the CEO
                       It has been a busy few                Valley have each organised online                              modern relationships and the thorny
                       weeks for the RTS.                    discussions about how broadcasters                             question of sexual consent.
                       We’ve held awards                     have responded to the crisis. Televi-                             With the lockdowns easing, global
                       ceremonies at both                    sion’s news pages carry reports of                             stockmarkets have been rebounding.
                       ends of the UK and                    these events, which emphasise the                              Leo Barraclough considers the most
                       hosted a stellar array                challenges of working remotely.                                likely media mergers and acquisitions
                       of digital events.                       Last month’s RTS discussion on the                          in the months ahead.
        Congratulations to all the winners                   impact of Covid-19 on TV and related                              Finally, huge congratulations to Tim
     of the RTS Scotland Awards, whose                       industries was stimulating and pro-                            Davie on his new DG role. The BBC
     streamed ceremony was presented by                      vocative. It rightly generated head-                           has an impressive leader familiar with
     Scottish actor and comedian Karen                       lines, so a big thank you to panellists                        commerce and public service, creativ-
     Dunbar. Well done, too, to all the vic-                 Lindsey Clay, from Thinkbox, Claire                            ity and business, normal times and
     tors at the RTS Devon and Cornwall                      Enders, Damian Green MP and Sean                               times of crisis.
     Student Television Awards.                              McGuire, from Oliver & Ohlbaum.
        The pandemic has had a profound                      Don’t miss the report in this issue.
     impact on newsrooms everywhere,                            Our cover story looks at the brilliant
     and our centres in Devon and Corn-                      Michaela Coel’s new BBC One drama,
     wall, the Isle of Man and Thames                        I May Destroy You, which explores                              Theresa Wise

                                                                                                                                               Cover: I May Destroy You (BBC)

 4           Brian Woods’s TV Diary
             Documentary-maker Brian Woods survives sleepless
             nights to create a unique portrait of coronavirus Britain                  16                Mr Fix-it
                                                                                                          Roz Laws talks to Jay Blades, presenter of zeitgeist show
                                                                                                          The Repair Shop, whose own life story offers inspiration
                                                                                                          for these troubled times

 5           Rising star
             Matthew Bell asks Lily Newmark – Ruthie in Sex Education
             – about her role in Netflix’s new fantasy drama Cursed
                                                                                        18                Getting inventive in lockdown
                                                                                                          Julie Graham shares how she created an original online
                                                                                                          drama with a little help from some famous friends

 6           Working Lives: Make-up artist
             Strictly Come Dancing make-up artist Lisa Armstrong
             is interviewed by Matthew Bell
                                                                                        20                Our new normal
                                                                                                          Steve Clarke listens to Andrea Scrosati, the COO of
                                                                                                          Fremantle, as he outlines the shape of the post-lockdown

 8           Comfort Classic: The Sweeney
             Matthew Bell salutes Britain’s best cop show, which
                                                                                                          world for producers

             painted a gritty, vibrant picture of a now-vanished city
                                                                                        22                The people’s writer
                                                                                                          Sally Wainwright, busy on season 2 of Gentleman Jack,

 9           Ear Candy: Grounded with Louis Theroux
             Kate Holman downloads a binge-box of the great
                                                                                                          tells the RTS why her work has to be grounded in reality

             interlocutor’s encounters with locked-down celebs
                                                                                        24                Predators prepare to pounce
                                                                                                          Leo Barraclough explains how the pandemic is

10           Personal and provocative
             As Michaela Coel’s new drama I May Destroy You hits
             our screens, Matthew Bell hears about her ‘vomit drafts’
                                                                                                          an opportunity for certain media companies and
                                                                                                          other investors

12           The economic impact of Covid-19
             An RTS panel examines the fallout from the crisis
             on television businesses
                                                                                        26                The Clinton conundrum
                                                                                                          An emotional new documentary provides a fresh take
                                                                                                          on the polarising figure of Hillary Clinton. Caroline Frost
                                                                                                          speaks to its director, Nanette Burstein

14           Crisis shows need for quality journalism
             ITN Chief Executive Anna Mallett tells Steve Clarke that
             her doctorate is less relevant than her people skills                      29                Our Friend in Belfast
                                                                                                          Vikkie Taggart gives the lowdown on her new normal,
                                                                                                          running Belfast indie Stellify Media from home

Editor                     Production, design, advertising   Royal Television Society   Subscription rates                     Printing              Legal notice
Steve Clarke               Gordon Jamieson                   3 Dorset Rise              UK £115                                ISSN 0308-454X        © Royal Television Society 2020.
smclarke_333@hotmail.com   gordon.jamieson.01@gmail.com      London EC4Y 8EN            Overseas (surface) £146.11             Printer: FE Burman    The views expressed in Television
News editor and writer     Sub-editor                        T: 020 7822 2810           Overseas (airmail) £172.22             20 Crimscott Street   are not necessarily those of the RTS.
Matthew Bell               Sarah Bancroft                    E: info@rts.org.uk         Enquiries: publication@rts.org.uk      London SE1 5TP        Registered Charity 313 728
bell127@btinternet.com     smbancroft@me.com                 W: www.rts.org.uk

Television www.rts.org.uk June 2020                                                                                                                                                     3
Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society
TV diary
                                     Documentary-maker Brian Woods
                                    survives sleepless nights to create a
                                    unique portrait of coronavirus Britain

                     ockdown begins five       ■ We need to get three types of         editors. The Other Planet in Leeds has
                     weeks early for me.       material: footage that we will send     given us all its edit suites, so we can
                     Not due to Covid-19       shooting producer-directors (PDs)       cut socially distanced. PDs watch
                     but because, on           to film properly; footage that people   screens in other suites on Zoom.
                     18 February, I become     will shoot on their phones, but set
                     a dad. Welcome, Ros-      up in advance, with guidance and        ■ Saturday 4 April. We’re way
                     coe. I plan to avoid      direction from us; and all the other    behind schedule; Channel 4 is
    looking at email for the first month.      user-generated content (UGC) that       worried – 3,185 clips have been
      Three weeks later, on 11 March, I        will be a surprise – it will be what-   uploaded by the public, and every
    give in. Louisa Compton, editor of         ever people send in.                    single one has to be watched.
    Channel 4’s Dispatches, wants quick                                                  By the early hours of Sunday
    ideas on coronavirus. I send her a         ■ We bring in PDs we know and           morning, we have a great part one
    barmy notion about shooting a film         trust to work alone; they are based     – filmic, funny, beautiful, moving.
    in one day, editing it in a week, and      in Glasgow, Belfast, London, Wales,     Somehow, 30-ish hours later, the
    broadcasting seven days after filming.     Norwich, Birmingham, Leeds and          other three parts are just as good.
                                               rural Yorkshire. A team of producers
    ■ It is 16 March, my 57th birthday.        focuses in parallel on specific UGC     ■ Monday 6 April, 2:00pm, I head for
    Louisa calls as I am driving Roscoe        sequences, while Harry Lock works       home. I’ve not slept much, but the
    to hospital for a jaundice check (he       through the night creating a public     adrenaline buzz gets me back to Lon-
    turns out to be fine). C4 likes the “in-   upload website.                         don safely.
    a-day” idea, but can we shoot it one                                                 Our absolute deadline is that the film
    day and broadcast the following night?     ■ Friday the 3rd dawns. I film the      has to be uploaded by 5:00pm, other-
       Only a newsperson would ask this.       lack of rush-hour traffic on the A4,    wise it will be dropped. At 5:21pm, I
    Anna Hall, our creative director, and      but much of the remainder of the        get a WhatsApp: “Red Bee confirms
    I confer – we just can’t do it justice     day is strangely quiet. After two       that it has a complete recording.”
    in a day, but suggest a compromise:        frantic weeks, all I can do is wait.
    shoot on a Friday, broadcast the fol-        Someone sends in a video of Lean      ■ At 8:30pm, 32 of us convene
    lowing Monday.                             on Me – it’s brilliant. We check the    on Zoom for a pre-transmission
                                               rights and find that Bill Withers’      party. Anna and I both make little
    ■ On 23 March, Britain goes into           passing is on the lunchtime news. We    speeches. Mine is to the effect that I
    lockdown, and Channel 4 commis-            send out an appeal for people to sing   had hoped we could pull it off, but,
    sions the film. The Monday chosen          along to Lean on Me, and this becomes   in the end, what we produced aston-
    for broadcast is 6 April. We have two      the last three minutes of the film.     ished me and is one of the best films
    weeks.                                                                             I have ever been involved with.
      Our team at Candour Productions          ■ Three weeks into lockdown, I feel
    in Leeds evacuates the building and        like a naughty schoolboy driving to     Brian Woods is founder and director of
    we quickly learn out how to use            Leeds along deserted motorways.         True Vision (London and Cambridge) and
    Zoom, to try to figure how to make            We have 48 hours to cut the film,    Candour Productions (Leeds). A Day in the
    this project happen in lockdown.           and a fantastic team of shift-working   Life of Coronavirus Britain is on All4.

Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society
didn’t feel too far removed from our
     Lily Newmark
                                                                                                       own reality – it’s just that the clothes
     as Ruthie in
                                                                                                       are a bit different and it was more
     Sex Education
                                                                                                       normal to carry a sword.”
                                                                                                          Not that Newmark got to wield a
                                                                                                       weapon, which was a serious disap-
                                                                                                       pointment. “My character, Pym, is not
                                                                                                       a fighter. It’s a great shame because
                                                                                                       I’ve been wanting – not to start a
                                                                                                       fight – but to get into combat scenes
                                                                                                       and I haven’t had the opportunity.”
                                                                                                          The coronavirus lockdown has
                                                                                                       been a “strange but not too unfamil-
                                                                                                       iar” experience for an actor: “You find
                                                                                                       yourself in periods without work
                                                                                                       where you have to keep yourself
                                                                                                       busy.” As befits a creative person, she
                                                                                                       has gone far beyond perfecting her
                                                                                                       cooking: “I built a retirement home
                                                                                                       for my cat out of some old boxes and
                                                                                                       papier mâché because his back legs
                                                                                                       aren’t working so well.”
                                                                                                          Newmark should have been filming
                                                                                                       series 2 of Sky One drama Temple, in
                                                                                                       which she plays the daughter of Mark
                                                                                                       Strong’s subterranean surgeon, who
                                                                                                       runs an illegal medical clinic beneath

            Rising star
                                                                                                       the eponymous London Tube station.
                                                                                                          When it starts shooting, she hopes
                                                                                                       the actors will have the freedom to
                                                                                                       perform. “I would hate for a series to
                                                                                                       be compromised in terms of its pro-

                                                                                                       duction values or performances
                                                                                                       because of new [production] regula-
                                                                                                       tions. But the priority is people’s
                                      In the limelight                                                 health and safety and, if that means
                                                                                                       waiting longer in order to so some-
                                                                                                       thing in a more authentic way, then
     Matthew Bell speaks to Lily Newmark – Ruthie                                                      we’ll just have to wait.”
      in Sex Education – who has a major role in                                                          She adds, laughing: “Temple is pretty
                                                                                                       much set in a sort of underground
          Netflix’s new fantasy drama Cursed                                                           lockdown so perhaps this [crisis]

                                                                                                       could inspire performances to be
                    ily Newmark is               opted for theology at university, but                 more authentic.”
                    increasingly hard to         “decided that wasn’t going to make                       Despite her enforced lay-off, now is
                    miss on screen, dividing     me my happiest self. It’s anthropol-                  a good time for young actors, rich in
                    her time between TV          ogy, either way: it’s studying people                 drama on both traditional TV and the
                    – Sex Education, Temple      as an actor or studying people in                     US streamers. “There’s no lack of
                    and Les Misérables – and     terms of their religious beliefs.”                    content and it’s not even as if it’s filler
   UK film – Nick Hornby adaptation                 She will be back on our screens                    – there’s a lot of good writing, espe-
   Juliet, Naked, the critically acclaimed Pin   shortly in one of Netflix’s big summer                cially from England,” she says, name-
   Cushion and Misbehaviour, set during          releases, Cursed, a 10-part reimagina-                checking the “amazing” Laurie Nunn
   the 1970 Miss World competition. She          tion of the legend of King Arthur.                    who penned Sex Education, in which
   even had a blink-and-you-miss-it role            “I’ve been wanting to do fantasy for               Newmark played Ruthie.
   in Solo: A Star Wars Story.                   so long,” she says, having read The                      “Perhaps if I’d started 10 years ago,
      Since leaving the East 15 Acting           Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and Harry               I would have had to go to LA or New
   School four years ago, the 26-year-old        Potter as a teenager. “I should take it               York,” she says, “but I’ve been very
   Londoner has racked up 15 credits to          up again, especially now. It’s a good                 happy to stay in London.” She has a few
   add to the part in NBC’s Emerald City         time to escape into another world.”                   projects of her own up her sleeve: “It’s
   that she nabbed while still studying.            Cursed, though, is an all-too-familiar             funny, but one of them I’ve been work-
      Newmark had acted in youth the-            world. “[The writers] wanted to reflect               ing on for a few years is about solitude
   atre, though she didn’t consider “it          the world we live in now – it has the                 and self-isolation. It feels like the
   could be my profession until the end          same themes of obliteration of the                    moment’s passed where that’s some-
   of school”. Even then, she almost             natural world and senseless war. It                   thing people might want to watch.” n

Television www.rts.org.uk June 2020                                                                                                                  5
Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society

                                                                                                                           Faye Tozer and
                                                                                                                       Giovanni Pernice’s
                                                                                                                  Strictly Come Dancing
                                                                                                                       Halloween routine

                         Make-up artist
                   isa Armstrong won the        integrity – what goes on in the make-up          eyelashes, nail polish, body shimmer
                   RTS Craft & Design Award     room stays in the make-up room.                  and lip gloss. You then adapt it as you
                   for Make-Up Design –                                                          get to know a person. So, when I work
                   Entertainment & Non          So you need personal as well as tech-            with Alan Carr, I always make sure I’ve
                   Drama at the end of last     nical skills?                                    packed my glasses cleaner.
                   year. She wowed the          Yes, you need to form a personal con-              Make-up artists always bring more
      judges with her work on BBC One           nection and gain trust – being made              than they need, so we’re always moan-
      smash hit Strictly Come Dancing, “con-    up is an intimate experience. The per-           ing about lugging suitcases about.
      sistently impressing audiences and        former might be nervous and you’re               We’re the go-to people for plasters,
      fans, never failing to entertain and      the last person they see before they go          toothpaste, tissues and deodorant.
      constantly exhibiting an amazingly        out to dance. You need to make them
      varied array of skills and techniques”.   feel good about themselves so they can           How big is the make-up team
                                                perform well.                                    on Strictly?
      What makes a good make-up artist?                                                          Myself, five make-up artists, a hair
      You have to have a talent and an eye      What do you bring to work with you?              supervisor, five hairdressers and four
      for it – a good artist pushes bounda-     Everything you need for the job. For             assistants – although, as we lose celebs
      ries. But you also need confidence and    Strictly, I need three cases, full of glitter,   during the series, the team slims down.

Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society
How did you become a make-up artist?
 Lisa Armstrong                                                                                       I realised I had always loved make-up:
 with her RTS Craft
                                                                                                      I did my own make-up for dancing
 & Design Award
                                                                                                      competitions as a kid; in the band, I
                                                                                                      wanted it all: all the colours, lip gloss,
                                                                                                      eyelashes and diamante jewellery. I
                                                                                                      went to the Glauca Rossi School of
                                                                                                      Make-Up in London and got a diploma.
                                                                                                      I knew people in the industry and
                                                                                                      found make-up work for magazines,
                                                                                                      and had a column in Cosmopolitan Hair
                                                                                                      and Beauty answering readers’ questions.

                                                                                                      How did you make the jump to TV?
                                                                                                      I was doing make-up for singers as
                                                                                                      well, such as Pop Idol winner Michelle
                                                                                                      McManus, and then I met Ozzy and
                                                                                                      Sharon Osbourne at a shoot. Sharon’s
                                                                                                      normal make-up artist had another
                                                                                                      job, so I did her make-up on The X
                                                                                                      Factor. That was my first TV show.

                                                                                                      Right time, right place?
                                                                                                      Yes, but you’re only as good as your
                                                                                                      last job. I was part of the make-up
                                                                                                      team on The X Factor, loved it and
                                                                                                      learned so much, before becoming hair
                                                                                                      and make-up designer on Strictly. This
                                                                                                      will be my 13th year on the show.

                                                                                                      What advice would you give to some-
                                                                                                      one starting out now?
                                                                                     Richard Kendal

                                                                                                      Go to college and then practise your
                                                                                                      craft. Even if you want to work in TV,
                                                                                                      explore every avenue – it’s important
                                                                                                      to learn how to do theatre or fashion
                                                                                                      model looks, and to understand wig-­
Is it hard work?                           Halloween routine a couple of years                        making and prosthetics. Throughout
On a Saturday, we start at 8:30am and      back. She was half woman, half skeleton:                   your career, you will learn from the
wrap at 11.30pm. During the day, the       from one angle, she was beautiful and,                     people you work with.
celebs and their partners are constantly   then, when she turned in her routine,
rehearsing and whizzing around the         you saw the gory side of her face. The                     Are there any tricks of the trade you
dance floor: the rollers are flying out,   routine was amazing and it was all about                   can share with us?
the lip-gloss is getting smudged and       the make-up, costume, lighting and                         Always do the eye make-up first – we
the eyelashes are hanging off.             camera departments working together.                       use a lot colour and textures here and I
   Dancers, especially the boys, sweat                                                                don’t want it falling on to a perfect,
like you wouldn’t believe. The team is     How has lockdown been for you?                             made-up face.
constantly on the go. We do the live       I’ve not done anything for months
show and then, after a break, record the   – people are having to do their own                        What are the best and worst aspects of
results show. And then we’re back in       make-up. When Piers [Morgan] did his                       the job?
the make-up room to clean everything       for Good Morning Britain, I texted him                     Strictly’s the best show in TV entertain-
ready for the following week.              and asked: “What the hell’s happened                       ment – you can be so creative. The
                                           to you?” People are now appreciating                       only downsides are the long hours and
Which other departments do you             what make-up artists do.                                   the lost weekends. But – you know
work with?                                                                                            what? – who cares! I love the job.
Costume, staging and lighting. You’re      What did you do before make-up
running up and down the corridor,          came calling?                                              What other types of show would you
talking with the costume department        I was a dancer and went to the Brit                        love to work on?
to ensure the dancers look just right.     School in Croydon, and then joined                         Period drama would blow my mind
You work with each other, not against      the pop group Deuce. We toured the                         – it would be way outside of my com-
each other. We are a big family.           country for a couple of years but, when                    fort zone. n
  The lighting and the staging needs to    that came to an end, I was at a loss.
highlight the make-up, as it did with      I was 21 and thought, “What the hell do                    Make-up artist Lisa Armstrong was inter-
Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice’s          I do now?”                                                 viewed by Matthew Bell.

Television www.rts.org.uk June 2020                                                                                                                7
Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society

                                     The Sweeney
                    rom a distance of close to
                    half a century, London is
                                                  Matthew Bell salutes                        show Z Cars). It ran for four series on ITV
                                                                                              from 1975 to 1978. Two cinema spin-offs,
                    almost unrecognisable.       Britain’s best cop show,                     with added sex and violence, were
                    Cortinas and Consuls                                                      released towards the end of the TV run.
                    squeal around a semi-­
                                                  which painted a gritty,                        Regan, played by John Thaw, dishev-
                    derelict city, pockmarked      vibrant picture of a                       elled, fag on the go, whisky bottle in his
      by Second World War bomb sites.                                                         office top drawer, was the archetypal
      Houses and shops are dilapidated, a           now-vanished city                         1970s cop. His sidekick, detective ser-
      permanent pall of smoke hangs in the                                                    geant George Carter, played by Dennis
      boozers; people look old, even those       credit, banks, bookies and security vans     Waterman, was barely more presentable,
      who aren’t. Everything is grey.            were the targets. Trying to stop them        yet – and it is one of the series’ endur-
         Everything except detective inspec-     were the Sweeney. (“Sweeney Todd” is         ing mysteries – women, frequently posh
      tor Jack Regan’s iconic brown suit and     cockney rhyming slang for the Flying         ones who should have been way out of
      green kipper tie. And he was always        Squad, a specialist police unit that tack-   their league, fell for them.
      hungry for nicking villains: “We’re the    led serious crime.) It was cops vs rob-         In real life, many Flying Squad officers
      Sweeney, son, and we haven’t had any       bers, with both sides tooled up – ideally    were bent. Indeed, while the series was
      dinner – you’ve kept us waiting.”          with a sawn-off shotgun – and ready to       on air, the squad’s comman­der, detec-
         In the 1970s, the armed robber was      shoot it out.                                tive chief superintendent Kenneth
      at the top of the criminal ladder and        The Sweeney was the brainchild of Ian      Drury, was convicted of corruption and
      London was at his mercy. In a city         Kennedy Martin (brother of Troy, who         imprisoned for eight years.
      without CCTV that ran on cash, not         created the long-running BBC cop                Regan and Carter were honest,

Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society
though not averse to cutting corners
                                               Ear candy
if it meant feeling a collar. They loved
nothing more than a dust up – if they
deserved it, villains were given a right
   But The Sweeney was not a hackneyed
 cop show. Behind the car chases, punch-­
ups, birds and boozing, there was pow-
erful drama, with beautifully drawn
characters and memorable dialogue.
   Regular writer Trevor Preston gave
Regan, who was raging against the
unfairness of a cop’s life, these lines:
“It’s a bloody holiday camp for thieves
and weirdos – all the rubbish. You age
prematurely trying to sort some of
them out. Try and protect the public,
and all they do is call you fascist. You
nail a villain and some ponced-up,
pinstripe Hampstead barrister screws
it up like an old fag packet on a point
of procedure, then pops off for a game
of squash and a glass of Madeira. He’s
taking home 30 grand a year, and we

can just about afford 10 days in East-
bourne and a second-hand car. It’s all

                                                  Grounded with
bloody wrong, my son.”
   The series employed some of the
best British character actors: the
­established – Brian Blessed, Warren

                                                  Louis Theroux
 Mitchell and Diana Dors – and the
 up-and-coming, such as Hywel Ben-
 nett and Maureen Lipman. Villains
 and their families were portrayed as
 humans rather than cartoons.

   Everyone remembers Harry South’s
 funky, brass-heavy theme that plays                    n his new podcast, documen-      likes of Boy George, Helena Bonham
 over The Sweeney’s opening credits. The                tary-maker Louis Theroux         Carter, Lenny Henry, Rose McGowan
 poignant minor-key end theme is just                   uses his trademark infectious    and KSI to the podcast.
 as good, evoking the pathos that fills so              curiosity to explore the lives      The celebrities share stories from
 many of the show’s characters, includ-                 of some of the world’s most      their lives and careers. We learn of
 ing Regan’s.                                           recognisable faces. It is his    McGowan’s experiences of growing up
   The 53rd and final episode of the                    first foray into the world of    in a cult, how the alternative comedy
 series, “Jack or Knave?”, sees a disillu-   celebrity since the TV series When Louis    scene changed Henry’s life, and why
 sioned Regan resign after being falsely     Met…. As he and his guests navigate the     YouTuber KSI was already fully adapted
 accused of corruption: “You want me         new territory of remote interviewing,       to working online even before the lock-
 to crawl back to work and be terribly       his signature silences could be mistaken    down started.
 grateful that I didn’t get nicked for       for a Zoom glitch or a phone delay.            From Boy George “isolating” alone
 something I didn’t do. Well, you can           Theroux kicks off the series with        to Bonham Carter on the challenges
 stuff it!” Hailing a cab, he’s driven       a conversation with his professional        of co-parenting, Theroux’s guests offer
 away, slowly, down the Hammersmith          rival, documentary-maker Jon Ronson.        an intimate look at their daily lives and
 Road, to the accompaniment of South’s          They discuss their shared TV experi-     how they have adapted to the new
 melancholic music. A perfect ending to      ences and some of Ronson’s notable          normal.
 British TV’s greatest cop show. n           career moments. These include trying           Don’t miss Theroux’s bonus “lock-
                                             to organise a night in a haunted house      down kitchen disco playlist”, which
The Sweeney is on ITV4 and also avail-       for Robbie Williams.                        includes some surprising rap entries.
able on Amazon Prime.                           Theroux has since welcomed the           Kate Holman

Television www.rts.org.uk June 2020                                                                                                        9
Exploring consent Michaela Coel - June 2020 - Royal Television Society
Michaela Coel in
                                                                                                      I May Destroy You

                         Personal and
                            ichaela doesn’t                                  revealed two years ago while giving the
                            skirt issues – she
                                                   Michaela Coel’s new       MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh
                            goes straight at       drama I May Destroy       International TV Festival.
                            them.” Executive                                    Coel found the experience of writing
                            producer Roberto          You is certain to      I May Destroy You cathartic and, ultimately,
                            Troni is talking
       about Michaela Coel’s fearless new
                                                 provoke audiences. She      liberating. “Anything cathartic is hard,
                                                                             but it was also really glorious. It was
       drama I May Destroy You, which explores    tells Matthew Bell why     horrible, dark and beautiful. I was able
       sexual consent in contemporary London.                                to reflect on the pain, which meant I
         The 12-part BBC One/HBO series is,      her ‘vomit drafts’ have a   had survived it,” the London-born
       to an extent, based on personal experi-
       ence – like her character, Arabella,
                                                      life of their own      actor and writer tells Television. “To
                                                                             finish draft after draft and get to the
       Coel was sexually assaulted after her                                 end, sort of metaphorically finding my
       drink was spiked, an experience she                                   way out, was a beautiful experience.”

In the series, Arabella is suffering from   about different ideas and approaches.            As creator, writer, star and co-director,
writer’s block and unable to complete          She’d go away and rewrite. And we did         Coel describes the task of bringing I May
her second book. This isn’t a problem          this process over and over again. Our         Destroy You to screen as like “creating
that afflicts Coel, who describes her          function was to help Michaela tell her        Mount Everest and then climbing it”.
writing process as akin to producing           story,” recalls Clarke.                          “While I was learning my lines in the
“vomit drafts”.                                  “I was constantly whittling away,           evening, I was also rewriting the script.
   It was executive producer Phil Clarke’s     responding to their questions, under-         I was then getting up in the morning,
confidence in her writing – as head of         standing where I wasn’t being clear,”         doing my make-up before we began
comedy at Channel 4, he had commis-                                                          shooting, and then I had to go on set
sioned her sitcom Chewing Gum – that                                                         and figure out how a sequence would
led Coel to Various Artists Limited, the       ‘I WAS ABLE TO                                work and what it would look like.”
indie he founded in 2017 with fellow
Channel 4 commissioner Roberto
                                               REFLECT ON THE                                   Coel says that, during the shoot,
                                                                                             “memories of something that was
Troni and Peep Show writers Sam Bain           PAIN, WHICH                                   deeply traumatic” were erased by the
and Jesse Armstrong.
                                               MEANT I HAD                                   joyful experience of working closely

