I’ve worked with some of the best and nicest people in television but I haven’t had a better experience as a writer than on The Durrells. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a TV show: your cast turn out to be mainly mad, the director keeps saying “I have NO idea how to shoot this crap”, the critics hate you and nobody watches.
None of that happened, and we even made the cover of the Radio Times, twice, entitling us to go to the legendary Radio Times Covers Party, which incidentally makes the Bafta celebrations look like a drab picnic.
I don’t tweet – more writing? – but I’ve been dipping into The Durrells’ Twitter response and, even allowing for social media’s proneness to hysteria, the warmth and love for the show is very touching. I can’t say they’re banging on about the writing, to be honest, but I’ll bathe in the reflected glory of their love for the wonderful Keeley Hawes and the rest of the cast and the animals and setting.
It helps that we filmed in Corfu, of course, and found the perfect house, which became the sixth member of the family, although I suppose that should be Roger the dog. There’s a queue to buy the house, but you’ll need deep pockets. I dread going back there in a few years and finding it’s been tarted up and now has a sensible tarmac drive and a car port on the side where Gerry’s otters once frolicked.
I genuinely like writing for all the characters equally, because the cast are uniformly brilliant. I hope I did the Greek characters justice – we didn’t want to be a show about funny foreigners and their daft ways. Although I had to make most of it up, the Durrells’ rich real lives gave me a fantastic bedrock of truth.
By the way, except within the industry, TV directors are generally under-appreciated so let me recommend especially our main two: Steve Barron and Roger Goldby. They have shown great patience in the face of some wayward behaviour from our beloved animal actors who pretty much all suffer from ADHD, except our sloth. The pelicans though can do no wrong.
Our four series echo the four years the Durrell family were on their Greek island so it’s the right time to bow out, though I will hugely miss the characters. The war separated them and they didn’t get back together for 8 years, when they reassembled in Bournemouth, their eccentricities undimmed. Maybe we should rejoin them there…
Series four of The Durrells is out on DVD from 20th May, with pre-orders available now