There’s more than a touch of Cagney and Lacey about Scott & Bailey, ITV1’s new police procedural starring Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones as a pair of first-rate detective constables with third-rate home lives.
But it seems that comparisons with the trailblazing 1980s cop show are justified. Suranne, who came up with the idea for Scott & Bailey with her former Coronation Street colleague, Sally Lindsay, explains the links between New York and Manchester’s mean streets.
“Sally loves Cagney and Lacey, she’s obsessed with it. And she and I were talking about the scripts we were getting and how a lot of the roles for women in their mid-30s were wives, mistresses or sidekicks.
“We just thought it would be great to have a drama set in Manchester with two ballsy female coppers. So we wrote a treatment together over a couple of bottles of wine and pitched the idea.
“Nothing happened for a long time and then Sally Wainwright and Diane Taylor came on board to work on the scripts and created Scott & Bailey.”
Despite the project going through inevitable changes and developments, one thing that Suranne kept a close eye on was the characterisation of her role, DC Rachel Bailey:
“I always wanted her to be a bit of a maverick, someone who drinks a bit too much, has got some issues and who’s a kind of adolescent in her emotional attachment to men.”
All of which has certainly made it to the finished drama – Rachel is the more mouthy and impulsive of the pair, while Janet Scott (Sharp) remains cool and collected.
What’s also apparent, on the basis of the opening episodes, is how quickly the viewer is able to empathise with the emotional problems faced by the leads, which is mainly down to the acting talent on display.
Suranne has a face that appears to have been sculpted in order to look aggrieved. Her set jaw and scowl suggest that Rachel is barely keeping a lid on her anger, while Lesley Sharp manages to convey both authority and vulnerability as Janet, the diplomatic colleague with the stale marriage.
The chemistry between the two actors is undeniable but the show could well have been a very different property had Suranne’s original concept made it to the screen. “Sally (Lindsay) was due to star in it, too, but when it came round to casting, she was pregnant with twins.
“So as a nod to her, we’ve got her popping up in episode two as Rachel’s sister.”
Once Lesley Sharp was involved, Suranne soon found it easy to bond with her new co-star. “Before we got in front of a camera, Di (Taylor) bundled us in a car and took us to this police station in Chadderton around where I grew up in order for us to learn how to arrest people.
“Lesley had to get someone up against a bar and put the handcuffs on them, and I had to shove someone up against a bar.
“Going through that together and then being trapped in a car on the moors for the whole of your first day filming really cemented us as like-minded women who really rated the scripts and the characters.”
Scott & Bailey stands as a fine addition to ITV1’s roster of female crime-fighters, who are growing in number these days thanks to the introduction of Brenda Blethyn’s Vera and Olivia Williams in the recent Case Sensitive. But what is it that keeps us interested in small-screen sleuths?
“It’s all about being the detective from the sofa and trying to work it all out,” says Suranne. “Plus we’ve got the added layer of our show not just being a crime drama but also a workplace and a domestic drama, too. You see them at work and then you close the professional door and see them on the outside, too.”
Scott & Bailey begins on Sunday 29 May at 9:00pm on ITV1.