Wednesday, July 19

The TV commissioner always knocks twice

He’s seen it all before, but Sorted survives the ignominy of being TV’s latest gritty northern drama, says Big Brian Yates

You can tell a lot from a title. BBC1’s new drama Sorted (Tuesday, 9pm) is clearly an addition to the Clocking Off genre. You know the formula: introduce a bunch of likeable working–class stereotypes (in this case a team of postmen;) tell their individual stories in discrete episodes with some touching human drama and a dash of humour; weave in a continuing narrative thread and cleverly pull it all together at the end (leaving enough loose ends for at least one more series.) So what about the title? Apart from the obviously cool ‘90s teen slang appeal, Sorted tells you what these posties spend most of their screen time doing: showing them posting letters might involve one or two amusing incidents with small ferocious dogs and perhaps a few non-PC encounters with scantily–clad housewives, but we would see mostly uniformed men walking the streets pushing letters through doors, which isn’t great television.

Showing them in the office, sorting, gives us the pleasure of working out some key character questions. Who is the randy one? Who is screwing the wife of this week’s main man, Harry? Can the friendship between Harry and the boss, Charlie, be as perfect as it seems? The setting even allows writer Danny Brocklehurst to indulge himself with the boss’s classic line: ‘My office – now!’ I wish I’d written that!

There were a lot of pleasures to be had from the first episode of Sorted. The plot started off with a too–neat coincidence of honest Harry falling for the woman whose life he had saved (asthma attack - happens to postmen all the time!) just as his own marriage began to fall apart. But some crafty twists ensued, and there was a promising hint of dirty office politics towards the end.

There was humour of a sort as two of the boys tailed mysterious new man, Jack, popping out from behind trees and falling over to the strains of Booker T, plus politics as they discussed why Jack is so mysterious: ‘Maybe he’s a Tory?’ with the riposte ‘What? He’s a scouser!’ There’s a classy soundtrack, with rival teams in the sorting office competing to play Duran Duran louder than The Who on their radios, and Edwin Starr and The Velvelettes at the wedding anniversary disco. What you don’t get is any sort of picture of the working lives of real people, but, hey – what do you want? This is television drama! I’ll probably watch it again.


Mark said...

Isn't this always the way with TV schedulers? They get a good thing and then just rape it.

Clocking Off - bloody great success, let's do something else. How about Shameless - one of the best programmes of the year; some bloody good acting too. Alright then, let's do The Street - excellent, but not quite as good as the others. And now this.

Fortunately, they've all been of a high standard so far but it won't be long before our lineups are utterly clogged with poorly imitated dross.

Richey Nash said...

This made me misremember a piece from I'm Alan Partridge.

Alan: "Clocking Off. Shameless. The Street. What does that tell you about working class dramas?"

Tony Hayers: "There's too many of them?"

Alan: "That's one way of looking at it. Or another way of looking at it is, 'People like them, let's make some.'"