Austen with blood and gore for all the family

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Share
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent