'Not so much Happy Valley as brutal, violent, drug-ridden, death valley': exploring the big society in Sally Wainwright's crime drama

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Happy Valley (Red Productions/BBC, 2014), a crime drama written and partially directed by Sally Wainwright, one of the UK’s most successful television dramatists, aired during some of the most radical reforms to policing in England and Wales in the last 50 years; reforms engineered by the coalition government of the day to ‘draw back the state’ and foment ideas around community and social responsibility. Wainwright typically writes from the perspective of her Northern background and Happy Valley is no exception, drawing on the market and mill towns of West Yorkshire as distinctive backdrops for complex, intersecting crime narratives. Wainwright would say in interviews: ‘Like a lot of people, I guess I thought those kind of things just didn’t happen in a place like Hebden Bridge, but of course they do. I’m not saying it’s worse than anywhere else, but everywhere – even market towns with lovely cafes and restaurants – has a dark side.’ The series was an immediate success, pulling in ratings of 6.8 million viewers making it the highest rated drama of the year with the exception of the established soap operas. As a measure of this success, a second series of six episodes was commissioned and both series would win the coveted BAFTA for Best Drama. According to Jamila Atta, communications officer for BBC Worldwide, the huge overseas sales of the series can be attributed to its ‘strong female led’ story (Atta, 2016, online).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Best Murders are British
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on the International Appeal of English Crime Dramas
EditorsJim Daems
Place of PublicationJefferson, NC
PublisherMcFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers
Chapter6
Pages61-80
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781476640693
ISBN (Print)9781476679396
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2020

Publication series

NameBritish Crime Series Collection
PublisherMcFarland Inc.

Keywords

  • Big Society
  • Broken Britain
  • Crime genre
  • Crime Narrative Conventions
  • Female police

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