tv review: scott & bailey
Scott & Bailey is like any other good British crime show. It has gripping and often disturbing storylines, workplace banter and plenty of trips to the pub after work. But in one particular way, the show stands out: its two title characters are women, working under the leadership of a female boss in the Manchester police Major Incident Team.
Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) is a young, determined Detective Constable with a tumultuous personal life. Rachel has made her mistakes, often dragging her problems into the workplace, but her natural talent and passion for the job has seen her through the ups and downs. Her colleague DC Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) is a mother in her fifties who excels at her demanding and sometimes terrifying work. The two have an unlikely but strong friendship, and this relationship is a big part of what makes the show worth watching.
While the title characters are the centre of the show, it would be impossible not to mention their boss, Detective Chief Investigator Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore). Murray is quick, decisive and dispassionate when need be, and a firm but fair leader. She runs her team with respect and the right amount of discipline, leading the team’s investigations with precision. It is great to see such clever female characters as the driving force behind a show.
Scott & Bailey is now in its fourth season, with the latest episode screening on ABC1 on Saturday night. The third season was full of drama for everyone both at work and home, but in the new episode, the chaos has subsided and Scott and Bailey are getting on with the job and applying for promotion to Sergeant. Rachel wants to convince the board that she has moved beyond her past mistakes, while Janet wants to explain why she has left it until now to make this career move. With a new case opened and resolved, the episode ended with a hint of a much bigger case being reopened.
Scott & Bailey has been described by Vulture writer Margaret Lyons as part of a genre she calls “British Women Getting It Done” (other programs to make the cut include Call The Midwife and The Bletchley Circle). It’s an apt description, as Scott, Bailey, and DCI Murray certainly do “get it done”— from finding and interviewing suspects, raiding homes, inspecting crime scenes and viewing dead bodies, the detectives are across it all. Of course, they are flawed human beings and not immune from making mistakes, but this tension makes the show all the more interesting.
While the story lines explore both work and personal life, they manage to move beyond the clichéd “work/life balance” theme of many shows that are focused on professional women. The personal lives of Scott and Bailey certainly feature, and do seep into their work lives, but this really humanises the characters rather simply than painting them as women struggling to “have it all.”
Interestingly, Suranne Jones herself came up with the concept for the show along with Sally Lindsay, an actress who she worked with on Coronation Street. In a 2011 interview with British website Cultbox, Jones explained the thought behind the series: ‘We were talking about how it’d be great to have a female-led programme that wasn’t wife-of, sidekick-to, mother-of, mistress-to… all that kind of stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if the scripts are brilliant, but I guess there was nothing around at that time.’ This discussion led to what is now Scott & Bailey.
In the same interview, Jones was reserved about the potential for a second series of the show. But the idea was clearly worth betting on, as the characters have now gone far beyond one season. While the earlier seasons do have ongoing storylines that are worth watching, the new season seems to be moving on with new cases and new paths for both Scott and Bailey, making it possible for viewers to start with the current season. The first episode is on iView here, and the remainder of the season will be shown on Saturday nights at 8.30 on ABC1.