Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Valley TV Mini-Series

Happy Valley
starring Sarah Lancashire
written by Sally Wainwright
directed by Euros Lyn
5 stars - outstanding
ALR Blue - no animal characters or scenes

Here we have an outstanding British mini-series which demonstrates in so many ways how American dramas have fallen off the rails.

The story centers around Cathrine, a Yorkshire village police sergeant. She's trying to raise her grandson after her daughter's death and doing her best to fight the growing drug problems in her community. In the meantime, a kidnap for hire plot is spiraling out of control, her ex-husband is wooing her, and her grandson is getting called to task for angry outbursts at school.

Now then, let's discuss why this was an amazing little TV show and why it was so much better done BBC style than American style.

First off, the main character. Catherine is unapologetically middle-aged and average. She's a bit frumpy, a bit overweight, and she exhibits a complex series of emotions and responses to situations from mother hen to thug. You know why? Because that's how people are. They're complicated. In fact every character (even supporting characters) in this drama is three dimensional and multi-faceted. None of that American nonsense with a couple of strong leads with single dominant character traits and minor characters who seem only to exist to read out lines. Even Catherine's 8-ish year old Grandson is well played. He's angry, but he's also a kid, and really not a bad kid.

Bad guys also get good play. They aren't all bad, they aren't all knowing. They're people. People who do stupid, stupid things and struggle with their choices.

Then there's the violence. Yes, there is some, but it is handled in a tasteful way. By that I mean that the camera play isn't the disturbing, almost pornographic kind that one grows accustomed to in the US. We don't get lingering (loving?) shots of people who have been brutalized, nor do we get the bonus sound effects of mallet on meat. Plus, not all violence is even shown. There were several scenes where the director could have chosen to show us icky things happening, but instead we see brief, clinical shots of the aftermath and either learn what happened from the characters or (even better) have to figure it out.

The series doesn't tell us what to think. It leaves us questioning the characters, wondering what we might have done in the same circumstances. It doesn't tell us when to cringe by showing graphic violence. It doesn't tell us that some people are all good and some are bad. It doesn't assure us that you can pick out good or bad from the crowd. That's awesome.

Finally, the writing and the pacing are marvelous. My husband and I watched all six episodes in the span of three days. Plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested and guessing how it will all end.


  1. We watched it the same way! It beat the craptastic offerings on US TV by a country mile! I'm glad to hear that you liked it, too.

  2. hello mango momma its dennis the vizsla dog hay this sownds like a gud show maybe i shud tel dada so he can try to git mama to watch it!!! altho that lady duz not akchooally luk verry happy!!! ok bye