TV is saturated with crime dramas. It’s a genre that we all know and love. We’ve got crime dramas from across the world, but none mix comedy, heart and grit like ITV’s Scott & Bailey.
Despite being created by the woman behind Happy Valley Sally Wainwright, I don’t believe that Scott and Bailey has ever really garnered the respect it deserves.
After the fourth series in 2014 failed to garner high ratings, we worried that this somewhat hidden gem would disappear into the abyss until this most recent run was announced last year.
In a change to the format this series of the crime drama will only have three installments all of which deal with a single case. The case in question sees Syndicate Nine uncover a website which hosts videos of various murders being committed with the link between them being that none of the killers were ever brought to justice. The website also contains a large lists of names and addresses not linked to any of the murders leading the team to believe that they are either linked to potential victims or suspects.
The case coincides with the return of Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) who has spent the last year in London working with Vice. Meanwhile, Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) has continued to knuckle down in her job despite a recent romantic breakdown and so is glad when Rachel returns.
One notable absence is the duo’s boss Gill, played by the fantastic Amelia Bullmore who retired at the end of the fourth series. Though Gill’s departure gives the show a different feel, this first episode moves at such a speed you don’t really have time to miss her. With Gill gone Rachel takes over as the syndicate’s new boss and it is a little bit of an adjustment for the team to get use to one of their own giving them orders.
What I’ve always liked about Scott and Bailey is how the series mixes gripping police procedural with a focus on the main characters’ personal lives. It seems that series five will be no different as Janet’s daughter Taisie finds herself in trouble with the law after being arrested at the same time as schoolmates carrying drugs. However 16-year-old Taisie’s problems deepen when explicit photos of her 15-year-old boyfriend are found on her phone which means that she is now likely to be arrested be arrested under the sexual offences act. Elsewhere Rachel’s complicated personal life continues as she learns she’s pregnant and, with her professional live busier than ever before, it looks like she has no time for a baby.
I think what keeps Scott and Bailey as good as it is is the relationship between both Janet and Rachel and Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones. As brilliantly plotted as the central crime story was I found the moments when Janet and Rachel were just chatting provided the best moments of this opening episodes.
Lee Warburton, who has taken over writing duties from Amelia Bulmore, keeps the dialogue between Rachel and Janet feeling fresh and realistic. My personal favourite sequence came when Rachel complained about not wearing the right clothes which leaded Rachel to lend her her expensive blue suit. The chemistry between Sharp and Jones is equally impressive and it seems that the pair are now completely comfortable in each other’s company. Sharp is particularly on form and every time I see her on screen I feel it’s a shame that she’s not on our TVs more often. Jones meanwhile has brought a little bit more grit to the character of Rachel which fits in with her new role as the team’s de facto boss.
The plot shines a light on the dangers of modern technology and Warburton has done a clever job in mixing the dark elements of the central crime story with the difficult situation Janet Scott is facing at home.
What I do think is that this new layout of Scott and Bailey is a good idea as a commitment of only three episodes may entice some viewers who wouldn’t want to sit through a six-part series. At the same time Warburton doesn’t alienate long time fans of the show and I like how there’s much more of a focus on Rachel’s relationship with her sister played by Sally Lindsay. Warburton has to be generally applauded for creating a mystery that can feasibly be strung out over three episodes without wearing thin. The only element that is missing from this series is Amelia Bulmore’s Gill but at the same time it’s still good to have Pippa Haywood round as the formidable Dodson.
I’m so glad that the quality of Scott and Bailey remains outstanding and I’m just hoping this series does well enough in the ratings for Janet and Rachel to keep returning to our screens for years to come.