Austen with blood and gore for all the family

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Related Topics
Edinburgh Television Festival. Frankly, I love Jane Austen adaptations as much as anybody. Fine National Trust dialogue, gorgeous costumes, dashing young ladies with not-so-very-discreet embonpoints, close-ups of heads blasted off by pump-action shotguns, a candlelit ball or two: what could be more enjoyable?

There is, one must concede, one item - but no more than one - in the above list that might not have appeared 10 or 20 years ago. Can you, dear reader, guess what it is? The gorgeous costumes? The dashing young ladies? No, it's the "heads blasted off by pump-action shotguns". Needless to say, there have been various tut-tuts at Edinburgh about what the stuffed shirts describe as "gratuitous violence" on television. Speaking personally, I would agree with them in many ways, I am not particularly fond of blood spattered over my evening's viewing, unless, of course, it is "in keeping". But as Chairman of MORON-TV, I know only too well that we must move with the times, forsooth! If he is to be kept smiling, then that most benighted of creatures, Mr Joe Public, must be given his share of blood. And why on earth not?

I take tremendous pride in the hand I had in developing Cracker, the splendid - if occasionally high-spirited! - ITV detective series. Many people outside the industry have asked me why we chose to call it Cracker. The answer is simple. It was originally scheduled for the 4.15pm slot, so its title was designed to foster appeal to children between the ages of four and 10. The opening scene of the first episode was perfectly delightful: the burly detective, played by Mr Robbie Coltrane, was present at a birthday party, tucking into red and green jellies, laughing uproariously at a Punch and Judy show, and pulling festive crackers (hence the title). A heavily tattooed serial killer with an evil look on his face then crashes in through the French windows and ploughs into the assembled company, ropes one of the mums, and exits by the back door. Theme Music. Titles. All aboard for three hours of powerfully enjoyable tea-time entertainment for the young-at-heart!

Alas, the powers-that-be at the Independent Television Commission were determined to flex their muscles. They insisted that our powerful and moving drama was unsuitable for the tea-time audience of mums and kids (dread word!). At first, I was conciliatory. "Perhaps we might remove one or two of the tattoos from the serial killer's forehead and give him a nice smile?" I suggested. But they would not budge: the series was to go out after 9pm or not at all. Furious though I was, we were forced to back down. But, as the old adage goes, every cloud has its silver lining: despite its silly plot-lines, sulky characters and good psychology, Cracker proved as popular with adults as it would have been with children. Twenty five Bafta awards and 60 million viewers later, it is the jewel in the MORON-TV crown. So much so that we are shortly to give the heavily-tattooed serial killer his very own spin-off show, in which each week he strolls around a different beautiful location - the Lake District, Dartmoor, the Pennines, the Western Isles - torturing and raping people, and all with an attractive sideline in sharp-tongued repartee!

There are lessons the Independent Television Commission must undoubtedly learn from this fandangle. The most important is that, no matter how we might personally pooh-pooh an excess of violence on our screens, the ordinary decent viewer cannot get enough of it.

It is, I would argue, absurdly elitist of us to attempt to stand in his way. I have a great deal of respect for my old friend and mentor Mr Rupert Murdoch, and it is Rupert who has convinced me that, to be truly democratic, we must let the ordinary deranged viewer have as much bare-knuckled violence on his screen as he (or she!) desires. And may I add that all our recent productions - not only Cracker but also our hilarious new comedy Stabbing to Death and our sensitive drama Triple Rape - have not so much portrayed violence as explored the nature of violence. There is all the difference in the world, even if for the present I forget exactly what.

Just enough space to "plug" our forthcoming prestige production: Emma by the lovely Jane Austen with Robbie Coltrane in the title role. Next week: The Need for Violence in News at Ten. Roll out the bodies! Pip pip until then!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
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