It seems some folk are never happy. They moan about the lack of credible, quality, gritty drama on TV these days, then start bleating about how violent and unpalatable it is, when it begins to appear.
Broadchurch, Luther, and most recently Channel Four’s hard-hitting killing spree drama Southcliffe have certainly hammered us with some pretty uncompromising home truths about the darker side of modern day British life.
While rather more glossed-up American crime dramas prefer to stop at merely suggesting violence lurks a few yards round the corner, British broadcasters seem to have had a run of serving it up in all its raw, gory glory.
But if you’re going to tackle topics like serial killing, rape, kidnapping or post-traumatic stress disorder, isn’t it only right and proper that you should depict these scenarios in as realistic, and as powerful a fashion as possible?
It’s not as if Southcliffe’s mentally scarred soldier was shoehorning his cold-blooded killings in between teatime helpings of Deal or No Deal and Come Dine With Me, when young impressionable schoolchildren were tucking into their spaghetti hoops.
And you only have to look at Crimewatch (where even the BBC’s reconstructions seem to be getting moodier, and more graphic these days) to see that it’s not at all removed from what’s really going on out there.
But at what age do you stop being an impressionable TV viewer? That appears to be the crux of this debate.
It’s certainly a question vexing Professor Craig Jackson, head of the psychology division at Birmingham City University.
If real spree-killing incidents are often copied by nutcases who are inspired by news coverage (and that itself surely has to be open to debate), does it not stand to reason that the dramatisation of such stories have the same power? That’s what he argues.
He’s not accusing Channel 4, or the production company Warp Films of glamourising spree-killing in any way, but he does say: “The potential danger of this broadcast does not reside in the programme contents themselves, but in the viewing public.
“The type of person who may find the idea of spree-killing to be an acceptable way to settle a grudge or grievance against a community or wider society (and such people are incredibly rare) could find the concept of Southcliffe – whether it be glamorous or not – to be a legitimate justification for his or her lethal actions.
“Southcliffe could actually prove to be terribly written, poorly scripted, terribly acted and unpopular – but its existence on a major broadcast network alone could be enough to justify, to a tiny minority that their rage-fuelled actions or fantasies of spree-murder would be an achievement.”
Seriously? You’d single this show out ahead of the plethora of computer games which glorify killing in a much more troubling fashion, and are, unlike Southcliffe, aggressively marketed at so-called ‘impressionable’ older teenagers?
If you followed this logic and steered clear of such flashpoints, mainstream telly would be full of nothing more than Downton Abbey-style period dramas, music talent searches, soaps, and domestic DIY makeover shows!
And there are enough people out there who feel like it already is . . .