Writers Panel Podcast

The Chelsea Detective team with creator Peter Fincham (former BBC/ITV director) and writers Glen Laker (Vera, Prime Suspect: 1973) and Liz Lake (Footballers Wives; Eastenders) – The Writers Panel

The Chelsea Detective team, creator Peter Fincham (former BBC/ITV director) and writers Glen Laker (Vera, Prime Suspect: 1973) and Liz Lake (Footballers Wives; Eastenders) discuss the challenges of a writing a classic-feeling detective show, the 90-minute format, compelling mysteries and compelling characters, and making yourself the audience.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-writers-panel/id455020248?i=1000558709815

Writing Prime Suspect 1973

Below is a piece I wrote for Broadcast Magazine in Feb 2017 which, for very boring reasons, never got published. I recently found it on my hard drive and thought I’d post it here. So at least it got published somewhere, even if it’s only this site, which is mainly read by me, my wife and the persistent hacker bots who visit hundreds of times each day. I assume it’s the content that makes them leave, not the security.

Prime Suspect

Writing Prime Suspect 1973” – originally written 1st Feb 2017.

It started with a phone call. It always starts with a phone call. A voice asking me if I’d ever watched Prime Suspect. Of course, I had. Many, many times.

25 years ago, when the first series aired, I would rush home to catch it. Since then, in the same way that a dancer watches and rewatches expert choreography to learn complex routines, I have watched and rewatched Prime Suspect over and over.

The voice on the phone asked about Lynda La Plante’s bestseller “Tennison”. Had I read it? Months before, I had bought the hardback and devoured it over a weekend, like I have so many of Lynda’s books. I am a huge fan. So yes, I had read it.

I had paced down the corridors of Hackney nick, I had smelled the stale sweat of the locker room and the grease of the cafeteria. I had stood with DI Bradfield over the body of Julie Ann Collins, I had watched DS Gibbs interrogate suspects like he wanted to tear them apart, I had joked with DC Edwards, I had witnessed the gradual, painful implosion of the Bentley family and I had walked side by side with a 22-year-old police officer – WPC 517, Jane Tennison – as she battled the sexism of a 1970s police station, fell head over heels in love and became involved in her first murder investigation.

The voice on the phone asked how I felt about adapting it into a six-part series for ITV. I picked myself up off the floor.

“Prime Suspect”. “Jane Tennison”. Those words carry a lot of weight. But as I dipped my toe into the prequel, one thing I wanted to avoid was mimicking the original. This couldn’t be a homage. This wasn’t an origin story. This wasn’t Supercop: The Early Years. This was an opportunity to do something new, to carve out a new path, a new world and more importantly, a new Jane Tennison.

Prime Suspect 1973
Prime Suspect 1973

The first step on that path was coming up with a back story for Jane, digging under her skin to find out what drove this progressive young woman from Maida Vale to join the chauvinistic surroundings of a police station in Hackney. That back story breathed life into the young Jane.

A probationary WPC when we first meet her, Jane’s still finding her voice and making mistakes, but over the course of the six episodes, she will leave us in no doubt that the blood pumping through her veins is the same blood that will, decades hence, fuel the formidable Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison.

With the other characters in Prime Suspect 1973, my one rule was simple: they all had to be someone we would enjoy spending time with, no matter how monstrous their deeds. In short, I wanted to write parts that actors would love to play.

Here’s where I try to express in writing how lucky and proud I am to have passed the baton to such an amazing cast. I can’t think of a better young Jane Tennison than Stefanie Martini, who strikes the perfect balance of naivety and grit. And she’s joined by a wonderful ensemble cast led by Sam Reid, Blake Harrison, Alun Armstrong and Ruth Sheen, all bringing their best game to the table.

They’ve been matched in ambition and achievement by director David Caffrey and an incredible crew, who together have captured 1973 Hackney with such authenticity that it feels like peering through a window into a different time and place.

1973 was a changing world: post-Watergate, the innocence of the 60s a receding memory and with rising inflation forcing economic change that would define the decade. It’s the perfect backdrop for a crime story which, at its heart, is about the loss of innocence.

