Desert Island Dramas – James Gillam-Smith
In a series of fun, short interviews, we find out which television dramas inspired our team and the screenwriters they admire; what would they choose as their Desert Island Dramas?
So, as you jump onto a life raft for one, you can grab three dramas/comedies to take to the nearby island you will paddle to. And, you must also choose one programme to feed to the circling sharks.
This week it’s the turn of our screenwriting coach James Gillam-Smith;
My three shows to save are as follows:
Blackadder – A weekly childhood treat, after sneaking downstairs at the age of eleven to see why my parents were laughing so loudly. The answer – Blackadder II. And that became my first TV obsession, recorded and watched over and over again on Betamax till the tape wore thin.
Arguably Blackadder Goes Forth is the best of the series, with that incredibly moving final episode, but, for sentimental reasons (plus Queen Elizabeth and Lord Percy), I’m going for Series 2.
Ghost Watch – I love horror. I love being scared. And so… not the brilliant Haunting of Hill House, but 1991’s BBC Halloween special – Ghostwatch; an effective and innovative parody of studio talk-shows and pre-dating programmes like Most Haunted by years. I was suckered in and genuinely chilled in this one-off Halloween special written by Stephen Volk and starring none other than Michael Parkinson, Mike Smith and Sarah Greene! That idea alone may be enough to make some people sweaty and nervous.
The Walking Dead – This is definitely the rough with the smooth. I binged this up till series 7 when things just petered out for me. I was amongst the countless fans who all gave up. But, for the purpose of this exercise, I’d like to return to the beginning and binge all over again.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for the survivors of this zombie apocalypse. Characters you’ve grown to love are killed off throughout. No one is safe and that is what makes it such compelling viewing. Yes, it’s grim and often depressing but it’s edge of the seat stuff and the writers made me really care about the characters. I’d love to bring them all back to life, start again… and, with nothing else to distract me on my island, push on with where I left off. They’re midway through season 10, so lots of catching up to do.
Throw it to the sharks –
Lewis – I know this would be extremely tough to write and plot but essentially it’s just not my cup of tea. It seems churlish and ridiculous to say it’s not doing anything new. That’s not what it’s being made for. I think I just prefer my murders (or crimes) either written by Agatha Christie and adapted by Sarah Phelps at Christmas or examined in a different way as per the American Crime Story series or Netflix’s amazing Unbelievable.
James is a Script Angel screenwriting coach and an experienced television script and story editor. He has worked in both drama and comedy, including ‘Silent Witness’ (BBC Studios), ‘Holby City’, (BBC Studios), ‘The Bill’ (Talkback Thames) and ‘EastEnders’ as well as series such as ‘Apparitions’ (Lime Productions), ‘Stella’ (Tidy Productions) and ‘The Job Lot’, ‘Rev’ and ‘Youngers’ (Big Talk Productions).