Have you seen Scott and Bailey? It’s all right. Full of the usual detective genre clichés – they get too involved in cases, they have messed up relationships, they work too hard – but perhaps unusual in that the three main characters are all women.
And it’s doing well in the ratings, which is good, because doing badly in the ratings is one of the excuses networks might give for not having more strong female roles. In this case, the BBC and ITV both turned it down initially.
Question is, is it a ratings hit because it’s good, or because there’s nothing much else on on a Monday? Well, perhaps a bit of both. I like it, although it can be a bit one-dimensional and preachy. But it’s on ITV, so no surprise there.
Wainwright is clear, however, that her script doesn’t represent an attempt to address the way in which women are portrayed on TV – the fact that the central trio of the series are women is incidental and goes unremarked on screen; they don’t have to fight institutional sexism every day, or prove their worth to male colleagues, for instance.
Wainwright’s most recent project is Last Tango in Halifax, a six-part drama for BBC1 about four women – two in their 40s, and two in their 70s – which, combined with the success of Scott & Bailey and the BBC’s Call the Midwife, suggests that female-dominated dramas are having a moment.