Insiders’ TV: writers and producers share their tips

Rumor (should we say “rumour”) has it that UK TV is the best-written television on the planet. Not having seen or read all the TV on Earth (or even in the UK or U.S.) we can’t quite go that far.

UK TV, however, definitely has more than its share of brilliant writers and producers. Here’s what Russell T. Davies, Nicola Shindler, Julian Fellowes, Steven Moffat and others we believe are the best of the best have to say about TV today:

by Killian Fox and Liam Taft

Russell T Davies: ‘‘Whenever Hugo Blick makes something, he changes what television is’

Created Queer As Folk, revived Doctor Who in 2005, currently working on BBC One drama Years and Years

What are you looking forward to watching this autumn?
I’m dying to see Wanderlust by Nick Payne, who wrote the stage play Constellations. That was a genius piece of writing and this is his first full-length piece for TV. I don’t know much about it – it’s about relationships or something – but I kind of don’t want to know, just let me watch it [on BBC One]. It stars Toni Collette, who’s one of my favourite actors. I’m also looking forward to Butterfly by Tony Marchant [on ITV]. It’s a trans story, which is very now, but Tony was writing about transgender people 20 years ago. It stars Anna Friel, so it has to be good, and apparently the kid in it is sensational. Black Earth Rising by Hugo Blick [on BBC Two] is another one. I have no idea what it’s about – a political thriller I think. Whenever Hugo makes something, he changes what television is. I’m looking forward to the BBC’s War of the Worlds as well, and I’ll be murdered if I don’t mention Doctor Who. I’m properly looking forward to it, the buzz about it is fantastic.

What shows have you enjoyed recently?
I love Unforgotten on ITV. It’s a cold-case police drama – they dig up a body from 20 years ago and explore how the lives of the people involved have changed. It gives you a proper picture of what Britain is like now and what it was like 20 years ago.

As a TV writer, do you watch shows differently from the rest of us?
Everyone is an amateur TV writer at home, I think. You can see it happening on Twitter, which drives me mad. But, yeah, I do have the professional brain ticking away.

The way TV is consumed has changed a lot in recent years. Does that affect the way you write?
I’m 55 now and I’ve never done anything for the bingeing generation. Everyone talks about bingeing and box sets, but the biggest show on planet Earth, Game of Thrones, still releases its episodes weekly. We should all pay attention to that, because they are obviously the cleverest people in existence.

Do you binge-watch?
Only Breaking Bad, which I had missed, and did adore. I think I watched the whole thing in a month – two or three or four episodes a night. But then I stopped with [the spin-off show] Better Call Saul. People say it’s great now but Saul was the character I least liked in Breaking Bad. Actually the other thing I’ve binged on is RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m just coming out of the end of the 10 seasons. I went in with a little bit of a hostility. RuPaul had said one or two contentious things about trans people that set me on edge. But I absolutely loved it. Anyone in the LGBT community who aims their anger at RuPaul is pointing their weapons in the wrong direction. It’s a really clever piece of work that….

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