Written by Ashley Davies


Six reasons you should be watching Scott & Bailey

TV’s most compelling cop duo return tonight. Here’s Ashley Davies on why it’s one of the best things on the box.

Lesley Sharp (Scott) and Suranne Jones (Bailey): "a dream team". Photo: Red Productions.

Lesley Sharp (Scott) and Suranne Jones (Bailey): “a dream team”. Photo: Red Productions.

A couple of years ago I was at a pub quiz and the answer to one of the questions was ‘Scott & Bailey‘. I found myself doing that involuntary looking-around-competitively-to-see-if-anyone-else-knew-the-answer face and spotted the same expression on several excellent women in the vicinity. We all gave each other a little smile as if to say: “Yay, you like it too!”

If you haven’t seen it – in which case, lucky you to have it ahead of you, but hurry the heck along with your catching up – it’s a Manchester-based police drama whose key characters are detectives Janet Scott (played by Lesley Sharp) and Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones).

It wouldn’t do the writing justice to describe their personalities in just a few words, but, in a nutshell, Scott starts out as a wife and mother, while Bailey’s life is more chaotic. The storylines are dark, unsettling and it’s always hard to look away.

Here are six reasons to love it:

1. Strong female characters

Both Scott and Bailey are drawn as multi-dimensional characters whose strengths are every bit as real as their weaknesses. They mess up, (usually) learn from their mistakes, work hard and are pulled in all directions by home and work life.

In a recent series, Nicola Walker had an impressively juicy role as a troubled woman scarred by some macabre events in her childhood home. Those under suspicion are as thoroughly drawn as the key cops are here.

2. Beautiful performances

Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones are a dream team. These roles don’t necessarily always call for subtlety, but this is often what we are treated to, particularly when we’re witnessing a strong friendship of long standing, in which not everything needs to be spelt out.

Supplementary performances from Amelia Bullmore (see below), Tracie Bennett (anyone with a self-destructive family member will have felt their bruises pressed watching her), Walker and others are spot-on too.

“Nicola Schindler can take credit for giving the north of England the voice it deserves in television drama – from Queer as Folk to Happy Valley via Last Tango in Halifax and much, much more. She’s a bloody hero.”

3. Depiction of female friendships

Scott and Bailey’s friendship is authentic. They’ve known each other a long time but might not have become friends had it not been for work. They take care of each other, let each other down, lose their shit with each other, sulk and forgive.

Sometimes they’re honest with each other about things they’re not proud of; sometimes they keep secrets. They make sacrifices for each other and are occasionally ever so slightly jealous and judgemental. The show doesn’t always pass the Bechdel test, but that’s because it’s all so real.

4. Professional authenticity

While developing the show, the great Sally Wainwright, who did most of the writing, worked closely with Diane Wright, formerly Detective Inspector with Greater Manchester Police, to ensure the procedural elements were as accurate as possible. We are spared many of the dramatic excesses so often indulged in by police dramas.

5. Nicola Schindler

Scott and Bailey is made by Red, a Mancunian production company run by Nicola Schindler, who is an awesome woman who excels at pulling together great storytellers and producers, bringing out the best in talented people who work hard, and refusing to keep people in professional boxes.

The show was originally conceived by Jones and Sally Lindsay, the idea being that the latter would play Scott, but when she got pregnant with twins the role went to Lesley Sharp. Lindsay’s kept a hand in, though, playing Bailey’s sister, and will be returning with a bigger role in the new series.

On top of all this, Schindler can take credit for giving the north of England the voice it deserves in television drama – from Queer as Folk to Happy Valley via Last Tango in Halifax and much, much more. She’s a bloody hero.

6. Amelia Bullmore

In earlier series, the exquisite Amelia Bullmore plays their boss, DCI Gill Murray. Bullmore could peel a potato clumsily and I’d be staring open-mouthed and wet-eyed at her brilliance, begging her to do it again. (This has nothing to do with Scott & Bailey but here she is in Big Train’s beautiful police sketch artist sketch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rEBtpWQ7x8)

Scott & Bailey starts tonight at 9pm on ITV.


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Written by Ashley Davies

Ashley Davies is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor and the human behind animal satire website thelabreport.co.uk.