Scott & Bailey

Scott & Bailey

2011 - United Kingdom

Scott & Bailey is a gripping police drama that debuted on ITV in May 2011, following the lives of two strong-willed female detectives as they tackle complex cases within Syndicate 9, the Major Incident Team (MIT) of the fictional Manchester Metropolitan Police Service. The show not only highlights the intricacies of police work, but also delves into the personal trials and tribulations of its main characters, Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey.

Janet Scott, played by Lesley Sharp, is the calm and collected detective with a keen attention to detail, while Rachel Bailey, portrayed by Suranne Jones, is the fiery and impulsive counterpart. Together, they form a formidable team that leaves no stone unturned in their pursuit of justice. Despite their differences, Janet and Rachel share a deep respect for each other's abilities. They are not just crime-solving machines; they are complex individuals with their own baggage and demons to confront. The show delves into their personal lives, revealing the challenges they face and the impact their work has on their relationships and mental well-being, and the strong bond of friendship that develops between the two detectives.

Scott & Bailey

Scott & Bailey originated from an idea by friends Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay. Jones expressed the need for more diverse roles for women beyond the typical archetypes of wives, sidekicks, mothers, and mistresses. The concept took shape during a casual conversation over a bottle of wine in a pub. Lindsay, inspired by shows like Cagney & Lacey, envisioned a programme that delved into the lives of two professional women. Jones later described Scott & Bailey as the ‘Cagney & Lacey of Manchester,’ albeit with a grittier and more realistic tone. After pitching the idea to Nicola Shindler of Red Productions, Shindler contacted Sally Wainwright, an established and respected writer who had begun writing professionally when she took her original play, Hanging On, to the Edinburgh Festival, where she caught the attention of an agent. While honing her craft, she worked as a bus driver and made a significant impact as a scriptwriter for the long-running radio serial drama The Archers before moving on to television with episodes of Children’s Ward, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

Scott & Bailey
Sally Wainwright

In 2000, Wainwright created her own television series about a normal everyday family who strike it rich by winning the lottery, titled At Home with the Braithwaites. Wainwright penned an episode script for Scott & Bailey that received enthusiastic approval. However, ITV requested further revisions from her. Subsequently, Wainwright collaborated with Diane Taylor, a former Detective Inspector from Greater Manchester Police, to develop the programme. The production expanded beyond Jones and Lindsay’s initial concept. From Taylor’s viewpoint, police procedurals often contained not only technical inaccuracies but also misrepresentations of officer behaviour. Drawing from her own experiences, Taylor found reality far more captivating than television portrayals. She asserted that she could recall countless cases that people would deem implausible, emphasizing that the need for drama arises precisely because reality often defies belief. Wainwright commented that: "I wasn't writing a single line of dialogue that Diane hadn't influenced". With the script largely re-written, ITV gave the series the green light.

Scott & Bailey

Suranne Jones, who had envisioned herself portraying Rachel Bailey from the project’s inception, ultimately secured the role. However, during the pre-production phase, the character initially bore a different first name—Cathy. Originally, Sally Lindsay was intended to co-star alongside Jones, but due to her pregnancy, the role of Janet went to Lesley Sharp instead. Lindsay took on the smaller role of Rachel’s sister, Alison. The MIT were headed by DCI Gill Murray, loosely based on Diane Taylor, the character was played by Amelia Bullmore. Other members of the team included Nicholas Gleaves as DS Andy Roper, Danny Miller as DS Rob Waddington, Tony Mooney as DC Pete Readyough, David Prosho as DC Ian Mitchell, Delroy Brown as DC Lee Broadhurst, and Ben Batt as DC Kevin Lumb. Pippa Haywood as Detective Chief Inspector Julie Dodson, a Senior Investigating Officer of Syndicate 3 in Series 2 is later promoted to Detective Superintendent by Series 3 and gains oversight of multiple syndicates, including Syndicate 9, within the Murder Investigation Department. Tracie Bennett also featured as DC Bailey’s estranged mother, Sharon.

Scott & Bailey

As part of an ongoing story arc in series 3, Nicola Walker took on the role of Helen Bartlett—a character grappling with emotional instability due to past events uncovered by the Manchester Metropolitan Police. Helen, one of the four estranged adult children of Joe and Eunice Bevan, emerged from a dark family history. Her parents were implicated in a disturbing past—molesting and murdering young boys over the years, their victims buried in the cellar. In the season premiere, Helen finds herself a suspect in her mother Eunice’s brutal murder. Nicola Walker’s portrayal infused the show with depth and intrigue as she grappled with the emotional aftermath of her family’s haunting legacy. The performances of Bullmore and Walker in the series finale, when Helen abducts DCI Murray, were highly praised. Julia Raeside of The Guardian commented that both, "give an incredible acting masterclass that will take your breath away. Truly gripping and the jewel in ITV's increasingly impressive drama crown. Splendid stuff." The series was nominated for the BAFTA TV award for Best Drama Series in both 2012 and 2013.

The continued involvement of Diane Taylor as a consultant producer is credited with maintaining Scott & Bailey's rigorous authenticity, especially evident in the intense and dramatic questioning of suspects, which are portrayed with such realism that it feels as though the viewer is right there in the interrogation room, experiencing the tension firsthand. The clever dialogue and subtle nuances in the performances elevate these scenes to a level of brilliance rarely seen in television crime dramas and may well have been an influence on the 2019 Netflix series Criminal: UK.

Wainwright wanted to get other writers involved in the series and as a result, Amelia Bullmore, who herself was a professional writer, initially wrote three episodes before taking over as head writer for series four when Wainwright's increased workload on her other dramas, Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley, were taking up a large part of her time. Bullmore was joined on the writing team by Lee Warburton, who wrote two episodes of the fourth series, and returned to write Scott & Bailey's fifth and shortened final series in 2015. Suranne Jones later explained that series four was intended to be the last, but when she was approached by ITV to do one more three-part story and was given the chance to produce it as well, it was too good an offer to turn down.

Scott & Bailey

Scott & Bailey is a must-watch series for fans of crime dramas looking for a refreshing take on the genre. Rachel Bailey’s intuition, boldness, and career-mindedness create a dynamic contrast with Janet’s subtlety and diplomacy. With its compelling storytelling, strong character development, and authentic interrogation scenes, it stands out as a shining example of British television at its best. Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey may have their flaws and personal demons, but their unwavering dedication to their work and their bond as friends make them a dynamic duo worth rooting for.

Published on April 22nd, 2024. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.

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