Tag Archives: Philippa Collie Cousins

DQ Recommends: English-language drama

DQ asks some of the people who make TV around the world which English-language series they’re currently watching and recommending.

The Morning Show
The flagship series of AppleTV+ when the subscription service launched in 2019, this show paired Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon as the hosts of a morning news programme. Told from the perspective of their characters, two complicated women navigating a minefield of high-pressured jobs and crises in their personal and professional lives, the series examines the power dynamics between men and women, and women and women, in the workplace.

Carlo Dusi, exec VP of commercial strategy, scripted, at Red Arrow Studios International, says: “Despite some rather mixed reviews on release, Apple’s The Morning Show delivered gripping drama, phenomenal acting, and constantly surprising plot twists, all the while capturing the #MeToo spirit like no other show on our screens and offering an intelligent and multi-layered point of view into gender politics in the workplace, all of which makes it essential viewing for our times.”

HBO’s latest critical success, Succession charts the turbulent fortunes of media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his four children as they battle for control of one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. The series, which won the 2019 Emmy for best drama series, blends dramatic and acerbic writing to examine themes of power, politics, money and family.

Emmanuelle Guilbart, co-CEO of APC Studios, says: “This isn’t the most original suggestion since the series has already gained much deserved hype and acclaim, but if there’s any chance you haven’t seen it yet then now is the time. It’s a brilliantly executed show and a great example of a series that makes you love and root for bad people. Unbelievable is also a really worthwhile series. This topical show is a renewal of the true crime genre and a sensitive exploration of the complexities of sexual assault.”

The Fall
A psychological thriller that pits a talented female detective, played by Gillian Anderson, against Jamie Dornan’s serial killer who is stalking his victims in and around Belfast. The BBC series ran for three season between 2013 and 2016.

Philippa Collie Cousins, drama commissioner for UKTV, says of the series: “I couldn’t watch The Fall on transmission – it scared me too much. I waited until all three seasons had finished and then devoured it over 10 days. It seems to take three ingredients at their rawest. Firstly, it really convinces you that it is based on genuine police detection and the effort to catch the Belfast strangler and his weird MO are scary because they are twisted enough to be real-life. It makes an effort in its dialogue to create genuine depth of character and the casting is pure 1950s with two movie stars playing the leads.
“Alan Cubitt’s writing is just superb. He crafts the perfect triangle of character, thriller and motive. Motives are given to both the criminal (Dornan) and those investigating the crime (Anderson). It is Stella Gibson’s humanity pitted against Paul Spector’s lack of humanity that provides the cat-and-mouse motor. However, it is always rooted, but rooted in such a complicated personal landscape that, season by season, episode by episode, you as the audience play the psychiatrist, stripping them down layer by layer until you feel that you know both of them so well. This Hitchcockian touch is masterly. As a fresh study of a woman in a male environment, it is a modern classic.”

A three-part drama commissioned by ITV in the UK and US cable channel AMC, Quiz dramatises the notorious ‘coughing’ incident that took place on the UK version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in 2001, when former army officer Major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana and an accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, were accused of cheating their way to winning the gameshow.

Theresa Wise, CEO of the Royal Television Society, says: “The show I have loved recently is Quiz. Apart from feeling like a mischievous inside track into telly-land, it combined immense humanity, humour and pathos. I am a bit of a quiz addict, like many Brits, so it is immensely relatable. Plus, give me a good court room scene or scenes and you’ve got me.

Sex Education, Back to Life and more…
Tony Wood, founder and co-CEO of producer Buccaneer, says: “This has been the year of Chernobyl, Fleabag season two and a brilliant season of Line of Duty. I’d also thoroughly recommend Sex Education [pictured] and Back to Life. Both these shows were brilliantly insightful about character and the emotions that confront them. They constantly surprised and created visceral reaction that lingered long beyond the programme.”

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Six of the Best: UKTV

UKTV head of scripted Pete Thornton and drama commissioning editor Philippa Collie Cousins reveal their favourite series, including a couple of US classics and one of the biggest British ratings hits of the past decade.

Queer as Folk
Pete Thornton: This makes the list for sheer audacity. At the time of transmission Channel 4 were at the top of their game as the mischief-makers-in-chief of British television and this series announced the arrival of an exciting new prodco, Red Production Company, and a brilliant new writer in Russell T Davies. I loved it because it was properly bold and incredibly fleet of foot, without ever taking itself too seriously. It was totally unlike anything I had seen before and in one fell swoop it made drama – a genre that seemed at the time to be orientated around old duffers – cool. It’s just a shame they couldn’t keep the original title – Queer as F***.

Philippa Collie Cousins: A perfect blend of Shakespeare and Hitchcock, Bodyguard is writer Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty) at his artful and witty best. Clever casting from major to minor roles gave this piece an authenticity rarely seen. Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden burned brightly as the leads, but estranged wife Sophie Rundle was the standout performance, which made the final episode more than the sum of its parts. The distinctive eye of French director Thomas Vincent was impressive, and I am sure the camera lenses he used were pretty damn expensive, so well done World Productions for holding their nerve on the creative and delivering. The sound was also extraordinary and beautifully crafted.

Six Feet Under
Thornton: I was hooked from the first frame of the exquisitely beautiful title sequence. A brilliant cast, wonderfully lit and directed as you’d expect, but it was the efficiency of the dialogue that nailed me down. ‘I think if you’re afraid of something, that probably means you should do it’ still rates as one of my favourite lines, and maybe the commissioners at HBO had that ringing in their ears when they greenlit the series. Extraordinarily bold – and darkly funny too – it felt more complete and accomplished than anything I had seen before.

Happy Valley
Collie Cousins: Raw, seamless and truthful, Happy Valley proves television can grab the revered English novel by the scruff of the neck, add some layers to it and better it. The camera was never flashy but was always in the right place, and the performances crackled with authenticity and the painful contradictions of real life. A real step forward for female-led primetime drama. And like The Bridge’s Saga Norén, Sarah Lancashire’s Catherine Cawood woke the BBC1 audience up, depicting a convincing middle-aged flawed heroine. Happy Valley blazed a trail.

Hill Street Blues
Thornton: It all seems like a very long time ago now, but in any trawl back through the memory banks it’s hard to step over Steven Bochco’s titanic achievement. Veering from intense social commentary to something not far from a soap at times, this early example of an ensemble drama challenged a lot of what I had come to expect from watching TV. So many dramas have since followed in its footsteps that it’s easy to forget how groundbreaking this was back in 1981. Plus, they saved loads of time and money not bothering with fancy camera work – nor, indeed, with any make-up or wardrobe department it seems.

Stranger Things
Collie Cousins: Family viewing in our house, which hadn’t been seen since Sherlock, Billie Piper and David Tennant’s Doctor Who or Brooklyn Nine-Nine. How precious it is to have shared viewing, uniting the age groups in the dark with gripping viewing. Winona Ryder, my heroine since Heathers, was superb and the iconography of the series drew on Steven Spielberg’s ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, mixed with an indie feel of The Virgin Suicides and Drugstore Cowboy. I’m not sure I bought the later episodes when the secret was revealed, but I loved the urgency to solve the mystery and the sheer horror of a boy trapped in a parallel reality. British actor Millie Bobby Brown gave a standout performance as Eleven and the production design was faultless and elegant.

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