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‘Only people over 40 stay in to watch TV’


Philip Glenister and co-star John Simm in a scene from Life on Mars

Philip Glenister and co-star John Simm in a scene from Life on Mars

Philip Glenister and co-star John Simm in a scene from Life on Mars

TELEVISION dramas should be targeted at the over-40s because they "don’t have a life and don’t go out", according to actor Philip Glenister.

Television executives are pandering to the young while neglecting older viewers, he said.

The star best known for playing DCI Gene Hunt in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, nostalgia-laden shows that found a ready audience of middle-aged viewers.

“I would’ve thought the majority of people who watch TV drama are late 30s and over-40s, because we’re the ones who don’t go out and don’t have a life any more,” said Glenister, 48 and a father of two.

“I don’t understand why people are desperate to get kids to watch TV - don’t forget them, obviously, but don’t pander to them either. Don’t forget your core audience.”

Glenister’s comments are backed up by recent research which shows that the young are losing interest in television. An Ofcom survey found that adolescents would rather give up watching television altogether than survive without the internet or a mobile phone.

The controller of BBC One, Danny Cohen, has acknowledged that the average age of the channel’s viewers is 50 and has promised more shows for older audiences. However, he insisted that BBC One must find programmes that appeal to young viewers.

Speaking to Radio Times, Glenister said it was frustrating that older women struggle for screen time on British television. His wife, Beth Goddard, is a 41-year-old actress whose career includes small roles in television dramas including Lewis, New Tricks and Poirot.

“It’s much harder for actresses of a certain age,” Glenister said. His wife is “gorgeous”, he added, but “too often if a woman is over a certain age, drama says you have to be dowdy, which is ludicrous”.

He singled out Page Eight, David Hare’s recent spy drama, as an example of a “grown-up” programme with decent roles for older actresses. Rachel Weisz and Judy Davis were among the cast.

Glenister’s latest television role is in Hidden, a BBC One conspiracy thriller in which he plays a down-on-his-luck solicitor who harbours a secret.

The role is far removed from that of the straight-talking Gene Hunt, whose politically incorrect put-downs were from a bygone age. Fans loved his one-liners, including the memorable: “Blimey, if that skirt was hitched any higher I could see what you had for breakfast.”

Asked to explain why the character was so popular, Glenister said that viewers were nostalgic for a simpler time.

“We were seeing the end of New Labour and the whole country was feeling let down by Blair - the broken promises and the war. At the same time as feeling that we were not allowed to have an opinion, [we were] being told, ‘You can’t say that’, for fear of being racist or homophobic.

“This man comes along and says, ‘---- it, you’re the bad guy, you’re nicked’, and people were like, ‘Yes, thank God’.”

The series also spawned a catchphrase. Glenister said: “If I had a pound for every time I’d heard ‘Fire up the Quattro’, I’d be a millionaire