Scott and Bailey: Quality crime

When I saw the previews of Scott and Bailey on ITV, my expectations weren’t high. Sure, it would be decent enough Sunday night telly, but probably leave you with that sense of slight disappointment that formulaic detective dramas often do. I was wrong. This is good stuff.

Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) are believable characters played with immense sensitivity. Either of these actors brings something classy to a TV drama. Together, they make for compulsive viewing.

Lesley Sharp’s portrayal of Scott informing a husband that his missing wife was almost certainly the woman they had found raped and murdered in the boot of her car, was a revelation. It should be used for police training purposes demonstrating how to convey devastating news with honesty and compassion.

Suranne Jones plays Bailey, duped and dumped by her boyfriend of two years (Rupert Graves), with a mixture of scary anger and touching vulnerability. The scene mentioned above was enhanced by her sideways glances at the murdered woman’s grieving son as he sobbed on the sofa. It was a simple thing, but beautifully observed.

I’m no police officer but this seems more believable than many crime dramas. They work in a team, there are resentments and tensions, but also humour evident, and the dialogue is convincing. 

There aren’t any of the lengthy and often ridiculous ‘whodunnit’ scenarios often seen in other programmes where by the time the murderer is revealed, you couldn’t care less who it was. In episode 2, the murderer was caught within the first fifteen minutes by Bailey spotting his stolen wristwatch and shifty manner in a routine house to house enquiry of the neighbourhood. The main focus was on the gradual revelation that the murderer’s mother had covered up an earlier hideous crime that he’d committed, and the reactions of the detectives as the full story becomes clear.

Of course, no crime drama is complete without a complicated homelife for the detective/s. In this case, Scott is bored with her geography teacher husband and has had a brief fling with a colleague. She refers to her daughter moaning with period pains as ‘Lady Gaga’. Bailey struggles with the decision whether to keep her baby or not, having discovered that she’s nine weeks pregnant by her married ex (she didn’t know he was married at the time).

There is an ongoing story line about Scott trying to trace a missing girl who she’d been friends with and who’d disappeared  thirty years previously. It’s an unsolved case that the girl’s brother has now asked her to re-open. This was a very similar plot line to one in Case Histories on BBC1 at the same time. Having recorded Scott and Bailey, and watched it straight after Case Histories, there was a moment or two when the two plots merged in my mind somewhat, and I was wondering when the two detectives would stumble across Jackson Brodie and discover the missing girl on the other channel. A strong cup of tea, and I sorted myself out with no harm done.

So, ITV have done well with this. Stick the two most watchable female TV actors you can imagine in a well written, witty and interesting crime drama, and serve at 9.00pm on a Sunday evening. This could very well catch on.

Posted by: Our Man In The South


Filed under Detective/police drama

2 responses to “Scott and Bailey: Quality crime

  1. inkface

    I agree. This is classy, well made stuff that has beautifully written parts for the women characters and that is bloody rare. There have been vast numbers of police dramas spanning decades written for and around mostly male characters: from Dixon of Dock Green, Sweeney, Life on Mars even. When you’ve had portrayals of strong women, such as the magnificent Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, it’s still been in the context of a male dominated and largely sexist force. Before this, Cagney and Lacey, all those years ago, is the only police drama to really focus on two women in a really well drawn partnership (The Mentalist has a squad led by a woman that includes another woman, but the star of the show is a man, ditto Dexter, and they’re both American anyway).

    So top marks to the writers of Scott and Bailey.

  2. Velocity Girl

    Agree with both OMITS’ excellent review and Inky’s brill comments. Very much enjoying this programme. Aside from Inky’s great points re the roles for women, the other thing I also really liked about it was how good the dialogue was . Women actually talk like that and interact with each other like that – I never got the impression that anybody was acting or “saying lines” at any point. Somebody made the point on Twitter that the scene where Scott and the boss howl with laughter in the office about the boss’s antics at a party was all the evidence you needed that it was written by women – a man couldn’t quite have written that scene in the same way, I suspect.

    Also, really like the characterisation of Scott and Bailey – I thought the mix of Bailey being a bit personally chaotic and less by-the-book than Scott but still an excellent. instinctive copper actually breathed life into all the old “maverick” cliches because it was convincingly done. Equally, the idea that Scott had had a fling with their male colleague was equally revelatory when it could again have been a cliche.