Skins writer Jack Thorne to make Channel 4 drama about a fictional comic facing historic sex claims

The Glue writer has penned what the channel is calling a "topical" series

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Jack Thorne has written a four-part drama serial about a much-loved comic whose life is torn apart when someone accuses him of historic sex offences.

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The series will focus on Paul Finchley, one half of a comedy double act and “a cherished household name with a career that spans several decades”. 

While his fame has slightly diminished, he’s frequently recognised on the street and affectionately called upon by taxi drivers to repeat a famous catchphrase.

However, Paul’s life is upended when he is faced with an accusation of rape from the 1970s prompting a police investigation, media circus and a trial which proves traumatic for both accuser and accused.

Thorne, whose previous credits include Skins and Glue (both E4), The Fades (BBC3), This is England ‘86, ’88, ’90 (Channel 4) and The Last Panthers (Sky), said the drama has been inspired by real-life cases of celebrities being accused of historic sex crimes.

He said: “What I’ve always loved about Channel 4 is that it’s a place to discuss big ideas. National Treasure is a piece about doubt, about the smell of abuse, about how we as a society live in Yewtree times. Paul is a man who could be innocent or guilty. We’re going to examine him from all sides and ask that big question – how well do we know the people closest to us?”

George Faber, co-executive producer, added: “In recent years we’ve been bombarded with revelations about the historic sex offences of people in the public eye and the lives that they’ve destroyed. This fictional drama explores the emotional impact on both a family that finds itself in the eye of such a media story, and on the accuser – and tackles the complex relationship between celebrity, sex and power.”

“National Treasure is a powerful drama that goes beyond recent headlines, exploring the human and emotional impact when a whole life is called into question,” said Piers Wenger, Channel 4’s Head of Drama. “In Jack’s hands it’s an insightful and thought-provoking exploration of memory, truth, age, doubt, and how well we really know ourselves and those closest to us. This, coupled with its evident topicality, makes it a perfect addition to the Channel 4 drama slate.” 

The commission was revealed at today’s Edinburgh Television Festival by Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt.

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It will begin shooting in January 2016 to air on the channel later that year. Casting is yet to be announced.