Manchester: Britain’s real second city, the first industrial metropolis and capital of football. And home to some of the greatest telly ever made. The mightiest of ITV companies, Granada, still sits in the heart of the city. The BBC has invested millions in locating a massive production base at Salford Quays. Even the Scousers have waved the white flag before Mancunian power. Jimmy McGovern sets all his series in Manc and whatever happened to Phil Redmond and Alan Bleasdale? Exactly.
Manchester rules the airwaves, and here are five reasons why…
Coronation Street (1960-present)
OK. Weatherfield’s technically Salford, but there are few programmes more essentially Mancunian. The gloomy despondency and the humour borne of adversity sit together in a way EastEnders will never get a grip on, and the rich characters and acute sense of knowing what audience buttons to press make Corrie the world’s longest-running and most successful soap for a reason. Why do people shower Albert Square with awards on an annual basis?
Cracker (1993-96, 2006)
Scouser McGovern accepts defeat and sets his ground-breaking crime profiling drama in Cottonopolis. It stars a Glaswegian, but as with Corrie the humour neatly one-twos with the darkness against a backdrop of Manchester’s everyday, making the urban landscape complicit in the police procedural. Without Cracker there’d be no Mentalist, no Bones or Lie to Me. THAT influential.
Queer as Folk (1999-2000)
There’s a fair amount of Russell T Davies Mancunian dramas to choose from for this list, but QaF’s deliberately pitched controversy sums up the city’s cheekiness and audaciousness, and turned Canal Street into probably the best known gay quarter in the UK. And once again the strong sense of light/dark is at play with Manchester as much a character as the boys in the ‘triangle’.
Life on Mars (2006-07)
The sight of a ‘Selnec’ orange bus in one episode of Life on Mars roots those of us growing up there in the 1970s back to a real sense of place, despite much of the action across LoM taking place through necessity in warehouses and alleys. Raw traditional Manchester machismo grinding against the city’s more touchy-feely present is personified by the dream team of Hunt and Tyler in a series that says ‘Manchester’ with atmosphere rather than landmarks.
Scouser McGovern accepts defeat again with a portmanteau series that uses the whole conurbation as its backdrop, reflecting the disparate lives of those in the dock and almost putting the city’s mores themselves on trial; Manchester, so much to answer for. The 2012 series, particularly the episode ‘Tracie’s Story’ give Manchester a more cinematic widescreen gloss than even Captain America managed; Sean Bean’s taxi could be gliding through NYC.
Honourable mentions to:
Shameless (2004-present), Corrie’s ugly and slutty big sister which twists Manchester attitude into a Liam Gallagher-esque parody. Applies only to the first four series, mind. The Royle Family (1998-present) could only be from Manchester and we’ve known Mancunian families just like them. The Second Coming (2003) has the Ninth Doctor perform miracles at Maine Road in a typically bonkers and ballsy RTD script. The utterly lovely Samuel Beckett-esque Early Doors (2003-04) and, from the depths of time, the peerless coarse Jack Rosenthal sitcom The Dustbinmen (1969-70).
What’s your favourite TV show set in Manchester? Let us know below…
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