What a ride it’s been. I’ve loved spending time with these characters and hearing them tell their stories, from that initial phone call right through to sitting in the edit suite as the credits rolled on the final episode. For 25 years, all I’ve wanted to do was write a love letter to the crime drama I grew up watching. How lucky to have been given the chance.

I hope WPC 517 Jane Tennison will please and thrill existing Prime Suspect fans and bring many new ones into the fold.

Above all, I hope Dame Helen Mirren enjoys it.

The Chelsea Detective – First Looks

Some clips from the opening episode of The Chelsea Detective, “The Wages Of Sin”, written by me. There are some SPOILERS here, so be warned.

THE CHELSEA DETECTIVE, starring Adrian Scarborough and Sonita Henry, will be on Acorn TV from Feb 7th in the UK and then a month later everywhere else. Created by Peter Fincham, from Expectation Entertainment Ltd.

The Chelsea Detective – Trailer

Here’s the trailer for The Chelsea Detective, premiering February 7th 2022 from Acorn TV in the UK and a month later in the US, featuring scenes from the opening two episodes, written in my shed. Series produced by Ella Kelly for Expectation Entertainment, directed by Richard Signy and Darcia Martin, created and exec produced by Peter Fincham, written by Glen Laker, Peter Fincham and Liz Lake. A co-production from Acorn TV, BBC Studios and ZDF Enterprises.

Chelsea Detective trailer

THE CHELSEA DETECTIVE, starring Adrian Scarborough and Sonita Henry, will be on Acorn TV from Feb 7th in the UK and then a month later everywhere else. Created by Peter Fincham, from Expectation Entertainment Ltd.

Chelsea Detective Wraps

The Chelsea Detective has wrapped, after a shoot which began in cold and wet April and travelled all across London. My own journey with the show started over 2 years ago, writing it through the lockdowns of 2020 and then rewriting because of restrictions and delays due to COVID, so it’s a huge relief to see it all in the can. An excellent achievement from a fabulous cast and crew.

The Chelsea Detective’s Last Day On Set

The Chelsea Detective

Very pleased to let you know what I’ve been writing this during lockdowns 1, 2 and 3. The Chelsea Detective is shooting in April 2021. There were plans to shoot in last autumn, but a little thing called COVID put paid to that. As I write this, sets are being hammered and nailed into place. We did the read-through last week – 90 people on Zoom in my kitchen was somehow more nerve-wracking than if we’d all been sat around the same table.

Series one of The Chelsea Detective is four feature-length stories following Detective Inspector Max Arnold (Adrian Scarborough), Detective Sergeant Priya Shamsie (Sonita Henry) and their team as they solve crimes in Chelsea, London. The first series will be shown, I think, in 2022. Watch this space. 

It’s been a blast writing this alongside Peter Fincham (who also created the show) and Liz Lake. Laker Fincham Lake – sounds like a legal firm from a John Grisham novel.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/bbcstudios/2021/bbc-studios-indie-partners-expectation-commissioned-acorn-tv-zdf-produce-chelsea-detective

Vera – Tuesday’s Child – ITV 7th August 2020

My second attempt at a Vera episode, Tuesday’s Child, is being repeated on ITV on Friday 7th August. I hope you enjoy it. I like how it all turned out. In France, the episode is called “L’homme des cavernes”, which coincidentally is also the name of my favourite aftershave.

Good Karma Hospital S03E05

I wrote episode 5 of the third series of GOOD KARMA HOSPITAL for Tiger Aspect and ITV. Really enjoyed working on the show. Alas, I didn’t get to visit the Sri Lanka set, but they did send me some nice photos of the beach. The team behind the show were brilliant. The episode takes place during Diwali and features deaf teenagers who turn up at the Good Karma Hospital, but as always, everything is not as it first appears. Hope you enjoy!

Good Karma Hospital

Prime Suspect 1973 – TV Times Review

Prime Suspect 1973 makes the Pick of the day in all the TV magazines, including this brilliant review in the TV Times. Phew! Starts ITV, Thursday 2nd March at 9pm.

TV Times Review

Prime Suspect 1973 – TV Times Review