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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

BBC1's new medical drama Frankie

Frankie is the female lead in a brand new BBC1 medical drama. Something sets her apart from the women we've been used to seeing over the last few months. Most female characters on our screens of late haven't had the easiest of lives. They seem to have been either attacked by a serial killer, raped or living in a cold barn with a brooding John Simm. Thankfully Frankie doesn't have any of these problems. She's a district nurse and surprisingly enough the men in her life are quite nice actually. There's a novelty for you. Writer Lucy Gannon describes her lead as a "good humoured lively woman" and it's about time that we saw one of those again.
In a world of crime and period pieces Frankie almost feels a breath of fresh air. It focuses on ordinary people doing ordinary things. Our lead (Torchwood's Eve Myles) is a district nurse who puts the needs of her patients above her own. She chats to Radio 2's Ken Bruce, has a steady-ish home life with boyfriend Ian and loves her music. She's a genuinely nice person.

The medical drama has long been a staple of any TV schedule and Frankie doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but it's a quick and easy hour that doesn't ask much of the viewer. The characters are likeable and believable enough and the hour goes by relatively quickly.  Some critics have been dubbing the six-part series a happier Doc Martin but I think that's a lazy comparison. The stories in this series are rooted in the real world. Eve Myles is a warm presence on screen, the kind of person you'd want in your corner if she were really a district nurse.

The two stories of the week about a old man suffering with dementia and a young girl with a peculiar set of symptoms held my attention but I feel I might know which road the series as a whole is likely to go down as our loveable lead struggles to juggle her loyalty to her patients with her loyalty to likeable boyfriend Ian. There's nothing fresh or revolutionary about the series but in saying that not every TV drama has to set the world alight does it? If the characters are well drawn enough sometimes it's just nice to spend some time with them without having to wonder 'whodunnit'.

If you're tuning in expecting something new in the medical genre you're likely to be disappointed. Lucy Gannon's script is well observed and a bit of harmless summer TV fun. Whether we'll be talking about Frankie as one of the best BBC offerings at the end of 2013 is debatable but as a bit of harmless enjoyable TV drama it does well. Some of the BBC's most successful series are the ones that you can just sit back and relax with. Series like New Tricks and Death in Paradise spring to mind. Easy viewing and Frankie may well fit quite nicely in that sort of slot. Only time will tell.

Read my interview with writer Lucy Gannon

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