Belfast Telegraph

Whatever happened to all of the heroines?

By Frances Burscough

Twenty fifteen has been a truly terrible year for TV drama in my opinion. Apart from our dearly beloved Game of Thrones — which is flawless, naturally, as it’s made here — there’s been very little else worth staying in or up for.

But what is so frustrating is that last year’s TV was absolutely brilliant. It was so good, in fact, that I actually devoted an entire column at new year 2014 to waxing lyrical about it. And I quote: “ of the real stand-out features of the year for me was the quality of TV drama. What an amazing line-up and so compelling that it’s no wonder my evenings and weekends for an entire year seemed to revolve around the remote control.”

Sadly, my remote control is now an object of derision rather than delight and has actually been thrown at the telly in frustration on more than one occasion. What’s been on offer recently has been such a disappointment that I now firmly believe we may have witnessed the end of originality. And now, to quote Shakespeare somewhat out of context “there is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon”.

Call me melodramatic, but if you’re skint and your relaxation revolves around the telly, you will know exactly what I mean. 

The main reason for my complaint is the infuriating lack of strong feisty female characters we can relate and look up to. In the good old days of 2014 they were everywhere. Remember Happy Valley, for example, starring the brilliant Sarah Lancashire? A policewoman in a remote village who was struggling with so many personal problems of her own that she almost lost the plot completely, but somehow overcame them all and caught the baddies into the bargain.

Then along came Maggie Gyllenhaal who adopted an impeccable English accent and blew us all away with her incredible performance as Nessa Stein in The Honourable Woman?

Then there was Fargo, Vikings, True Detective ... not to mention the Nordic Noirs and all their uncompromisingly fierce Scandi heroines.       

Fast forward just a few months and our TVs have reverted back to the seventies, churning out wimpy women on a conveyor belt without so much as a titter of wit between them.

First there was the flagship show Fortitude that had been hyped up to high doe weeks before it even started. In that sorry saga, all the women were either the victims or the perpetrators of deceit who simply allowed the ruthless menfolk rule the roost without, well, any fortitude whatsoever.

Next up, The Affair, also hyped to within an inch of its launch, which once again portrayed every female character as either conniving con-artists or dour doormats. Then more recently we were introduced to Doctor Foster, starring the usually admirable Suranne Jones. Although this was the story of a strong and successful professional woman, who was wickedly betrayed by a lying, cheating, criminally fraudulent husband, the entire story simply charted her spiralling downfall into depression, desperation and self-destruction.

But that was nothing compared to the very worst offender of them all. Ladies and gentlemen I give you From Darkness, starring Anne-Marie Duff which began last week. Not only is the plot so formulaic that it could have been patched together from every show on ITV Gold (yet again, a world weary ex-cop retreats to a remote village to put her traumatic past life behind her but is tracked down and persuaded to return to the force to tackle an unsolved case against her better judgement and forced to confront her demons in the process ... blah blah blah), but she is so flaky, edgy and hysterical with nerves that in the real world she wouldn’t be able to say boo to a goose without having to undergo therapy afterwards.

Honest to God, my own daily diary has more vim and vigour than any of these tittle-tattle tales of wishy-washy woe! Maybe I should just write my own TV drama...

Oooohhhh. Now there’s an idea....

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