Posted by admin  /   October 25, 2012  /   Posted in Thoughts on Screenwriting  /   11 Comments

Hi There,

Something a bit different this week – and a day early too! Why am I a day early? (You may ask). Because I’m off to the annual London Screenwriters Festival tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday.

As a punter on Friday – but it’s always a great chance to meet up with so many of the writers whose scripts I’ve been working on – good to be able to put a face to the script; and to catch up with those writers who’ve done my and Phil Gladwin’s courses and hear what they’re up to.

And to see old friends and hear some fascinating talks. In advance, and having looked at the schedule, can I recommend – Peter Buckingham 10.30 Friday am – I’ve heard him give talks a couple of times and he’s great – he knows everything there is to be known about marketing feature films and he will really make you think about your work in terms of the potential audience – and he’s very entertaining.

Other than that, Tony Marchant is always interesting – and I imagine Jed Mercurio (see list below!) and Simon Beaufoy – two of the UK’s best and most successful screenwriters – will be fascinating.

And on Saturday I’m there to run a SCRIPT LAB about ‘CREATING DRAMA SERIES’ working with 6 writers who have come up with cracking series ideas – which should be a lot of fun.

So, without further ado – to the meat of this week’s newsletter.

In the last few weeks I have been running a couple of ‘training’ sessions (with one more to come) for the TV, Film and Theatre department of Curtis Brown literary agents – looking at UK TV drama and TV drama scripts.

One element of this was coming up with a ‘definitive’ list of landmark British TV drama of the last 20 or so years – and a second list of the best UK produced TV of the last 5 years.

Here are the lists below – and they’re guaranteed to have you all blowing a gasket, saying ‘How the hell could the fool have left out \ forgotten X, Y & Z??’

So – your task this week – should you feel so inspired – is to tell me what I’ve left out of these far from comprehensive lists – the landmark, ground-breaking shows AND the TV dramas that have got you excited in the last 5 years.

I’d love to hear your views – about what I should have included AND the shows I have included that I shouldn’t have!

I’ll share your responses in a later newsletter and THANK YOU in advance for your contributions.



Landmark \ Historical Ground-Breaking Shows


Pennies From Heaven \ The Singing Detective – Dennis Potter

I, Claudius – Jack Pulman

Brideshead Revisited – John Mortimer


Our Friends In The North – Peter Flannery

Talking Heads – Alan Bennett

Cardiac Arrest \ Bodies – Jed Mercurio

Boys From The Blackstuff – Alan Bleasdale

Shameless – Paul Abbott

Edge Of Darkness – Troy Kennedy Martin

Bar Mitzvah Boy \ The Evacuees – Jack Rosenthal

This Life – Amy Jenkins

Life Is Sweet – Mike Leigh

House Of Cards – Andrew Davies


Inspector Morse – Anthony Minghella

Cracker – Jimmy McGovern

Prime Suspect – Lynda La Plante

State Of Play – Paul Abbott


Hillsborough – Jimmy McGovern

The Day Britain Stopped – Gabriel Range & Simon Finch

Bloody Sunday – Paul Greengrass

Top Drama of the past 5 years


The Devil’s Whore – Peter Flannery

Downton Abbey – Julian Fellowes

The Hour – Abi Morgan

Parade’s End – Tom Stoppard


Top Boy – Ronan Bennett

Misfits – Howard Overman

This is England 86/88 – Shane Meadows

Red Riding – Tony Grisoni

The Street \ The Accused – Jimmy McGovern

Occupation – Peter Bowker

Being Human – Toby Whithouse

Dead Set \ Black Mirror – Charlie Brooker

Freefall – Dominic Savage


Life On Mars \ Ashes To Ashes – Ashley Pharoah & Matthew Graham

Spooks – David Wolstencroft

Sherlock- Steven Moffat

Criminal Justice \ Silk – Peter Moffat

Line Of Duty – Jed Mercurio

Good Cop – Stephen Butchard

Inside Men – Tony Basgallop


The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall – Simon Block

The Long Walk To Finchley – Tony Saint

House of Saddam – Stephen Butchard


Just to remind you again – we are now accepting entries for the 2013 course. Entries close on Nov 7th so make sure you don’t miss the deadline – you have a mere 10 days left to submit your script. This is a fantastic opportunity to launch your screenwriting career.



Phil Gladwin and I have two more of our weekend courses coming up early in 2013 – and we have some excellent guests lined up for both courses –

Jan 26-27 : Literary agent TANYA TILLETT.

Tanya is an agent at the leading Knight Hall agency. She has a really impressive list of writers and is always on the lookout for new writers of talent. As an agent in one of the top London agencies she has a unique overview of the film and TV industries and current opportunities for writers.

March 16-17 : Channel 4 Drama Head of Development BEN STOLL and Producer \ Writer MATT BOUCH.

BEN oversees much of the Channel 4 drama slate of shows in both production and development and has worked closely with me on the C4 screenwriting course for the last 3 years.

MATT is currently producing MY MAD FAT DIARY, a new series for Channel 4; and has extensive experience as both producer (BEING HUMAN, THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES etc) and screenwriter.

All three of these guests work at the heart of the TV and film industry in the UK and will be able to give you invaluable advice and unique insights on how to launch and sustain a career as a screenwriter in the UK.

We are anticipating that both courses will sell out so early booking is advised to make sure of your place.

FINALLY if you’re going to be at the LONDON SCREENWRITERS FESTIVAL  this weekend, please say hello!

Until next week

All the best



Oct 25th 2012




  1. Jeremy Allen October 25, 2012 6:11 pm

    Not a bad list. Many of my favourites there. It’s made me want to see the ones I’ve missed e.g. Red Riding. Have to add some suggestions though:

    ‘Cambridge Spies’- Peter Moffat
    ‘Line of Beauty’- Andrew Davies
    ‘The Long Firm’- Jake Arnott/Joe Penhall
    ‘GBH’- Alan Bleasdale
    ‘Blackpool’- Peter Bowker
    “Jewel in the Crown’- Ken Taylor/Paul Scott
    ‘The Cops’ – Jimmy Gardner/Robert Jones/Anita J. Pandolfo
    ‘The Firm’- Al Ashton
    ‘Made in Britain’- David Leland

  2. yvonne grace October 25, 2012 6:42 pm

    Hi Phil, i reckon you’ve pretty much covered all bases, but something from Debbie Horsfield in my view is missing, The Riff Raff Element was excellent as was a more recent strong woman writer Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate. I reckon Jeremy Allen is spot on when he says The Firm by Al Ashton – he was a nightmare to work with as an actor, but the one of the best serial and series drama writers we had – r.i.p. Great blog!

  3. Jeremy Allen October 25, 2012 7:17 pm

    Why was he a nightmare to work with, Yvonne?

  4. Jon B October 25, 2012 9:36 pm

    I’d definitely whack Queer as Folk in there, I think Shameless owes it a massive debt of gratitude stylistically. And Threads – though that probably didn’t influence Shameless quite as much. And what about Doctor Who?

  5. admin October 26, 2012 7:20 am

    JEREMY – some really good suggestions – Jewel In The Crown was wonderful – but not ground-breaking? I’d say ‘School of Brideshead’. But ‘Made In Britain – yes absolutely – I still remember it – visceral and really powerful, fantastic performance from Tim Roth.

    The Cops too was a completely innovative take on a familiar subject. I think Peter Moffat is a fantastic writer but I’ve never seen CAMBRIDGE SPIES – next on my DVD list!

    Yvonne – yes Debbie Horsfield should be on there somewhere.

    Jon – ‘Queer As folk’ – definitely.

    Thanks for the contributions!

  6. Marina Jacobs October 26, 2012 12:16 pm

    A great list – some of my favourites in there (Our Friends in the North.This Life, Life on Mars, Downton Abbey). I would add GBH, Holding On, and Clocking Off.

  7. Jeremy Allen October 26, 2012 8:12 pm

    Only saw Jewel in the Crown recently- I thought it was great. Brideshead I love as well. I’m a bit of a lefty, but I loved those two shows. What happened to ITV!?

  8. Jeremy Allen October 26, 2012 8:14 pm

    How far back are we going? I watched three series recently, all from the late seventies. All brilliant. One was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The other two are less well-remembered but I think they hold up: Secret Army and Danger UXB. I think 70s and 80s were the golden age of British TV.

  9. Jayne Lake November 2, 2012 11:39 am

    So subjective I know but three absolute must have’s for my ‘Best Ever TV Drama’ of recent years: Julie Gearey’s Prisoners Wives had everything, Heidi Thomas’s Call The Midwife (audience figures have that there methinks) & of course Danny Brocklehurst’s Exile which sets the bench mark in single (serial) drama.

  10. KT Parker November 10, 2012 1:00 pm

    For me, the best TV factual drama of all time is ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’ about an unlikely friendship between a homeless alcoholic and drug addict still fighting the demons of child abuse and a writer.

    I also appreciated ‘The Special Relationship’ and ‘Burn Up’.

    Under series I would include ‘Small Island’ – quite apart from being a lovely series, I believe it was groundbreaking to have so many black protagonists in a prime-time period drama. (I would mention Sarah Phelps’ version of ‘Oliver’ for the same reason, but I think it falls outside your 5-year window.) It was integral to the story being told. For me this is so much better than casting a token black person as the Archbishop of Canterbury in a Shakespeare play set in the 14th century…

    My favourite contemporary series is ‘State of Play’ by Paul Abbott, but I would also mention his series ‘Shadowline’ which was also truly excellent.

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