The Street

Street resident Shay Ryan (Stephen Graham) tells his AA group about the moment he became an alcoholic, as opposed to a very heavy drinker. It was the day that armed gunmen held up the betting shop where he was manager, leaving Shay traumatised. Before the robbery, Shay had always needed a drink every night. After the robbery, it was every morning too.

Then one day, Madeleine (Maxine Peake) – an ex-girlfriend Shay hasn’t seen for years – comes to see Shay at work to inform him he’s got a son. Otto (Leon Harrop) is 16 years old and has asked to meet his dad. Madeleine didn’t tell Shay about Otto because she wanted nothing more to do with him. Shay poisons everything he touches and she didn’t want him near Otto. Back then Shay’s drinking was becoming personally corrosive and destructive to those around him.

Now Shay is hopelessly addicted to vodka which he mixes with coke to attempt to hide his alcoholism. His life is a mess. His student lodgers are moving out because of his negligence as a landlord and he’s constantly being battered for being drunk and abusive in the pub. When the father of one of his student lodgers attacks Shay for refusing to pay his rental deposit back, Shay borrows the £200 from the till at work, is caught and gets the sack.

Madeleine and Otto arrive at Shay’s for lunch as arranged but, when Shay looks through the window and sees that his son Otto has Down’s syndrome, he can’t bring himself to answer the door. Madeleine tries to console a devastated Otto, taking him home. Typically, Shay proceeds to drink himself into a stupor.

Otto returns alone to Shay’s the next day, carrying a plastic bag. Shay tries to send him away, saying he can’t understand him, but a distraught Madeleine calls to see if Otto is with Shay and comes over to take him home. Otto has left his plastic bag. Later, when Shay opens it, he’s moved because it contains many loose photos of Otto when he was a baby, child, boy, adolescent, young man. Shay’s lost 16 years of his boy’s life. Can he pull himself out of his alcoholic malaise and learn to live again and embrace a life enriched by Otto?

Now, after six months without at drink, in the AA meeting Shay reveals to the group that he understands why Madeleine won’t let him see his son again. But now Shay lives in hope.

Bigoted and cantankerous head chef Kieran Corrigan (Joseph Mawle) has had enough of foreign workers flooding into this country. If anyone can stand to listen to him he’s ready to give his ignorant racist diatribe. They’re taking our jobs and driving the wages down. Especially the Poles and they did nothing to help in the Second World War. And, according to Kieran, they can’t speak English properly and the bus drivers don’t know the routes.

Not surprisingly Kieran is lonely. Raised by his grandfather, who was a war hero, Kieran blames the Poles for his grandad’s missed chance to be a Manchester City player. In the kitchen where he works he’s the only white face. He goes on a blind date with Maria (Tanya Moddie). He deals with her on the phone every day at work but, on discovering she’s black, Kieran can’t hide his racism.

Unlike the hard-working immigrants, Kieran’s best mate Duffy (Steve Marsh) has never done a day’s work in his life. Duffy is permanently on invalidity benefit. After a drinking session in the pub one night, they approach a burning building. A little Polish girl Anna (Zuzanna Glebocka) is screaming at the window for help. Staring up at the girl’s terrified face, Kieran is frozen to the spot with fear and does nothing, whereas Duffy charges past him, races into the burning house and rescues the girl from one of the upper floors. Handing the child to Kieran he tells him: “You did this, I’m on invalidity.”

Kieran fast becomes a local hero – picture in the paper, free drinks at the pub, adulation from women, applauded by his colleagues and, most importantly, showered with gratitude from the child’s beautiful mother, Olenka (Julia Krynke). She’s homeless and destitute because of the fire, so Kieran valiantly offers her a roof over her head and then things really start to get complicated. Perhaps, finally Kieran can grow into a better man.

On the street, a phone is ringing in the Calshaw’s house but nobody’s home. TA soldier Private Nick Calshaw (Jonas Armstrong) is calling from Afghanistan. He’s managed to get hold of a satellite phone and sneak a call to tell his family that he’s okay. The answer phone kicks in and he leaves a message. On her return from school his sister Ellie (Kirstie Leigh Porter) plays back the message. As Nick talks, there are panicked shouts in the background, a baby starts to cry, someone shouts “Shoot her!”, there’s a massive explosion and the line goes dead.

Ellie calls her parents Alan (Ian Pulston Davies) and Kim (Siobhan Finneran) who come rushing home, frantic with worry. Nick’s fiancee Gemma (Emily Beecham) runs out of the school where she’s teaching. Later, two army officials call at the house, to tell them there’s been an incident in Afghanistan that their son was involved in.

Nick is travelling home on a train with fellow squaddie, Rob (Lee Turnball), while back on the street his family are preparing a welcome home party. A little boy on the train looks at Nick and screws up his face. A baby’s crying on the train is really getting to Nick. They notice a Muslim Arab couple amongst their fellow passengers and Rob says he hates Muslims. Nick can’t take any more of Rob’s attitudes and incessant talking. He goes to the toilet and looks in the mirror at his horribly scarred face.

As Nick emerges from the taxi outside his family home, the full extent of his facial disfigurement is revealed to his shocked parents and Ellie. The full horror of what has happened to their beautiful Nick comes home. Everyone is trying to play down his horrific injury. Nick can’t take it anymore and leaves seeking sanctuary with his girlfriend, Gemma. They embrace and have a heartfelt reunion.

But, in spite of being surrounded by those who love him, Nick’s becoming increasingly depressed and withdrawn. He can’t find work looking like he does. The army won’t take him back because he’s bad for morale. He starts to seek refuge in drink and drugs.

What’s more, Nick keeps listening to his answer phone message over and over, timing it. It becomes clear that back on that terrible day in Afghanistan he had eight seconds to react to a life-threatening situation. But was the choice he made right? Guilt is eating him up. The question is: could he have saved his friends lives? He didn’t shoot the suicide bomber because he says his rifle jammed – but did it? Will he ever be whole again and be able to heal from the inside out?

Single mother Dee Purnell (Anna Friel) would do anything for her two boys. Six months ago she moved into the street in a bid to move Jack (Jordan Hill) and Luke (Sam Lenthall) into St Peter’s School from rough Denton Green where Jack is being bullied so badly that he wets the bed. Moving into the school’s catchment area has meant taking on a bigger mortgage and to make ends meet, Dee works weekends at a sauna in Bolton in addition to her weekday job at a DIY store. Working as a prostitute in the sauna is only for another six months; just until she’s cleared the mortgage arrears and the boys are in St Peter’s.

However, when Dee’s boiler completely packs up in the middle of winter, and handsome plumber Mark (Daniel Mays) arrives to fix it, he convinces her to start seeing him though she knows she shouldn’t. He’s a single dad with a 12-year-old footie-mad girl, Megan (Chelsea Cowper), who’s already at St Peter’s.

Mark is great with Jack and Luke and adores Dee but, when she’s introduced to Mark’s father, Joe (David Bradley), he recognises her from the sauna. Dee knows she has to finish it with Mark. Joe viciously warns her off Mark, sickened by the thought that she’s around his son and grand-daughter.

Dee has started falling in love with Mark and tries to break it off, but Mark won’t give up easily and wants to know why she’s pushing him away. Then St Peter’s refuses to take her boys and Dee needs a shoulder to cry on more than ever, but to whom can she turn? One thing’s for sure: Dee’s sacrificed so much for her boys, she’s not going to let them down now.

Reformed alcoholic Paddy Gargan (Bob Hoskins) is landlord of The Greyhound which he runs with his hard-working wife, Lizzie (Frances Barber). The pub is hub of the community where everyone drinks and has their dos. But Paddy’s biggest spending customer is local gangster Thomas Miller (Liam Cunningham), who also finances the Greyhound’s football team.

Then, after footie one day, Paddy catches Miller’s son Callum (Robert Elms) smoking in the toilets and bars him from the pub. He has to be seen to mean business; the smoking fine is five grand. Miller is furious and challenges Paddy to unbar Callum, but Paddy’s resolute.

Miller says if Paddy won’t serve him and his son at 3.30 the next day, he’ll break every bone in his body. Paddy’s son Liam (David Atkins) threatens to stab Miller if there’s any trouble. Lizzie begs him to go to the police or to keep the pub closed the next day, but Paddy won’t. Next morning Paddy tells Liam that he’s decided to serve the Millers after all and he goes back to university. But this story was just to make sure Liam stayed out of it. Of course he’s not going to serve the Millers. Lizzie is beside herself with worry. Who will back Paddy up now?

The Street, Jimmy McGovern’s powerful, multi-award-winning drama, returns to BBC One for an eagerly anticipated third series.

The show, which won British TV’s top industry awards for two consecutive years, picking up both the 2007 and 2008 BAFTA and Royal Television Society Awards for best drama series, as well as international Emmys, comes to BBC One soon.

The Street, an ITV Studios for BBC One, is produced by Matthew Bird and the executive script editor is Roxy Spencer.

As with the first two series, McGovern has mentored up-and-coming writers to create uncompromising potent stories about people who live on the same street in the North West of England, although the first and sixth episodes are wholly McGovern’s voice.

Leading directors David Blair and Terry McDonough return to direct The Street, and the executive producers are Jimmy McGovern and Sita Williams for ITV Studios. The BBC executive producer is Polly Hill, Commissioning Editor, Independent Drama, BBC England.

Once again, the series has attracted the cream of British acting. The best performing talent has been drawn by the prospect of working on arguably one of our finest series.

The cast list boasts Timothy Spall, reprising again his memorable role as the lovable Eddie. The high-calibre line-up also features: Bob Hoskins, Frances Barber, Anna Friel, Daniel Mays, Jonas Armstrong, Joseph Mawle, Stephen Graham and Ruth Jones.

So what is the secret of The Street’s success? Jimmy, who conceived the idea for the series a few years ago, comes up with a simple but clear answer: viewers really identify with the characters.

“The Street has genuinely struck a chord with people,” Jimmy reflects. “I think it works because it tells truthful, yet extraordinary stories about ordinary people. All the stories are about heart and humanity. Viewers can relate to these characters – we can all put ourselves in their shoes and think, ‘there but the grace of God, go I’.”

Sita adds: “There’s a real hunger for stories that people can connect with. Viewers are desperate to get away from glossy, make-believe drama. I think audiences want to be able to identify with people’s moral dilemmas. There’s a genuine appetite for that kind of thought-provoking, substantial drama.”

Matthew Bird, who also worked with McGovern on The Lakes, says: “Jimmy is just a great story-teller. He is excellent at pinpointing people’s emotions and always wears his heart on his sleeve. At the centre of most episodes is a heartfelt love story.

“Jimmy also has a very strong moral sense. In his stories, those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Everyone gets the comeuppance they deserve. In one of the episodes in this series, for example, a really racist character ends up falling in love with a lovely Polish woman. Jimmy has a highly-developed sense of right and wrong.”

Sita Williams, whose impeccable track record includes many hit dramas, including Vincent, The Forsyte Saga, Island At War, Always And Everyone and Reckless, is emphatic about what is so strong about Jimmy’s work.

“The three most important elements in any drama are the script, the script and the script. Jimmy is such a brilliant writer. He’s the most modest writer I know and would hate to be compared to the greats of literature. But, like them, he deals with the major problems of what it is to be a human being. He reflects on the human condition in the most gripping way.

“If you don’t have a script, you’re nowhere. You can try to paper over the cracks, but viewers are not stupid – they always notice. For instance, you can try and cover up your script by putting loud music over it. But when there’s a loud soundtrack, I always think, ‘shut up, let me hear the words!’ The script has to work on its own merits. You can get seduced by music, but Jimmy’s words always work on their own.”

Sita explains further: “Jimmy is also a master of dialogue. He writes in the way people speak – which is why we always get such fantastic actors in The Street. His lines are so easy to say. He writes with terrific clarity and brevity. We always end up cutting the first 15 pages of a script because we feel we don’t need all this explanation – we just want to get to the nub of why we’re bothering to tell this story as quickly as possible. Jimmy has a wonderfully economic way of recounting a story.”

The executive producer emphasises how Jimmy’s scripts brim with compassion.

“Look at a character like Shay (played by Stephen Graham), an alcoholic who is initially vile to his son with Down’s syndrome. But Jimmy manages to bring out Shay’s humanity. You don’t want to like him, but you can’t help but warm to him. You forgive him because he really does try to overcome his problems. Anti-heroes become heroes in Jimmy’s world because they attempt to reverse their fortunes and, most importantly, become better people.”

Sita adds: “There is always hope in Jimmy’s work. It baffles me when The Street is sometimes criticised for being grim – it’s actually very uplifting. It’s all about redemption – in a world full of disasters and wars, we want human beings to redeem themselves. If we feel humans can make a better life for themselves, then we think that at least there is some light in the world. The Street is about people restoring relationships and making amends. People think the series is tough, but in fact it’s just a very honest and unsentimental portrayal of reality.”

There is a tremendous focus to the writing of The Street – no episode ever deviates from its main subject.

Jimmy explains that: “Every episode is very, very concentrated. I always bang on about the integrity of the narrative. We say to the viewer, ‘this is the problem’, and then stick with it for an hour. You never go off on a tangent or introduce a sub-plot. You just focus on the protagonist all the time, and an hour flies by!

“The BBC hour is a wonderful length, but it’s a challenge to find stories that can sustain over that period. You need economy and simplicity. Looking back over the 18 episodes we’ve done now, at times we’ve initially despaired and thought, ‘this is only a 20-minute story’. But we’ve always managed gradually to build each story up to an hour.”

Jimmy muses that: “People like the idea of stories focusing on different residents in the same street. You need a nice fancy bow to tie up a series, like Clocking Off or Wagon Train. But you also need creative freedom – and I feel I have had that with The Street. It’s hard to achieve, but it’s what I wanted to do. I have no desire to write cops and robbers or doctors and nurses.”

For her part, Sita notes: “The premise of The Street works really well. You go behind any door in any street in the land and discover the most unexpected things. It’s such a simple, yet brilliant, idea.”

Jimmy is extremely generous on The Street. He advertises for new writers and then painstakingly mentors them, shepherding their scripts onto the screen.

Jimmy reveals that: “People come up to me all the time in pubs offering scripts. I get offered about 250 per series. But we only accept very few of them. Then we spend ages moulding them. I get a great sense of achievement from finally seeing it on screen. I really do enjoy that. Maybe people think I’m virtuous because I enjoy helping other people, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it myself, so maybe I’m selfish!”

Last year The Street, Jimmy McGovern’s emotionally powerful BBC One series, proved an instant hit with both public and critics alike.

The show which ran with the tagline, “behind every door in every street, there’s a story waiting to be told” scooped British television’s top industry awards winning both the 2007 BAFTA and RTS awards for Best Drama Series.

The Daily Mirror dubbed it, “poignant, funny and wonderful,” while the Daily Mail reckoned it was “event television.” For its part, The Times raved that, “after weeks of watching awful dramas, having a McGovern drama turn up is like having Elvis walk into the room. McGovern is so persistently, noticeably, bracingly, not crap.”

Moreover, the first series is garnering international attention and has two Emmy nominations: for Best Series and Jim Broadbent is nominated in the best actor category. The winners are announced in New York on the 19 November.

