How Not To Tell a Story…

Sometime in the last century I was the Script Editor of an iconic television police series called Z Cars – (If you remember it you should probably be in a museum). Because of the sheer amount of drama the BBC was making then the Producer suggested that we cast around for new directors and a wise friend pointed us towards documentary directors. Why? Because they know how to tell a story. They take the audience by the hand, lead them to the beginning, on to the middle and then the end.

In the case of Z Cars it worked a treat and a couple of doc directors joined us.

The skills they brought seem to have vanished and I’m citing Theresa vs Boris: How May Became PM as the worst offender I’ve seen for years. Making such vitriolic stuff thoroughly unwatchable is quite an achievement, but they managed it! They did so by making fundamental mistakes.

None of the names involved, in the drama or the interspersed commentaries, were introduced to us properly, by name, rank or function. And there were dozens of them! The casting was laughable.

The actress playing Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom looked like twin sisters, but neither resembled the originals. No dramatised scene lasted longer than 20 seconds before the cut away to an unknown commentator, which gave no time to get a toehold on anyone or any event. The dialogue was appalling, the ups indistinguishable from the downs. In the end I asked myself the usual question: why didn’t I switch the bloody thing off?

Morbid fascination.


Douglas Watkinson is an English novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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