Why National Treasure writer Jack Thorne featured real comedians like Lee Mack and Alan Carr in his drama
The creator of the Channel 4 drama about a comedian accused of sexual abuse explains that the use of real stars was vital for the drama’s “authenticity”
Robbie Coltrane drama National Treasure was noteworthy for its use of real life comedians in a fictional story of a faded entertainer facing historical sex allegations.
In episode one, we meet Frank Skinner and Alan Carr playing themselves at a fictional awards ceremony presided over by Robbie Coltrane's character Paul Finchley.
Later, Lee Mack appears, again playing himself. He takes over the disgraced entertainer’s fictional Channel 4 panel show and later attends a party Finchley throws following his acquittal from rape charges.
Also notable, in the opening episode Finchley alludes to real-life sexual predator Jimmy Savile – “They think I’m f***** Jimmy Savile” he tells his lawyer.
It's an unsettling use of real names and faces in a dramatic context but scriptwriter Jack Thorne told RadioTimes.com that it was central to achieving “authenticity” across the series.
“It felt wrong not to use the name Jimmy Savile at some point in this show," explained Thorne. "And if you’re doing that then setting him in a context I think helps understand where [Paul Finchley] is in life.
“So the fact that Frank [Skinner] is a fan of his is very useful for telling the audience exactly where he’s at. The fact that we’ve got Alan Carr presenting the awards gives it all a sort of authenticity. Lee Mack turns up later on and that sort of grounds it in a way but it also gives us license to use those names without it seeming strange.”
However Thorne was adamant that the intricacies of the court case and the claims of Finchley’s alleged victims in the drama were not based in any way on any real-life cases.
“We were quite anxious not to mimic any one of the cases, partly because that just felt like it would then be a sort of reconstruction," he said.
The drama series ended on Tuesday night with Finchley’s acquittal and his apparent estrangement from his wife Marie (Julie Walters). He ends the drama howling her name, her whereabouts unknown.
However, Thorne insists that this final scene does not keep the door open for another series.
“There will be no more National Treasure, it’s a one-off," he said. "Definitely.”