Thursday, April 14, 2016

Scott and Bailey: my new best TV friends

The last time I wrote about television, I called my piece Love and s*x on TV: bringing the chemistry.

I said this:

Where does that chemistry come from? Is it just great acting? Is it great writing? Does it depend on how the actors feel about each other and about the characters they're playing?

I have these questions because I've been watching a TV series where I find a lack of chemistry. It's a little disappointing because it's a character-driven show and without the chemistry, there's a let-down.

Following that piece, there was an interesting discussion on Facebook about it and about TV and movie chemistry in general but no one ever asked which TV series I was watching where lack of chemistry had become an issue for me. I guess I'm the only one it mattered to.

So for the record, the show I was talking about was Suits, a slick fast-moving show about high-powered lawyers in New York. In retrospect, I think I should have been more specific. My complaint was that there was no chemistry. I should have made clear that there was plenty of chemistry on the show. It's just that none of it was between the romantic couples. It was between these two:

Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams as Harvey Specter and Mike Ross

When Harvey and Mike were in scenes together, they were a pleasure. The dialogue was witty and clever, their eyes twinkled, they loved being together. They had chemistry. Their chemistry was so strong there was none left over for their girlfriends. (I just realized I'm talking about them in the past tense because I've watched all that's so far available on Netflix. They're still on somewhere though!)

The women in Suits were not strong characters. I think they were intended to be strong but — how shall I say it? — they were characters on paper only. There was something lacking in the fleshing out. The writing staff — some of them women — failed the women characters. Even their interactions with each other usually didn't ring true.

Harvey and Mike were cute and fun though. They were obviously what the show was about.

I'm an anglophile and most of my recent viewing reflects that. I seem to have zeroed in on Manchester where some of the best English programs are being made. I loved Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley, both set in the north of England.

Lately, I've been watching Scott and Bailey, a cop show set in Manchester:

All three of these shows are created and mostly written by Sally Wainwright. Her women characters — funny and flawed, smart and strong — talk and act and think like women.

There's nothing self-conscious about the writing in Scott and Bailey. The women spend their days in police procedural mode, looking for murderers, interviewing suspects, supporting survivors, taking care of their families, drinking at the pub.

When I finished the series, I missed the characters and wished they lived next door.

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