Now, The Street is back for a second series which features six stand-alone episodes about characters who happen to live in the same street in Manchester. The series was shot on locations in and around Manchester this summer.

As he did in the first series, McGovern, the creator of such seminal works such as Cracker, The Lakes, Hillsborough and Gunpowder, Treason And Plot has mentored new writers. He has worked with them to create strong stories with universal appeal. These often explore the darker side of human nature, but do so with wit, intelligence and compassion.

The Street, which was commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, has always attracted first-rate performers. The first series was lauded for the exceptional quality of its acting, The Times commented that: “the acting throughout the series has been exemplary.”

The cast assembled for the second series matches the first series. Each of the six compelling stories boasts some of Britain’s finest film, television and stage actors as well as introducing talented newcomers.

Timothy Spall (Auf Wiedersehen Pet) returns as Eddie, the put-upon cabbie with an unerring knack for getting himself into trouble.

David Thewlis (Naked, Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter movies) stars as identical twins, Joe and Harry, alongside Bronagh Gallagher (Holy Cross), who plays Joe’s wife, and June Watson (Strictly Confidential) as the twin’s mother.

Mark Benton (City Lights) is beleaguered postman and loving dad Wayne, with newcomer Michael Taylor (Mischief Nights) playing his friend Damien.

Gina McKee (Tsunami: The Aftermath) and Lorraine Ashbourne (True Dare Kiss) star as sisters.

Vincent Regan (Troy) and Julia Ford (All About George) play a husband and wife whose marriage is rocked by Tom, played by Will Mellor (Sorted).

Emerging talent, Toby Kebbell, who earned rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival for his role as band manager Rob Gretton in Anton’s Corbijn’s film Control, plays the leading role of Paul, alongside Jodhi May (The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, Friends And Crocodiles) in the final story of the series.

An ITV Production for BBC One, The Street is produced by John Chapman and executive produced by Jimmy McGovern and Sita Williams. BBC Executive producers are Eleanor Moran and Polly Hill, BBC Commissioning Editor, BBC Drama.

Leading directors Terry McDonough (Instinct, Vincent, Eleventh Hour) and David Blair (The Lakes, Malice Aforethought, Takin’ Over The Asylum) who did such fine work on the first series, return.

Chapman, ITV Productions’ producer, enthuses about the calibre of the cast and crew that the series has drawn.

“It is a huge privilege to work on The Street, bringing back together many of the outstanding talents who made the drama so distinctive first time round, as well as helping to take the series forward.”

Williams, Executive Producer for ITV Productions, adds: “We are thrilled to have won both a BAFTA and RTS award for Drama which confirms our belief that great drama representing believable characters with whom we can all identify stands out.”

McGovern explicates the thinking behind The Street: “I place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, but in every episode we can still identify with those characters and think ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’.”

The Liverpudlian writer firmly believes that: “Everyone has at least one story to tell. I know that from bitter experience because every time I go into the boozer, someone comes up to me and says, ‘Have I got a story for you!’

“I go to this card school every week in a certain Liverpool pub and it can be quite annoying when I’m trying to play a hand while someone’s telling me their life-story. There are some great stories out there. Unfortunately, they haven’t always happened to writers!”

His job is to hammer the raw material into one-hour BBC One episodes. He works hand in hand with up-and-coming writers to achieve this end. “I do a polish at the end of their scripts,” McGovern explains. “It’s not merely for the sake of it. It’s to impose a single authorial voice on all six episodes. Otherwise, the series could be all over the place in theme and tone.”

Williams is quick to emphasise the vital role McGovern plays in the whole project.

“What is exciting and continues to be exciting about The Street is not only Jimmy McGovern’s writing, but his work with new writers who bring their raw talent to the project. It is also testimony to Jimmy’s writing that The Street will continue to attract the best actors in British drama today.”