                                               SURVIVED IT’
   “It’s the reason I came to Phil. I did                                                    with the production crew: “I imagine
my ‘vomit drafts’ for season 1 of Chewing                                                    that when you climb Everest you feel
Gum,” she recalls “and the call was made                                                     this same overwhelming sense of love,
that I had to find a co-writer. I remem-                                                     euphoria and gratitude.”
ber being in Boots and getting the call        recalls Coel, “and then going back and           The production hired Sex Education’s
and the earth fell from beneath me –           trying again.”                                intimacy co-ordinator, Ita O’Brien, and
I was crying in the middle of Boots.              While scripts were being honed, HBO        used closed sets to shoot scenes with
   “Phil read it and said, ‘What do you        came on board. The BBC and US net-            explicit sex and sexual violence. It also
need a co-writer for?’ He understands          work’s versions are identical. “It’s a        offered therapeutic support to the cast
my babble.”                                    very modern situation, working to two         and production crew.
   Coel, Troni and Clarke approached           broadcasters – it ran very swimmingly,”          “Because of the nature of the mate-
Piers Wenger, controller of BBC drama          says Clarke. “[They] were respectful          rial, there was a lot of discussion with
commissioning, who, without a treat-           of each other; [neither] was trying to        the cast, even before filming started.
ment, let alone a script, snapped up           elbow their way to the front. There was       There were rehearsals and workshops
I May Destroy You.                             literally not one bit of argy-bargy.”         with Ita,” explains Troni. “In the old
   “Amid all the dramas about consent             Julie Harkin assembled the cast,           days, there were those terrible stories
we’ve been pitched in the wake of the          including Weruche Opia (Sliced) and           about people turning up on the day
#MeToo or Time’s Up [movements],               Paapa Essiedu (Kiri), which reads like        and being told, ‘You’re doing a sex
this stood out,” says Wenger, who met          a who’s who of up-and-coming black            scene – take your clothes off.’
Coel when she was making BBC Two               acting talent.                                   “Nothing was sprung on people.
drama Black Earth Rising. “Michaela’s             “Julie’s a very established casting        There are amazing roles in I May Destroy
way of seeing the world is unlike any-         director but really has an eye on             You, but we didn’t want to put the actors
one else’s. That really comes through          emerging talent. She and Michaela             in positions that they were uncomfort-
in the finished show: it’s funny, incred-      were talking the same names immedi-           able with.”
ibly idiosyncratic, very personal, but         ately,” recalls Troni. “We’ve all worked         I May Destroy You is powerful but also
with so much to say about the world.”          with those casting directors who just         frequently disturbing. Is the BBC anx-
   The series, adds Wenger, “constantly        pull out the tried and trusted.”              ious about its reception? “There is
trips you up and challenges you”.                 Along with Noughts + Crosses, Steve        nothing sensationalist about it; it’s
   Coel thinks the “idiosyncratic” con-        McQueen’s upcoming Small Axe and              rooted in the everyday [world] of dating
tent reflects her writing style. “When I       the adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel         apps and hook-ups, the things you do
write, I don’t plan in advance where I         A Suitable Boy, I May Destroy You is making   in your twenties and thirties,” replies
am going,” she says. “Imagine you are          2020 “an outstanding year for on-screen       Wenger. “It’s exploring both the fun
walking your dog and your dog is drag-         diversity” on the BBC, says Wenger. “It’s     and the dark side of those experiences.
ging you in all these directions – that’s      about opening up the talent pool and          It’s rare that you get in one story the
the script. Sometimes, as I’m typing, my       showing [BAME] actors that there are          two extremes.
jaw drops because I didn’t know I was          opportunities in Britain and at the BBC.         “Michaela shows how society lets
going to go [to a particular place].           We need to earn their trust because I         down the victims of sexual assault and
   “I spend a lot of time alone, away          don’t think that comes automatically.”        it feels like uncharted territory. It is
from my phone, and I travel. Even if              Coel co-directed with Sam Miller,          strong, there is no doubt about it, but
it’s just a train to Kent to sit in a cheap    who helmed Luther. “Sam led the way;          isn’t that what great drama does? It
Airbnb, it means my variables are con-         he’s a very experienced director and          allows us to see the world from fresh
stantly changing. I’m constantly trying        brought visual flair to the show.             perspectives.”
to live a life that throws up things I         Michaela was keen to direct but real-            Clarke adds: “There’s nothing gratui-
can’t predict.”                                ised it was going to be a learning curve      tous. If people feel uncomfortable, that’s
   Coel drafted and redrafted, using           for her. They formed a partnership on         up to them, but my feeling is that the
Clarke and Troni as her sounding               set and made it work; they got the best       more honest and braver we are at
boards. “We’d question her and talk            out of each other,” says Clarke.              tackling these… subjects, [the better].” n

Television www.rts.org.uk June 2020                                                                                                         11
The economic
           impact of Covid-19
            ndependent producers are
            the most vulnerable to the eco-
                                                  An RTS panel examines                        bailouts from the entire country and
                                                                                               the TV industry is not high on the list
            nomic carnage unleashed on the          the fallout from the                       of [those] who tug the heartstrings,
            television sector by corona­virus.                                                 even within the DCMS sector,” he said.
            That was the consensus of a           crisis on TV businesses                      “However, I take the point that less has
            lively RTS webinar examining                                                       been ring-fenced for the creative sector
     the impact of Covd-19 on the UK’s TV         the UK had never experienced “a              than in other countries and the [select
     and related content industries. How-         downturn this deep” and predicted a          committee] will continue to talk to the
     ever, despite this worrying situation,       “fairly profound structural shift” in the    Government about this.”
     there was agreement that all the British     sector. He was unsure whether the TV           Lindsey Clay, CEO of Thinkbox,
     broadcasters would survive the               advertising market – already down by         which represents UK commercial
     downturn.                                    around 50% year-on-year – would              broadcasters, was optimistic about the
       Of the four panellists, Claire Enders,     ever recover.                                future of TV advertising. She reminded
     founder of Enders Analysis, used the            Even an apparently secure business        everyone of its unique ability to reach
     most colourful language to describe          such as pay-TV sport faced an uncer-         mass audiences safely and its impor-
     the plight of what, a few months ago,        tain future, he said: “Will people still    tance in driving economic activity. “It
     was a thriving creative sector respon-       be happy to pay out large monthly           is irreplaceable,” she opined. She won-
     sible for global hits and envied by          amounts for Sky Sports in the future?”      dered, however, if ITV was “really big
     programme-makers around the world.              As for the TV industry receiving state   enough to take care of itself”.
       She said the UK’s independent pro-         aid, Damian Green MP, a member of              Asked to vote on the shape of the
     duction community was “on its stom-          the Commons Digital, Culture, Media         eventual economic recovery, the web­
     ach” and contrasted how its peers in         and Sport Committee, said the sector        inar audience thought the most likely
     the US and Europe were being treated         was not high on the list of those likely    outcome was a W-shaped recovery.
     compared with our own Government’s           to receive a subsidy.                       The companies that survived would be
     attitude to indies.                             “ITV is big enough to look after         those that were vertically integrated,
       Her primary concern was for the            itself,” maintained the MP. Nor did he      such as ITV and the BBC, said Enders.
     future of suppliers left “pitifully and      share McGuire’s negativity regarding           The audience was also asked to vote
     badly afflicted” by the Government’s         the future prospects for live TV sport.     on the likely winners and losers from
     response to the pandemic.                    He predicted huge audiences would           the crisis. Netflix would be the biggest
       She warned that up to half of the UK       return once live professional sport         winner, according to 68% of those
     creative sector, including theatres and      resumed.                                    taking part in the snap poll.
     museums as well as independent pro-             The MP also drew attention to Chan-         Clay suggested that, as competition
     ducers, risked going under.                  cellor Rishi Sunak’s “unprecedented”        increased in the SVoD space, more
       Enders highlighted the “incompara-         Job Retention Scheme, but admitted          content owners would withdraw their
     bly greater” scale of state-funded sup-      that the broadcasting sector was not        programmes from Netflix to enable
     port in France, Germany and Italy.           among its priorities.                       them to show these on their own
     These countries had all agreed to pro-          “Every minister is facing calls for      ­platforms. “Third-party series such
     vide a financial lifeline for their audio-                                                as Friends and The Big Bang Theory are
     visual industries. Similarly, the US was                                                  some of Netflix’s most popular shows,”
     providing state funds to ensure that                                                      she said. “Once more content owners
     Hollywood survived.                          ‘SMALLER                                     withdraw their shows, Netflix will look
       The UK was “in a completely differ-
     ent environment”, she said. “It’s extraor-
                                                  PRODUCERS AND                                less attractive.”
                                                                                                 Enders disagreed. She insisted that
     dinary that our fiscal envelope does not     FREELANCERS…                                 the secret of Netflix’s success was the
     seem to have any material impact at all.”
     She forecast a “great depression” in the     FACE A FUTURE                                huge sums it had invested in original
                                                                                               series. “That is Netflix’s magic sauce:
     UK once the Government’s furlough            THAT IS MORE                                 $50bn spent on content in the past
     scheme ended, compounded by what
     she thought would be a hard Brexit.          FRAGILE THAN                                 eight years. Given how much Netflix
                                                                                               spends, I’m always surprised that it’s
       Sean McGuire, Managing Director of
     consultancy Oliver & Ohlbaum, said
                                                  EVER’                                        only responsible for 9% of all video
                                                                                               viewed in the UK.”

