Shane Meadow's ground-breaking drama This is England returned to our screens following a four year hiatus and by [insert deity of choice here] am I glad to see its beautiful face once more.
It isn't necessarily the sexiest of faces. If I had reported the case of my broken heart and streaming tear ducts to the authorities at the end of This is England ‘86 or 88, the police sketch artist may have produced the type of face only a mother could love. But it would be a composite of a real face. A face with character. A face that may have experienced a paper round in Baghdad, but had also done the shopping for Mrs Tisdale every week for a month whilst she recovered from surgery on her hip.
My point is this. I hate the majority of what passes for British television these days. The damage inflicted on our collective psyche by the likes of Geordie Shore and Life on Marbs seems to go almost entirely unregistered. I find myself sneering at the screen at these cartoonish individuals whilst the walls of my brain are reverberating with “THESE ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE THESE ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE THESE ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE!!!”
Now let me continue by saying that I hold no ill will against the "stars" of these shows. I also feel some sympathy for the producers of this tripe because the networks demand what they think their audiences want and what their audiences want is measured by numbers on social media.
But is getting what we want the most important thing? When you remove the possibility of digesting anything other than what you think you like, how do you discover new things? Things, perhaps, that you never dreamed of engaging with, but nonetheless grab you and don't let you go. The most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in our short lives are usually the ones we were not expecting.
All the battles of Mordor or flights of dragons may thrill me for a matter of minutes, but none of them, NONE OF THEM, compare to listening to a young man describe to his friends how the departure of chips and the arrival of new potatoes make him feel.
This is why storytelling of the calibre of Shane Meadows' This is England is both so important and so depressing. How many similar projects have been smashed on the rocks of the TV executive's agenda, never to see the light of day because "kids don't want gritty realism on streets of Sheffield"?
Sometimes you need what you need and not what you want. British television needs This is England. British culture needs This is England. And those of us who work in communications need This is England. Why?
Because it teaches us that the best form of storytelling isn't necessarily to create a window into another world. The best stories are told from the inside out and we keep watching because we know these people. They are real people and we know they are real people because we cry when they cry, we laugh when they laugh and when they are gone from our lives we can be both sad and glad because we have shared an experience. Together.