English Dave makes the very good point that ITV *might* just be the new BBC: the likes of Echo Beach etc marks a new era for the channel under the leadership of “Micky Grade” as ED likes to call him and I for one am well up for it. Man.
Whilst many writers and would-be writers might say they “wouldn’t lower themselves” to write for the likes of Echo Beach, Moving Wallpaper, The Royal Today et al, the fact of the matter is these shows are there, are watched and more pressingly, are offering potential employment to people who have very shaky prospects otherwise. Is there anyone as mad as the writer with no work on the horizon saying, “Thanks for the offer Kudos, but you know what? I don’t like the show, so I’m not going to write for you, even though I have no fecking idea where my next bit of feature work is coming from and I have a mortgage to pay.” Yeah right! Then there’s also the fact that soap writers go on to do other things: it’s like their apprenticeship, the place they not only hone their craft but make contacts and go on to make their own stuff or have it made for them, they’re no longer an “unsafe bet”. Look at the evidence: Jimmy McGovern (from Brookside to Cracker to the Lakes etc). Danny Brocklehurst (Clocking Off to Talk To Me). John Fay (Brookside and Coronation Street to Mobile). Paul Abbott (Children’s Ward to Shameless etc). Lizzie Mickery (The Bill to The State Within). Oh yeah – and Tony Jordan anyone?!? SEE THEIR CAREERS GROW. You have to be a nutter to imagine being a writer in TV does not lead anywhere, but even if it doesn’t and you don’t get your own show out of it, you do get money for writing. That’s quite a novelty to millions of other scribes out there doing it simply for the love of it.
So my verdict on last night’s openers for Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach? Pleasantly surprised.
I thought the concept for having a show behind a show in MV first and then the soap was a horribly cynical advertsing ploy designed to attract teenagers who would in turn either watch the soap or grow up to watch the soap and maybe it is, but it didn’t come across as badly as my suspicions and even made some funny points about this notion. I was expecting a docudrama, having ignored most of the press stuff. I caught in the end only because I was catching up with the ironing (which is an unbelievably uncool thing to say, when did I get old?) and I actually thought it was mildly amusing and pretty watchable. I don’t know if I will bother to watch it every single time because it seems more of a sitcom than anything which aren’t really my bag, but if it’s on it won’t make me want to pluck out my eyes.
Echo Beach in comparison was a little Hollyoaks in Cornwall – but why not. Scenery was fabulous and I’m pretty sure I’ve been where it’s filmed, so that was nice. An impressive cast: Tiffany from Eastenders. Mrs. MacCluskey from Grange Hill. Mike Baldwin from Corrie. Scott from Neighbours. Whatsisname from Hollyoaks. A bunch of kids I recognise from various bit parts in other stuff. Oh and Hugo Speer. That was quite weird, I’ll always remember him in one of my fave Brit Films Deathwatch and of course as The Lunchbox in one of my least fave films Full Monty, so therefore not a “soap actor” in the classic regard in my view but hey, who cares. Conflict was set up adequately: the widower Danny (Jason Donovan) returns to the village after 20 years’ absence after leaving under a cloud, bringing his kids with him. Of course people are not pleased to see him, least of all Hugo Speer and Tiffany who are married (but their marriage seems on the rocks of course). There seems to be a Montague/Capulet thing brewing between Jase’s kids and the Speer kids too.
Oh – and there was BAD LANGUAGE in both. That made a refreshing change. We had a “bastards” and a “prick” and a barely audible “blow job” in MV, though I was surprised to hear one lad describe girls on the beach in the actual soap as “potential pussy”. I’m betting Ofcom had a few complaints about that one. But hell, people swear in real life a helluva a lot, it should be reflected – even just a bit – by soap. I’m not wanting lots of effing and blinding, but just a tad more would be good. We’re writers anyway, we swear all the bloody time and you know it.
So: to recap, I wasn’t blown away but I will be watching again tonight. What was your verdict on Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach?