Happy Valley writer Sally Wainwright rues ITV’s “sad” decision to axe her Suranne Jones drama Unforgiven

The Bafta-winning scriptwriter addresses the “rubbish” idea in TV circles that a second series is inherently "risky"


Writer Sally Wainwright enjoyed stellar success with her Bafta-winning BBC1 police drama Happy Valley, which is returning this week for a second series with Sarah Lancashire once again in the lead role as tough cop Catherine Cawood.


But Wainwright has revealed her disappointment over the failure of another project of hers – ITV’s Suranne Jones drama Unforgiven – to win a second series.

Wainwright wanted to make another run of the three-part 2009 drama in which Jones played Ruth Slater, a woman who starts the story having been released from prison on licence after she killed two police officers as a teenager. However ITV decided not to give her another go and the decision clearly still rankles.


In an interview for Happy Valley Wainwright said: “I never plan to write one series of anything. You only write one series if it’s not successful, and you don’t get recommissioned – this is telly, not film. You love your characters and you want to spend more time with them. I wanted to do a second series of Unforgiven, I wanted to follow what Ruth did next, and ITV said no even though it was massively successful. I still think that was a sad decision.

“There’s a thing at the moment that doing a second series is risky, but I think that’s rubbish. A second series of a successful show is often even better than the first series. There’s a confidence and assuredness with a second series from everyone involved. It’s when shows get into fifth, sixth, seventh series that the rot tends to set in.”

Unforgiven performed well in the ratings, debuting with more than 7 million viewers for its opening episode. It also won the Best Drama Series or Serial prize at the 2009 Royal Television Society Programme Awards.

Suranne Jones’ co-stars were Siobhan Finneran, Peter Davison, Douglas Hodge, Jemma Redgrave, Jack Deam, Matthew McNulty and Will Mellor.


Happy Valley returns to BBC1 on Tuesday February 9 at 9pm