Clockwise from left:
             Damian Green MP,
             Kate Bulkley,
             Claire Enders,
             Sean McGuire
             and Lindsey Clay

                                                                                                                                      RTS via Zoom
   There was agreement that another        help to safeguard the future of smaller           McGuire was sceptical about the
outright winner of the pandemic would      producers and freelancers, who faced a         current configuration of PSBs, which,
be the recently launched streaming         future that was “more fragile than ever”.      he claimed, was shaped by the “con-
service Disney+, which was already            “It is essential that the next Director-­   siderable lobbying efforts” of the
in 50 million homes worldwide.             General builds on the move to Salford          incumbents. “There was already a
   The biggest loser was likely to be      by spreading the BBC’s activity as much        concern that Ofcom was going to use
Channel 4, according to those partici-     as possible around the UK,” he said.           its PSB review to try to preserve the
pating in the webinar vote. Enders            Regarding news, Green said that the         current ecology, but that isn’t the right
agreed that Channel 4 was vulnerable       pandemic had led to an increased               question,” he argued. “We need to
but suggested that it had options in the   appreciation of trusted PSB news               think about what public service broad-
event of a prolonged economic crisis,      organisations, not least Channel 4 News,       casting entails and what is the best
such as selling its London HQ, relaxing    which had emerged as the most                  structure within which to deliver it
quotas, closing some of its channels or    trusted news service in the UK. “The           over the next decade.”
merging with Channel 5.                    public are now more savvy about                   Enders praised Ofcom for delaying
   Turning to the BBC, Green supported     structured disinformation,” he added.          its PSB review. Such an investigation
the continuation of the licence fee as a      Clay said that regulators must not          should wait until next year: “You do
means of funding the corporation. “It      be allowed to be sidetracked by the            not look at the future when you’re in
shouldn’t work in theory, but it does in   corona­virus crisis from continuing            the eye of the storm.
practice,” he said.                        their examination of how the Silicon              “Survival is all that matters at the
   Enders said she was pleased that the    Valley behemoths distorted the UK              moment and you won’t find a chief
pandemic had proved the overwhelm-         advertising market.                            executive or regulator who thinks any
ing worth of the BBC, with the result         Green suggested that there should be        different.” n
that the debate over a subscription        a wide-ranging look at the existing
model for the BBC was, in effect, dead.    PSB system following the crisis. “The          Report by Steve Clarke. The RTS webinar
   Green suggested that the BBC could      root of it should be about applying            ‘The industry impact of Covid-19’ was
be persuaded to commission shows           economic and cultural theory to con-           held on 21 May and chaired by journalist
from a more diverse range of suppliers     sider how many PSBs we need and                and media commentator Kate Bulkley.
in order to help independent producers:    how best to fit them within the struc-         The producers were Jonathan Simon,
the corporation’s “firepower” could        ture that we have,” he said.                   Keith Underwood and Nigel Warner.

Television www.rts.org.uk June 2020                                                                                                            13
ITN Chief Executive Anna Mallett tells Steve Clarke that
                         her doctorate is less relevant than her people skills

       Crisis shows need for
        quality journalism
                        nna Mallett, CEO
                        of ITN for the past
                        12 months, could be
                        forgiven for looking
                        a little wearied. Even
                        before coronavirus
     struck, the news organisation was
     working full tilt, covering such seismic
     events as Brexit, the Conservative Party
     leadership contest and a particularly
     fractious pre-Christmas general elec-
     tion. And now this.
        But Mallett, a former BBC executive
     who began her TV career researching
     Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast’s knobs and
     knockers item – it was a holiday job
     – positively radiates energy during our
     45-minute Microsoft Teams interview.
        This is perhaps just as well. In com-
     mon with most of ITN’s peers, the com-
     pany is operating with around a third
     fewer staff, owing to social-­distancing
     rules and employees home isolating. Of
     course, audiences for ITN’s daily news
     programmes – for ITV, Channel 4 and
     Channel 5 – have soared as the UK
     turns to trusted sources of information
     during the pandemic.
        Success of this kind must be a tonic
     to any boss, especially to one relatively
     new to the job. She was appointed as
     John Hardie’s successor in December
     2018, the first woman to run Britain’s
     biggest commercial news provider.
     She started work the following April.
        Hardie had successfully diversified
     ITN’s business, boosting its production
     activities to embrace sport, TV com-
     mercials and factual programmes for
     a range of broadcasters, including the
     BBC, Channel 5 and Netflix.
        Mallett recently announced rising
     revenues at ITN Productions: in 2019,
     they jumped 20% to a record £18.2m,
     after producing some 664 hours of con-
     tent. This includes the award-­winning
     Channel 4 News/ITN Productions docu-
     mentary for C4 and PBS Frontline, For

