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Red Riding No Good
By Alex Workman
Billed as this year’s must-see drama and a televisual event akin to “Boys From The Blackstuff” in some quarters of the London-based media, this trilogy of films was hyped for its grim portrayal of the Wild West Yorkshire of the 1970s and early 80s. However, aside from the pleasure I derived from reading The Yorkshire Post’s sniffy “it’s not like any journalist/county/police force we’ve ever seen” denouncements, I must say I found the whole thing a waste of this year’s Channel 4 “gritty northern drama” budget. If ever there was an example of style over substance, then this was it.
At this point it is worth noting that David Peace wrote four novels and I can only assume that the one that was dropped contained the storyline. Frankly, there was more chance of following my football team on a decent cup run. The missing one is “1977”, as the trilogy focused on 1974, 1980 and 1983, ironically a year short of Orwell’s improved vision of the police that looked like a nanny state in comparison to these psychos.
As a period piece, I thought the claustrophobic atmosphere of the time the Ripper was striking fear and paranoia into the hearts and homes of ordinary people was captured depressingly well, although where neon-lit motels existed in 1970s Yorkshire remains a point of contention.
Some of the characters were simply taken from your average scriptwriter’s stock staple of stereotypes, so we had bent coppers, ambitious journos, flash ‘n’ shady businessmen, kiddy-fiddling priests, etc. The repeated toast of “To the North … where we do what we want” in the final episode recalled Harry Enfield’s George Whitebread plain-speaking Yorkshireman sketches, especially when Warren Clarke’s involvement meant any grannies tuning in would have suspected an after-the-watershed Dalziel had finally had one pint of mild too many. At least he has the accent right, unlike some of the others.
To be fair, some of the acting masked the plot’s shortfalls. The ever-excellent Paddy Considine played an understated and unwelcome presence as a mild-mannered detective sent over t’hills from Manchester to investigate the alleged corruption. Sean Bean finally found a suitable role as a sleazy property magnate, an unreconstructed Yorkshireman, basically playing himself according to a lass at our work who was pursued by him and his agent one night around a London pub (as a footnote she received an apology and a signed Sheffield United shirt for our xmas raffle along with veiled threats about selling her story to the tabloids – 100% beaut). Sean Harris, fresh from his role as Ian Brady, was equally menacing as Bob Craven posing the biggest threat to civilian society it was possible for a ginger pipsqueak to muster in the days before Alan McGee was given his own music blog by The Guardian.
Overall, having been born and bred in the area during this period, I found myself wondering how I’d manage to survive this long. My minor run-ins with the local constabulary during my youth were far from pleasant and their manners not the best, but I’d somehow pulled through without days of torture. If this practice still persists, may I recommend making folk watch six hours of this dross?! Of course, it will win awards galore as the media loves to congratulate itself on what it perceives as high art, but sadly this says more about them and also the lowered public expectations these days …
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