Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: Happy Valley



TV One, 8.30 Monday-Wednesday


By Doug Coutts

West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley – it’s the place where old Coro actresses go to … well, hope they can shake off the Weatherfield mantle. Not only the hero cop – played by Sarah Lancashire – but the hero cop’s colleague’s wife: Julie Hesmondhalgh, who played a man who became a woman on the Street – our Hayley, or Harold as was.

And that’s just in the first five minutes so who knows how many more will turn up as the show progresses.

Happy Valley progresses apace – dead sheep, dead dogs and a dead body, all before the opening credits. The colleague is having an affair, and the dead body is connected to events that happened in series one, so if you’ve seen series one you won’t have to have your smartphone handy for catch-up googling.

It’s obvious things are going to get messy. There’s a new kid on the beat, who seems to be somehow related to the hero cop – again, you’d know more if you’d seen the first series – and the affair looks to be heading for a fairy-tale ending, the one Hansel and Gretel’s witch had. Oh, and Sgt Cawood – our hero – is a suspect in the dead body case.

It’s very real, in that gritty sort of way the Brits do well. They’re doing the dialogue a bit too realistically on occasion – I may be a deaf old bastard but there are a couple of times I can’t make out what the Sarge is saying, and that’s after turning up the volume to 11 and replaying the sequence several times.

Between that and the checking back with the BBC and IMDb to find out what went on previous like, it’s going to be a bit of commitment to keep watching. 

But I will. There’s a touch of the Wallander about Happy Valley – with Poundstretcher furniture standing in for baltic pine and rows of brick terraces instead of pine trees, but Sarah Lancashire seems to have just as many demons as Kenneth Branagh and that’s what police dramas are all about.

What other critics said:

“It is refreshing and lovely to have people on television talking like people not on television. [But] just because it’s believable and human doesn’t mean it’s mundane or boring. There is still plenty going on: misery, splitting up, plus a cracking cop show, and even a few good laughs.” — The Guardian.

“The dialogue is natural, the plot is tightly written and the performances are outstanding. And the well-timed pauses make Happy Valley a stand-out drama. I can only predict great things for this second series.” — The Independent.

“Creator Sally Wainwright is back blazing with confidence, and the script spills over with clever dialogue and unexpected lines.” — The Telegraph.

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at:
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