Hidden, Line of Duty, Shadow Line and Blackout are examples of recent BBC dramas which could have been great but have ended up soulless – in the case of at least 3 I think that’s because they have no real sense of place or location.
While some locations might be recognisable to sharp-eyed local viewers, signs, locations and uniforms are deliberately generic.
Blackout has captions referring to ‘City Police Department’ and ‘City Courts’ – which city? What is the AV Network news channel?
Line of Duty loses its impact by being about a fictional anti-corruption squad in a generic police force in a generic city – absent any real world anchor the story is robbed character and background.
We used to have dramas like Between the Lines which were firmly rooted in real-world locations and situations. Even fictionalised shows like Judge John Deed and The Chief drew on real-world debates and concerns.
Others such as Crocodile Shoes and Queer as Folk celebrated their regional settings – they were part of what informed the characters and drove the stories.
But the current crop of BBC dramas seem deliberately vague on all these elements and instead rely on the audience not caring about the details and just going along for the ride.
As a result they’re mere shadows of television’s best.
If I had to guess I’d blame a BBC policy of inclusiveness – a desire that no-one feel a show is about a specific place and most certainly not, indeed never, London – for the decision to base it’s recent shows in Any Town.
We have rich community stories, fantastic architecture and an envy of the world history, it’s about time the BBC let them have a role in its drama output.