Chapman takes up this theme: “Jimmy attracts the best people. People genuinely loved the first series, so you can go to anyone and offer them a part and they’re likely to accept.”

The producer outlines what he sees as McGovern’s strengths as a writer: “He stands out because of his humanity, his self-deprecation, his passion for life, his empathy with people and his real skill in crafting scripts. Those are the attributes that make him such a sound storyteller as well as such a charming guy to sit and chat to.

“Like all really good writers, Jimmy has themes which he keeps returning to. Redemption is a preoccupation and a major theme in this series. It shows his fundamental belief in human nature. He demonstrates time and again that human beings are infinitely fallible, but always able to redeem themselves, forgive each other and behave honourably. He’s such a humane writer.”

McGovern reveals that he always follows Flaubert’s famous dictum to young writers: “Write what you know.” He draws on his own experiences to add credibility to his work. “I do mine my own life for material,” the writer declares.

“It gives it more authenticity, especially when you’re surprised by how you feel. When you put those emotions into a script, they have the smack of authenticity. It endows a script with so much more richness if it comes from your own life.”

The writer continues that many of the stories in this series of The Street home in on the idea that an apparently tiny act of deception can soon take on a life of its own which can spiral out of control.

“I love that kind of stuff,” McGovern beams. “It’s amazing how little things can suddenly become much bigger when you lie about them. You often lie to spare someone pain but it only makes it worse. That’s a great source of drama.”

The second six-part series of The Street, penned by one of British television’s most prolific and influential writers, Jimmy McGovern, made for BBC One by ITV Productions, has started filming in North West England and completes shooting this August.

As with the first series, McGovern has worked with new writers to create stories with universal appeal, which often explore the darker side of human nature, but do so with wit, intelligence and compassion.

The series was commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction.

Each of the six compelling stories boasts some of Britain’s finest film, television and stage actors as well as introducing talented newcomers.

David Thewlis (Naked) stars as identical twins, Joe and Harry; alongside Bronagh Gallagher (Holy Cross) who plays Joe’s wife; June Watson (Strictly Confidential) as the twin’s mother; Mark Benton (City Lights) is beleaguered postman and loving dad Wayne with newcomer Michael Taylor (Mischief Nights) playing his friend Damien.

Dean Andrews (Life On Mars) and Claire Hackett (William And Mary) also star in this story, which is currently shooting.

Gina McKee (Tsunami: The Aftermath) and Lorraine Ashbourne (True Dare Kiss) star as sisters whose love for their sons makes them blind and Vincent Regan (Troy) and Julia Ford (All About George) play a husband and wife whose marriage is rocked by Tom, played by Will Mellor (Sorted).

Emerging talent, Toby Kebbell, currently earning rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival for his role as band manager Rob Gretton in Anton’s Corbijn’s film Control, plays the leading role of Paul in the final story of the series.

John Chapman, ITV Productions producer, says: “It is a huge privilege to work on The Street bringing back together many of the outstanding talents who made the drama so distinctive first time round as well as help to take the series forward.”

Sita Williams, Executive Producer for ITV Productions, says: “We are thrilled to win a Bafta which confirms our belief that great drama representing believable characters with whom we can all identify stands out.”

Polly Hill, BBC Commissioning Editor, BBC Drama, says: “BBC Drama is extremely proud of The Street’s Bafta success this week and we are thrilled to see this powerful series return, which continues to bring us Jimmy’s compelling storytelling with a wonderful cast of established names and new talent.”

An ITV Production for BBC One, The Street is produced by John Chapman and executive produced by Jimmy McGovern and Sita Williams. BBC Executive producers are Eleanor Moran and Polly Hill, Commissioning Editor for BBC Independent Drama.

Leading directors Terry McDonough (Instinct, Vincent, Eleventh Hour) and David Blair (The Lakes, Malice Aforethought, Takin’ Over The Asylum) return to The Street.

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