TV Review: Scott & Bailey, Bad Education & Educating The East End

Now in its fourth series, Scott & Bailey (ITV1 Wednesday 9pm) goes from strength to strength. Loosely inspired by 1980s cop show, Cagney & Lacey, Scott & Bailey goes way past the original template.

For a start, it has three strong women in central roles who are not constantly bickering and putting each other down, something unheard of in most TV dramas. A wry Northern humour also plays a huge part throughout the programme. A conversation about a suspect who sends mobile phone “selfies” of his intimate body parts manages to be funny without being gratuitous.

This week’s story centres on the office politics between Detective Constable Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and Detective Sergeant Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) and the discovery of the body of a young woman in a central Manchester hotel.

The dead woman had a penchant for casual sexual encounters and our titular characters discover she had agreed to meet a stranger she had met through a social networking website.

They later ascertain that she was an Australian backpacker but they have great difficulty finding the killer until he unexpectedly confesses just before the end of the programme. Running simultaneously, DS Bailey is having an affair with Detective Superintendent Will Pemberton (Steve Toussaint) which adds an intriguing additional political subplot. This is where the programmes excellent writing comes to the fore.

The affair is always there in the background without stamping over the story like an elephant’s foot.

Their boss, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) then gets drunk and inadvertently informs DS Bailey that she had originally offered her job to her friend, DC Scott. This causes friction between two coppers who were previously thick as thieves.

This programme is story-led with strong characters as opposed to being character lead with a poor story. This is the programme’s great strength. The dialogue throughout the programme is liberally sprinkled with dark humour, something that police are known to possess in abundance. As well as being well written, it has superb acting and is, at appropriate times, very funny.

DC Scott’s ham-fisted attempts at speed dating are particularly amusing. If there’s a better police drama on the television at the moment, I have yet to see it.

While the forces of law and order are portrayed with a gritty humour in Scott & Bailey, over on BBC3 on Tuesday nights, we have the school based satire that is Bad Education (10pm).

The programme is written by and stars Jack Whitehall, playing Alfie Wickers, a decent man who is also alas, a hapless teacher who is hopelessly trying to be down with the kids.

He talks in patois and he gets over familiar with his charges. This week we see the calamitous events surrounding Abbey Grove’s annual Sports Day as Wickers helps one of his students cheat to win the 110 metre hurdle race, admittedly to help him overcome a bully.

A bastardised Oscar Wilde quotation (“looking up the miniskirts of stars”) comes early in the programme. We are then introduced to Mr Preet (Harry Peacock), a psychopathic South African PE teacher who has been given a job at Abbey Grove. Preet has just been released from prison for attacking Mr Wickers. Whilst inside, Preet had been drawing homoerotic images of Mr Wickers which he enthusiastically shows to him. The enthusiasm is not reciprocated.

Wickers is taking part in the obstacle course on Sports Day and decides to cheat. He takes what he thinks are steroids but what is actually Viagra.

When he’s informed of what he has taken, he start’s thinking of the least arousing things possible (Eric Pickles on the toilet, Granny in a thong, etc) to try and staunch the eruption of the erection.

It doesn’t work and by the time the race ends the inevitable has happened and something akin to a small aircraft is bulging in his shorts. We get a happy ending when Mr Preet is arrested and lead away by the Police.

Keeping the theme of education, Thursday nights on Channel 4 see Educating the East End, a fly on the wall documentary about Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow.

Educating the East End begins with a group of Year Seven students in a German class, which Louie arrives late for. Louie has has been given a late place at the school and is five weeks behind everyone else because of it. He has has already missed fourteen days of his schooling and has been roped in to explain his absence.

Mrs Austin is there to ascertain why he has not been in. She claims to have hated school so she could presumably empathise with anybody who is struggling in there.

Unlike Educating Yorkshire, which preceded this series, this school appears to be run by somebody who has a relatively moderate ego.

The programme adequately shows how hard the teachers work and the diverse and unpredictable nature of the job they do and that is a good thing for anybody that is still watching.

Unfortunately, whilst it is to the benefit of the school and its students (the most important people there when all’s said and done) that they have a modest head teacher with less of a desire to be the star of the show, it’s hard to work out how enthralling it is as television. An hour long show, I switched over after thirty minutes with the tedium I have previously only felt in double Woodwork, creeping in.

This was first published on Quays News on Monday 13th of October 2014. The original article can be found here

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