Why daytime TV dramas are some of the best

Afternoon shows like BBC’s The Moonstone and The Coroner deserve a watch, says Alison Graham

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Sometimes I daydream about retirement. Then I convince myself that without the prop of a full-time job I’d end up drinking supermarket own brand lager at the bus stop while shouting about the Government to passers by.

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So I turn away from the siren call that insists, “Imagine, nothing to do all day… wouldn’t that be wonderful? You could complete that life-sized tapestry of Aidan Turner.”

But if there’s one thing that could make me pack my belongings into a black bin bag and head into the sunset with my leaving card and John Lewis vouchers, it’s the dizzy prospect of watching daytime telly endlessly, rather than just as the occasional flu/holiday treat.

I love daytime TV. It’s a whole other world of Bargain Hunt, Homes under the Hammer, Cash in the Attic, The Jeremy Kyle Show (I know, I know, I’m not proud, but there you go) and dramas that in these giddy, go-ahead times would never find their way onto primetime schedules.

Like The Moonstone, an adaptation of Wilkie Collins’s classic Victorian detective novel, which runs daily on BBC1 (Monday to Friday 2.15pm).

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Cast of The Moonstone

Keeley Hawes starred in a BBC version in 1997, but it’s just not the kind of story that would find its way to the heart of the big schedules again.

Yes, I can see myself lying on my sofa after a cheese toastie lunch, covered in a tartan blanket, dipping champagne truffles into a mug of hot chocolate, and watching The Moonstone.

It’s a great book, of course, the first ever detective novel, which handed the whodunnit template to Agatha Christie and her ilk, and it’s packed with characters and incident.

Also it makes cosy autumn daytime telly. It’s slow (it’s daytime, where’s the audience going to go? A nightclub?), it’s terrifically arch and it heaves with the kind of things that make hipster primetime drama bosses queasy – shifty-looking, untrustworthy foreigners, in this case mysterious men in turbans, a damp, unsympathetic heroine from a wealthy, privileged background who faints when she’s not being stroppy, a smirking parlour maid and a ruddy great diamond, the moonstone of the title.

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Throw in handsome chancers with moustaches and an endearing, cleverer-than-he-looks policeman, the fabled, rose-growing Sgt Cuff (Cold Feet’s John Thomson) and you have a lovely warming stew that’s fun but also subversive. Any investment in drama on a mainstream terrestrial channel should be welcomed with a tray of fondant fancies and a nice cup of tea.

Daytime dramas, not just that reliable old warhorse Doctors, are watched in numbers that wouldn’t disgrace groovy Channel 4 at peak times. Doctors itself bounces between a very healthy one to two million viewers.

BBC daytime and early-peak controller Dan McGolpin recently announced a whole new season.

The Coroner, a big hit, returns, though it’s probably not for you if you’re going to spend 45 minutes shouting “CORONERS DON’T INVESTIGATE CRIMES” at your telly, as I did.

Though nearly two million people loved it. Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On will be back, along with the popular Irish cop drama Red Rock and – here I must pause for a little squeal – there’ll be a Father Brown Christmas special with Mark Williams as GK Chesterton’s sleuth. Joy of joys! Can I suggest that adaptations of EF Benson’s peerless Mapp and Lucia books would sit well in the post-soup-and-sandwich slot, too?

Steve Pemberton did a great version a couple of Christmasses ago that didn’t bring in a big audience. But daytime would be its perfect home.

You’re welcome. Now, get me a toastie, please. 

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The Moonstone is on Monday to Friday 2.15pm, BBC1