Tuesday 20 March 2018

The top 5 TV turn-offs for women... and gratuitous violence isn't one

Gillian Anderson in The Fall. Picture: BBC
Gillian Anderson in The Fall. Picture: BBC
Dressed for success: Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson in 'The Fall'
Over the hill? James Nesbitt makes a return to 'Cold Feet'

Jan Etherington

Television executives have often said that, when it comes to choosing what programme a family sits down to watch of an evening, it's women who are in charge of the remote control.

Which is why Kevin Lygo, ITV's director of TV, this week called for "more fun and lightness" in drama, to better suit that audience. "I'm a bit tired of endless murders where, in the first five minutes, someone - always a woman or a child - is abducted, raped, knifed, killed or bludgeoned," he said.

Suggesting it was time for more "sweet, happy, perfectly formed" shows that women would favour, Lygo cited the Greek island family saga 'The Durrells', and 'Good Karma Hospital', a new ITV drama about a group of medics in a southern Indian coastal town, which sounds like the brainchild of someone who's repeat-watched 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'.

As a television comedy writer, I applaud Lygo's desire to cut the tastelessly voyeuristic and gratuitously nasty elements from drama series - but do we really want to replace it with nothing but "happy" fare?

Most women don't have a problem with a bit of grit. Indeed, we like women who get their hands dirty, get stuck in and sort things out, in family life and at work - for us, it's a case of life imitating six-part drama.

We want more of gritty Sarah Lancashire in 'Happy Valley', and who didn't love Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones in 'Scott and Bailey'?

Please don't worry about us - we can take grisly reality. That's not what puts us off a programme. But there are plenty of other things that do have us reaching for the remote.

Here are five recurring niggles in TV drama which really are a TV turn-off for us.

1. Sexy corpses

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Crime dramas need a victim, but really, do they always have to be attractive young women with long hair? Nothing wrong with that, per se, except when they're used to "justify" gratuitous lingering shots of naked white flesh - every episode. I'm looking at you, 'Ripper Street'.

2. Clichéd pensioners

Peter Barlow, played by Chris Gascoyne, at the bedside of his father Ken, played by William Roache (Mark Bruce/ITV/PA Wire)

Grandmothers are routinely portrayed as "old", stupid and ignorant of technology, rather than in the prime of life, fully capable of operating an iPhone and able to manage stairs without need of a chairlift, thank you.

I especially hate dramas in which a character over 70 appears and you know instantly that (a) they're going to die, (b) be abused by a health worker, or (c) have a heated argument that ends with them slumped with a stroke (see Ken Barlow in this week's 'Coronation Street').

3. Older men who are inexplicably irresistible to younger women

Woody Allen, left, and Mariel Hemingway costar in "Manhattan.

Whether it's a news bulletin during which a raddled, bald, 70-something male presenter is simpered at by young women co-presenters, or dramas that feature decades-younger women who can't keep their hands off an old goat with a hair transplant (hello, James Nesbitt in 'Cold Feet'), this becomes even more depressing when you consider the number of actresses elbowed off screen when they hit 50.

If I want to suspend disbelief to witness intergenerational shenanigans, I'll go to the cinema and catch a Woody Allen film, thanks.

4. Inappropriate attire

Dressed for success: Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson in 'The Fall'

Or, in other words, Gillian Anderson in the BBC Two crime drama, 'The Fall', in which she plays DSI Stella Gibson, a Belfast police officer with a tough job that requires long hours, lashings of junk food and plenty of running about after bad guys, and yet manages to glide around all day in high heels and flimsy silk shirts.

Even when she's off duty, she is often found slipping into something less practical, mostly sashaying about in satin robes.

However, the real unsolved mystery is how she manages an 18-hour day while maintaining that tumble of immaculate blow-dry ready golden curls.

5. Ridiculous plotlines

Jamie Dornan in The Fall. Picture: BBC

Seeing as we're talking about 'The Fall', let's count the other ways it makes me angry. The women are pretty much always portrayed as either powerless or eye-candy. Why was victim Rose Stagg in the same ICU unit as her attacker? Why is the nurse in charge of wounded serial killer Paul Spector shown as a potential victim? And why is Spector's wife Sally-Anne so dumb? I mean, you can practically see the scriptwriter pulling the strings.

Irish Independent

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