“Scott & Bailey” aims to be the “Cagney & Lacey” of Manchester

While Corrie fans are reeling from rumors that Sacha Parkinson is leaving the show, another Coronation Street alumnus has emerged in Scott & Bailey, a new ITV series that its star calls “the Cagney & Lacey of Manchester.” (Thanks for the tip, @teambrookev.)

Suranne Jones, who played Corrie‘s Karen McDonald from 1997 – 2004 (followed by the role of bisexual therapist Linda Nelson in Strictly Confidential), plays Rachel Bailey, a fiery and impulsive detective constable partnered with the much more sensible and reliable Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp).

The six-part series, which premiered Sunday after Britain’s Got Talent, features a mostly female cast from Manchester Met’s major incident team — the division that solves murders.

Here’s the trailer.

TV Times magazine reports that Jones and former Corrie star Sally Lindsay, with the help of quite a few glasses of wine, came up with the idea for the show six years ago.

“We thought it has been done before with two female leads,” Jones said, “but not in the way we pictured it with real northern women — a gritty Manchester drama about people with real lives. It’s very surreal to be making the show so many years later!”

Lindsay planned to play Scott, but had to pass because she was pregnant with twins. (She plays a smaller role as Rachel’s sister Alison instead.) When Sharp read for the part, however, Jones knew they’d found Janet.

“Lesley Sharp is brilliant … so I was really excited when we met for the read-through,” Jones said. “I was a bit nervous because when you respect someone like I respect Lesley you just want them to be nice and you want to get on with them.

“We needed to have chemistry and we hit it off immediately. On the first day of filming we were stuck in a car on the moors, so I think I told her pretty much everything about my life from being born to right now.”

Sharp was happy to find such a meaty role.

“What happens is, as you get older, you want to start doing work that has got more layers, and is more complicated,” she told the Daily Post.

“And quite often you can find that the roles you are being asked to play are somebody’s wife, somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother, somebody’s social worker, somebody’s teacher, and what you want to do is be the hero, or the heroine, and as you get older, sometimes people aren’t interested in writing that.”

In a review of the first episode, theartsdesk.com writes that Jones and Sharp make a convincing and likeable team in the very woman-centric show:

… it would seem that the world of murder has now well and truly been taken over by the fairer sex, and it’s their very fairness and calmness that becomes instrumental in them solving the case. The only time male police officers get a look-in is when they get it wrong or when they are being chastised as if they were misbehaving schoolboys. Also, unlike their male counterparts, DCs Scott and Bailey don’t brood over their work at the end of the day, don’t drink to excess (as far as we’ve been made aware so far), and rather than do the good cop/bad cop routine, they find the good cop/good cop routine works so much better.

Jones takes pride in the fact that Scott & Bailey has strong women leads, saying:

Brilliant parts for women only come along once in a blue moon — you are always the mistress, lover or daughter. In Scott & Bailey there are three leading women. You’ve got Rachel, a single girl in her early thirties who has not managed to sort her life out, Janet, a woman with a family life, and DCI Gill Murray (played by Amelia Bullmore) who is divorced — we’ve covered all the bases.

International blocking prevents me from watching all of Episode 1, but my one disappointment about what I’ve read is that the series opens with Rachel getting dumped after a two-year relationship with a man (Rupert Graves) who, unknown to her, is happily married with teenage kids and a wonderful country house. I know from experience that love makes women stupid, but Rachel is supposed to be a hotshot detective and somehow she had no clue that her boyfriend was a scumbag? I’m not buying it.

I’m hoping, though, that solid crime-solving stories will take precedence over sloppy personal drama in Scott & Bailey. A respected real life Detective Inspector, Diane Taylor, consults for the show, so perhaps her influence will keep the series believable.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to access ITV player, you can watch Episode 1 at itv.com. The rest of us are anxious to hear what you think. Is Scott & Bailey the UK version of Cagney & Lacey? Do Rachel and Janet have subtext-worthy chemistry?

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