     Sama. Crucially, new long-term news

contracts have been secured with                SERVICES ON                                   for running ITN during such challeng-
ITV and Channel 5; the latter has also          AIR AND TEAM                                  ing times. She describes her strategy
extended its deal for ITN to make the
daily Jeremy Vine show. ITN’s news-­
                                                SAFE IS THE                                   at ITN as: protecting the core business
                                                                                              – the contracts with ITV, Channel 4
supply arrangements with ITV, Chan-             CONSTANT                                      and Channel 5 – while growing the
nel 4 and Channel 5 account for
two-thirds of the company’s revenue.
                                                CHALLENGE’                                    production business, where innovation
                                                                                              is key – “Our advertising division
   And if ITN didn’t outperform the                                                           created the world’s first live ad that
BBC at February’s RTS Television Jour-                                                        utilised 5G” – and delivering big
nalism Awards, few would deny the                  Her career at the national broad-          events “brilliantly”. “We had a few
excellence of much of its recent out-           caster included a period as controller        of those last year, including the Tory
put, whether on ITV during last year’s          of business strategy, where she was           leadership debates and the general
general election or on Channel 4, with          responsible for the BBC’s overall com-        election,” she says. “That’s where ITN
its coverage of Brexit and now the              mercial strategy, as CEO of the com-          comes into its own. We need to make
pandemic in its extended bulletins.             mercial facilities operation, BBC             those big events count.”
   “It’s that range and dynamism that           Studios and Post Production (now BBC             Her skills as a lobbyist shouldn’t be
makes ITN unique,” says Mallett.                Studioworks) and, latterly, COO at BBC        underestimated, either. In a recent
“We’re creating content every day. In           Studios, setting up the production giant      submission to the House of Lords Com-
this building we have three different           with Mark Linsey, a seminal moment            munications and Digital Committee’s
news services, serving three different          for the Beeb.                                 inquiry into the future of journalism,
audiences.” She adds: “I’ve always                 “I think that was the biggest change       ITN stressed that “high-quality, regu-
loved TV and working in content and             the BBC has ever made,” she recalls.          lated, impartial provision from multiple
been enthusiastic about storytelling.”          “That kind of transformational change         sources is essential to a pluralistic news
   A Durham University geography                really excited me. The world’s chang-         environment in delivering choice and
graduate – she did her doctorate at             ing – you’ve got to be agile, you’ve got      alternative viewpoints that form part of
Oxford on John Martin, the 19th-cen-            to adapt. It was great to be part of that,    our democratic process, and this should
tury landscape painter and engineer             although not always straightforward.          be protected at all costs”.
– her first full-time job was working           Understandably, change brings a lot              “As we face a global pandemic, this
for the Boston Consulting Group, where          of concern and there was a lot to             review could not be more urgent,” says
she stayed for seven years and special-         work through.”                                Mallett. “All our news programmes are
ised in media and retail.                          It sounds like valuable experience         seeing sharp increases in viewing
   “If you’re interested in understanding                                                     figures as people seek out reliable,
business, that’s a great place to start                                                       trustworthy information.
your career.... It’s important to be logical,
thoughtful and analytic, as well as
                                                   Mallett on                                    ‘That audiences are turning to the
                                                                                              established, professional sources of
having the right kind of emotional
intelligence.” Spotting her obvious
                                                   lockdown life                              journalism at times of crisis serves to
                                                                                              underline their enormous value to soci-
leadership qualities, Boston sent her                                                         ety and underscores a need for action to
to Harvard Business School.                        TV: ‘I really enjoyed Normal People.       protect the public service broadcasters
   At the BBC, where she worked for                It was done very sensitively. You          and quality journalism in the future.”
13 years, her reputation was that of a             really got a feeling for those char-          As a response to the impact of the
caring boss. She began her BBC career              acters’ emotions. I haven’t read the       health emergency, Mallett has put in
in 2006 as a strategist, initially working         book but I’m keen to now.”                 place a series of cost-saving measures,
on an attachment in news. There, she                                                          including a recruitment freeze, targeted
assessed which stories might work                  Books: ‘At the moment, I’m reading         restructuring and furloughing staff.
best in a BBC One 10:00pm slot. At the             Just William to my little boys, who           What, then, is her biggest challenge as
time, a row was raging because the                 are eight, 11 and 12. I’m keen that        ITN continues to navigate and report on
Director-General, Greg Dyke, had                   they develop a love of reading. Part       the crisis? “Ensuring you keep your
decided to move the BBC Nine O’Clock               of that involves me reading to them.       services on air and keeping your team
News to go head-to-head with ITN’s                 One of them is very enthusiastic           safe. That is the constant challenge.
News at Ten.                                       about William and all his escapades.’         “Things change all the time, so, for
   Subsequently, Mallett landed a per-                                                        example, with the recent relaxation in
manent job in the BBC’s strategy team              Music: ‘I do like classical music. I       lockdown, more people will be out and
during the Mark Thompson era. “The                 find that very relaxing, but I’ll listen   about. Do we need to change anything?
benefit of working in strategy is that             to anything. My eldest son sings              “People really want that trusted
you do see the wood from the trees                 in a rock band, so I get quite a lot       news but at all times it’s our responsi-
and, quite quickly, begin to understand            of that. I like a bit of Bach. I once      bility to protect our teams, whether
some of the big issues. You also get to            read that, if you listen to Bach, you      they’re going into difficult situations,
meet a lot of different people across              become more intelligent.’                  such as ICU units, or travelling into
the BBC.”                                                                                     and being at work.” n

Television www.rts.org.uk June 2020                                                                                                        15
Mr Fix-it

             ay Blades, TV’s favourite furni-
             ture restorer and the king of
                                                     Roz Laws talks to                     buy furniture polish, but not any more.
                                                                                           I had to buy some ingredients. The
             “make do and mend”, has just         Jay Blades, presenter                    only vinegar I had was what I put on
             surprised himself with his own                                                my chips, so I had to get distilled white
             skills. “I’m blown away!,” he        of zeitgeist show The                    vinegar, but it wasn’t hard.
             declares from his workshop
             near Ironbridge in Shropshire.
                                                   Repair Shop, whose                         “The show is partly about using old
                                                                                           remedies and going back to the Sec-
             The reason for his delight? He’s      own life story offers                   ond World War, when it was hard to
     thrilled to have made some home-                                                      get hold of things. And showing people
     made furniture polish.                        inspiration for these                   how to adapt if they don’t have a drill or
        At a time when many of us are
     learning new skills, Blades – best
                                                      troubled times                       tools. You can make some things with
                                                                                           cardboard if you don’t have timber.
     known for presenting the breakout hit                                                    “Like many people in lockdown, I’ve
     and RTS award-winner The Repair Shop         Blades is showing people basic DIY       been getting around to doing DIY jobs.
     – is joining in for his new 10-part BBC    skills and learning how to make every-     I’ve oiled all the squeaky doors in my
     One show, Jay Blades’ Home Fix,            day things we’re used to buying in the     house. I’m over the moon with my
     screened every weekday morning.            shops. He describes it as “Blue Peter      furniture polish. It smells beautiful, too,
        We speak as he takes a break from       meets Saturday Kitchen”.                   like oranges. I’m going to make dish-
     filming Home Fix in his large workshop,      “If you can buy it, someone has          washer tablets next.”
     with a lone cameraman standing four        made it – it hasn’t just magically            Blades’ TV shows are tapping into
     metres away and zooming in for             appeared – and there’s no reason why       the mood of the nation, with the way
     close-ups.                                 you can’t, too,” he explains. “I used to   they help other people, champion

skills and encourage restoration, rather    prize at the RTS Programme Awards            of his fellow craftspeople, his “location
than a throwaway culture.                   2019 plus a Rose d’Or, and Best Daytime      family”, and their time together at the
   The Repair Shop offers soothing and      Programme at this year’s Broadcast           Weald and Downland Living Museum
uplifting television that seems perfect     Awards. A Christmas special attracted        outside Chichester.
lockdown viewing, helping us navigate       5.5 million viewers, which prompted             All the repairs take place in the
a new normal.                               schedulers to give series 6 a peak-time      17th-century thatched barn except for
   It’s where damaged but cherished         slot. Filming took place five days a         shot blasting and sandblasting, which
family heirlooms are brought back to        week from last April until January this      aren’t allowed in the listed building.
life. We marvel at the skill and patience   year, so there are plenty of episodes        Repairs can take up to two weeks of
of craftsmen and women – furniture                                                       full-time work.
restorers, horologists, metalworkers,                                                       Blades also reveals that “it may look
ceramicists, toy restorers and more         ‘THE REPAIR                                  warm in the barn but it’s one of the
– and are moved at the emotional sto-
ries behind the objects.                    SHOP’ IS ABOUT                               coldest places I’ve ever been, unbe-
                                                                                         lievably freezing. In winter, you’ll
   They range from musical instru-
ments and clocks to a First World War
                                            LOVE, KINDNESS                               notice us getting bigger, because of all
                                                                                         the layers of clothes we wear.
soldier’s helmet, penny farthing bike or    AND COMMUNITY                                   “We are cheered up by our show
a toy Dalek.                                                                             mascot, Rocky the robin. He often flies
   No wonder around 7 million have                                                       in when people arrive with their
been watching The Repair Shop in its        yet to be rolled out, at both 8:00pm         objects and seems interested in what’s
new, prime-time slot of 8:00pm on           and in daytime.                              going on.”
BBC One, making it one of the biggest          Blades was running a charity, Out of         Blades is known for his sharp sense
quarantine hits.                            the Dark, teaching teenagers furniture       of style, including his trademark flat
   “The Repair Shop is great for now,”      restoration as an alternative to petty       cap, which he rarely removes other
agrees Blades. “People tell me that they    crime, when he was featured in a             than to “take his hat off” for a particu-
love the way it makes them feel and         Guardian video.                              larly good transformation. “It’s my
how it makes them remember. It takes           He was approached to appear on the        brand,” he chuckles. “The cap and the
us down memory lane, but with a             BBC’s Money for Nothing, and then            glasses, which I do actually need –
modern twist. It goes back to an era        invited to present The Repair Shop,          without them, everything is blurry.”
when people used to fix things before       which was devised by Ricochet’s crea-           Blades’ main job is to help the own-
this consumer society.                      tive director, Katy Thorogood, after she     ers tell the touching stories of their
   “It resonates with viewers during the    had a chair restored that was owned by       treasured objects.
crisis, when people are doing nice things   her late mother. Blades still appears on        “I don’t get too emotional, the things
for people they don’t know. This virus      Money for Nothing.                           I’ve had to deal with in my life have
has taught us to get back to being             “When I was growing up on a coun-         made me tough,” he says.
human. That’s what The Repair Shop is       cil estate in Hackney, I could never            “But sometimes the stories get to
about – love, kindness and community.       believe I’d one day be on three shows        me. The widower who brought in the
We’re working together to restore peo-      on BBC One. It’s unreal,” he muses.          jukebox so he could hear Moonlight
ple’s memories, and that’s beautiful.          It has been a struggle to get to this     Serenade, the song he danced to on his
   “I knew from early on that it was        point. Blades, now 50, left school at 15     wedding day – that really hit me. And
going to be something really special.       with no qualifications. He worked in a       Albert, with his transistor radio that
Bringing so many different craftspeople     sausage factory and on a building site       held precious memories of his wife.
together in the same building is an un­-    before teaching himself furniture res-       Then, there was the family whose
usual concept, but a refreshing change.”    toration, until his life fell apart almost   mother brought a pump organ from
   It seems to work across all demo-        four years ago.                              Jamaica, and the man handing a
graphics, too. Celebrity fans range from       His charity and his marriage col-         bargeware teapot down to his grand-
Stephen Fry and Richard Osman to            lapsed at the same time and he ended         daughter after his daughter’s death.
Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix.         up homeless. A friend in Wolverhamp-            “They were particularly emotional
   The Repair Shop, which is produced       ton came to his aid. He has been in the      stories, but I managed not to show my
by Ricochet, had a low-key start as an      West Midlands ever since, setting up         feelings. It’s not about me, and the show
afternoon show on BBC Two in 2017,          his shop and coming out of a “very           isn’t at all exploitative – we never want
but was swiftly recommissioned. By          dark place”.                                 to milk it. I don’t have a script, we want
series 4, in 2019, it had switched to BBC      The Repair Shop has had a lot to do       everything to be natural.”
One. It won the Daytime Programme           with that. He talks with great fondness         And naturally good, you might say. n

Television www.rts.org.uk June 2020                                                                                                   17
                                                                                                              hen the going
                                                                                                              gets tough, the
                                                                                                              tough get
                                                                                                              going.” The
                                                                                                              1980s Billy
                                                                                                              Ocean lyric,
                                                                                   no doubt part of the soundtrack to the
                                                                                   teenage lives of the six menopausal
                                                                                   women in new, Brighton-set “drama-
                                                                                   with-funny-bits” Dun Breedin’, could be
                                                                                   the mantra of its creator, Julie Graham,
                                                                                   who starred in ITV’s Benidorm
                                                                                      She and Andrew Green, a co-founder
                                                                                   of Blonde To Black Pictures Two, made
                                                                                   the series featuring a cast of six – plus
                                                                                   extras – on six different sets, with no
                                                                                   crew, just basic lighting and sound and
                                                                                   a camera kit consisting mainly of
                                                                                   iPhone 7s, while keeping to lockdown
                                                                                   guidelines. And all in three weeks.
                                                                                      Produced by Jackie Green and Claire
                                                                                   Baylin of Manic Butterfly Productions,
                                                                                   Dun Breedin’ recounts the lives, loves
                                                                                   and losses of six friends, putting wom-
                                                                                   en’s sexuality, agency and worth under
                                                                                   the spotlight.
                                                                                      The star-studded cast includes East-
                                                                                   Enders’ Tamzin Outhwaite, Tracy-Ann
                                                                                   Oberman and Alison Newman, along-
                                                                                   side Coronation Street’s Angela Griffin
                                                                                   and Denise Welch.
                                                                                      In April, Welch, with her “presenter’s
                                                                                   hat on”, joined Graham, Griffin and Dun
                                                                                   Breedin’s Bafta-nominated director,
                                                                                   Robin Sheppard, whose credits include
                                                         Tim Whitby/Getty Images

                                                                                   Harlots and Benidorm, for a lively RTS
                                                                                   North West online discussion. Graham
                                                                                   said: “I was developing it as an eight-
                                                                                   part, half-hour series when [Andrew]
                                                                                   had this mad idea to start filming it
                                                                                   virtually, in 10-minute chunks, and
                                          Julie Graham
                                                                                   putting it out almost like tasters.”

                                                                                      The 12 10-minute episodes began
                                                                                   streaming on 30 April on YouTube,
                                                                                   landing every subsequent Thursday
                                                                                   at 3:00pm. Viewers are encouraged to
                                                                                   donate to the Trussell Trust, which
                                                                                   supports food banks.  

     inventive in
                                                                                      “What was wonderful was that every
                                                                                   single person I got in touch with said
                                                                                   yes,” said Graham. “It’s amazing that
                                                                                   everybody wanted to put their neck on
                                                                                   the line [in the sense that] it was an

                                                                                   experiment and a huge learning curve.
                                                                                      “We just wanted to do something
                                                                                   creative. For actors, [lockdown] has
                                                                                   been very frustrating.… We can’t just go
                                                                                   out into the street and start acting at
                                                                                   people, we’d get carted away. I wanted
                                                                                   to do something that would utilise the
     Julie Graham shares with the RTS how she                                      time in this very strange world that
       created an original online drama with a                                     we’re living in.”
                                                                                      “I’d been playing the part of ‘Isola-
         little help from some famous friends                                      tion Ange’ in a series called

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