Inside Story: The media - as seen on TV

For more than four decades, television has, with varying degrees of success, dramatised the working environment of the journalist. Bill Hagerty picks out the hits and misses

The celebrity wanna-make-a-mag show, Deadline, had barely departed the nation's TV screens – thankfully, most journalists would say of a reality series that did for the magazine industry what Piers Morgan's gaffes at the Mirror did for serious tabloid journalism – before ambitious reporter Judy Nash set out to discover how and why the wife of a US senator Vanished into the Five airwaves. This US series is the latest in a long and not especially distinguished line of flirtations between the small screen and the second oldest profession and presents reporting as a hard-nosed, sometimes unprincipled occupation. As if.

Most viewers would struggle to recall Glasgow Kiss (BBC1, 2000), despite an excellent performance from Iain Glen as a widowed sports reporter falling for the bean-counter (Sharon Small) sent from London to make his paper profitable. Buried even deeper in the swamplands of mediocrity is Foxy Lady (ITV, 1982, 1984), a comedy in which Diane Keen plays a feisty woman with no journalistic experience sent to edit and save the ailing weekly Ramsden Reminder. The name of the paper says it all.

There have also been plenty of single and two-part dramas, some good, some bad, and most painting an ugly portrait of a trade the average sitting room couch critic already considers – so surveys suggest – almost as disreputable as politics.

A cut above the facile in this category was the two-part Fields of Gold (BBC1, 2002), a controversial conspiracy thriller about a journalistic investigation into GM crops, but then it was written by The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, and colleague Ronan Bennett.

As for Deadline (ITV2, 2007), the alleged celebfest in which Janet Street-Porter, the paparazzi photographer Darryn Lyons and Daily Star hack Joe Mott supervised the making of a magazine by such household names as Iwan Thomas and Chris Tarrant's ex-missus, it could have been worse. Piers might have been available.

Bill Hagerty is editor of British Journalism Review

Lou Grant

(1977-82)

Venerated by print journalists on both sides of the Atlantic, the tribulations of the Los Angeles Tribune won 13 Emmy and sundry other awards before CBS cancelled it after accusations that its left-wing star Edward Asner was using both the series and his presidency of the Screen Actors Guild as political soapboxes. The Grant character spun out of TV's The Mary Tyler Moore Show and back into newspapers as the incorruptible city editor all newsmen secretly yearn to be. The late Nancy Marchand – later to play Tony Soprano's wicked mother – is the paper's Kate Graham-like proprietor, Margaret Pynchon. Mrs Pynchon supports Grant and managing editor Charles Hume (Mason Adams) as reporters Joe Rossi (Robert Walden) and Billie Newman (Linda Kelsey) are dispatched to cover such serious social issues as mental illness and prostitution as well as run-of-the-day accidents and earthquakes. The show also examines the trade itself, with plots about chequebook journalism, entrapment and plagiarism. Frank, fearless and fun – the Trib's the paper we'd all like to work for.

State of Play

(2003)

Recently fathoming Life On Mars as detective Sam Tyler in the hugely popular BBC series, John Simm here plays Cal McCaffrey, tenacious reporter of The Herald, in writer Paul Abbott's compelling six-part thriller. McCaffrey investigates the death of a young woman working as a researcher for a friend of his, MP Stephen Collins, and unearths a can of worms in which corrupt government ministers are wriggling. Quality casting includes David Morrissey as the MP and Bill Nighy, whose portrayal of quirky editor Cameron Foster earned him a Bafta. The film rights were subsequently sold to Universal, who have mooted Brad Pitt as McCaffrey, while Abbott has been working for some time on a second series. Simm's identifiable Mars image and Nighy's rise to star status may prove to be problems in recreating the Herald newsroom.

Ugly Betty

(2006 -)

Launched last year in its native US, the comedy series based at the New York fashion "bible" Mode magazine was adapted by Academy Award-nominated actress Salma Hayek (Frida) with Ben Silverman, who acquired the rights and scripts from the Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty, La Fea in 2001. Featuring America Ferrera as Betty Suarez, secretary to wayward editor-in-chief Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius), the plotlines switch between the complicated professional and private life of Betty and the cutthroat competition between members of the Meade family to control Mode. The show quickly became a hit and won a Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series earlier this year. Screened here by Channel 4, it contains elements of mystery, farce, satire, soap opera and camp comedy – just like the real magazine world, in fact.

Compact

(1962-65)

The BBC's second attempt at a soap opera after The Grove Family, Hazel Adair and Peter Ling's creation was set in the offices of a glossy magazine, scooping Ugly Betty (see right) by 44 years. Despite being battered by the critics, its mix of women's magazine bitchery, office romances and the middle-class mores of the staff captured a sizeable audience, boosted by the decision to screen it on Tuesdays and Thursdays, thus avoiding the already successful Coronation Street's Monday and Wednesday slots. The late Ronald Allen, who would become a fixture in Adair and Ling's Crossroads, played the editor of the eponymous mag, which the BBC, then still snooty about soaps, effectively shredded by wiping most of the taped episodes before they could be archived.

Drop the Dead Donkey

(1990-98)

Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton's award-winning parody of TV news – they originally wanted to call it Dead Belgians Don't Count – is set in the Globelink newsroom, where harassed editor George Dent (Jeff Rawle) tries to keep his team of oddballs in order while fending off the sensationalist busybodying of managing director Gus Hedges (Robert Duncan) – " Good morning, newsbusters, are we cooking with napalm today? You bet!" Globelink is owned by ruthless tycoon Sir Roysten Merchant – the joke is in the initials – who is omnipresent although actually seen only briefly at the end of the sixth and final series. Produced by Hat Trick for Channel 4 and filmed in front of a live audience the day before transmission to facilitate topicality, the show became required viewing for journalists in all areas of the industry while propelling to stardom Stephen Tomkinson (egomaniac reporter Damien Day) and Neil Pearson (reprobate sub-editor Dave Charnley). When the writers eventually dropped the donkey, Globelink was being sold and many of the staff faced unemployment.

Hot Metal

(1986, 1988)

No newspaper has yet reached the depths of the spoof Daily Crucible under the ownership of the megalomaniac Twiggy Rathbone and editorship of his lookalike, Russell Spam, for whom the journalistic gutter is a permanent address. Robert Hardy plays both parts, while Richard Kane, as reporter Greg Kettle, must have had many unscrupulous red-top hacks wincing in their shaving mirrors. Both topical and over-the-top, the two series were written by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, creators of Whoops Apocalypse. That it failed to attract a big following may have been because the public thought it too true to tabloid life. Richard Wilson, managing editor Richard Lipton in the second series, would go on to find superstardom in Renwick's One Foot In The Grave.

News
Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
people
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
people
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game