Do writers get the recognition they deserve?
As a writer myself, I’m going to say that in general they don’t.
There are millions of us out there with beautiful words to share,
and stories that would blow your socks off, if we just had the chance to be noticed.
But, I’m not talking about books today, though you can always check mine out at my website…
I’ve been watching The Good Karma Hospital on ITV the last few Sunday nights. It’s one of those shows where I wasn’t enthused by its name and hubby wasn’t keen on its description, but I love Amanda Redman and the trailers looked cool, or rather hot, filmed in Sri Lanka! So we gave it a try.
It’s a hit in my house, great acting by its entire cast – not just the leads, gorgeous scenery, humour and wit, lovely cinematography, and, last but not least, beautiful writing.
The third episode hit home for me. Clive Russell played an artist with pneumonia and Dr Lydia Fonseca astutely recognised symptoms of dementia. The acting was spot on, as it has been all series, showing vulnerability, compassion, and a multitude of emotions. Phyllis Logan is a gem in a part that draws you right into her dilemma. And these actors are playing supporting roles, the acting and characterisation is superb.
And that brings me to the writing. I’ve name checked three actors in this post, and I could list them all, but the actors are nothing without good writing. I’ve seen brilliant actors let down by poor storylines, lousy hooks, and lazy scripts. So, the writer is vital. Again, the entire cast and production team is important as it’s an ensemble in reality, but without the writer there is nothing. I’d love to see interviews with writers on TV, but often the selling point for a series are the main actors.
Dan Sefton is the writer and creator for The Good Karma Hospital, and he deserves recognition. His storylines and characters are delightful, painful, gritty, realistic, vulnerable, and engaging. It’s the emotion beneath the protagonists that move the show along. The moment when Maggie (Phyllis Logan) bends at the height of her joy amongst the paint powder and dancing at the Holi celebrations, and whispers “I don’t want to die,” cuts you to the quick. She delivers the performance but Dan Sefton gave her the words and script to make it work – and it works! When writing and acting come together and pour out of the screen and into your heart, then you know you’re onto a winner.
I generally pick which series I want to watch according to the actors I love: Nicola Walker, Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Hugh Laurie, Amanda Redman, Peter Firth, and John Thompson are just a few that draw me to the screen, but the writers are becoming more a source to search.
Nicola Walker and Stellan Skarsgård pulled me into River last year, and I loved it. Abi Morgan’s writing, her script, was outstanding. It drew me into John River’s poignant world of awkwardness, fragility, strength, intelligence, and mental pain. I empathised with the lead, I felt what he felt, and I wept when he wept. It takes great skill to write scripts that move you.
Mike Bullen’s Cold Feet was always a favourite, but the revived 2016 series tackled depression, something Mike Bullen, himself, had experienced, and John Thompson’s portrayal of Pete slipping into despair was spine tingling. Excellent writing had me on the edge of my seat, as I’ve suffered clinical depression for most of my life, and when Pete stood on the edge of the cliff, I was right there with him. Mike Bullen’s writing was real, honest, and both he and Abi Morgan with River, were able to highlight conditions (that are often swept beneath the carpet) with truth and integrity.
Chris Lang’s Unforgotten had great stars in Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar, but it was the ensemble cast that pulled his brilliant scripts together. Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch is another fantastic cast with great writing.
There are also wonderful dramas scripted by several writers or writing teams, like Humans, Wolf Hall, Sherlock, and many US dramas, I was a huge fan of The West Wing, and loved The Good Wife.
Good actors are, generally, what sell a TV drama, but good writing is what keeps us there. Take the time to recognise the writers behind the screenplays – it’s much harder than it looks!
I know most of these series are British, and only some have been shown internationally,
but what show really inspires you, which writers are the ones that make you tick?
What’s been one of your favourite shows?