The Moorside - A brave attempt to redress the balance

Natalie Brown (SAN BROOKE), Julie Bushby (SHERIDAN SMITH), Karen Matthews (GEMMA WHELAN), the three women at the centre of BBC drama The Moorside
Natalie Brown (SAN BROOKE), Julie Bushby (SHERIDAN SMITH), Karen Matthews (GEMMA WHELAN), the three women at the centre of BBC drama The Moorside
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We have often been told that there’s nothing such as society, and that we no longer have a sense of community.

The Shannon Matthews case, in which a young girl was apparently abducted from a housing estate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was held up as an example of this. Sink estates, in which no one cared about themselves, let alone their neighbours.
The Moorside (BBC1, Tuesdays, 9pm) attempted to offer another side to this story. It showed a community rallying round one of its own, and trying to find Shannon.

The opening shots immediately played with your expectations, with lots of green fields and open space surrounding the estate, and back gardens housing geese and chickens, all very bucolic.
The drama focused on Julie Bushby, played by Sheridan Smith, who led the community efforts to find Shannon. Julie was obviously proud of her community, and eager to help, but the drama was less successful in portraying her motives for her total involvement in the case – her kids constantly berate her for ignoring them in favour of Shannon.
She has a very savvy grasp of PR and what would play on TV – a candlelit vigil, for example. In the concluding part, after Shannon’s mum Karen has been arrested for helping to plan the ‘abduction’ in the hope of claiming reward money once her daughter is ‘found’, the community turn on Julie for being duped: “You liked being the centre of attention, the queen bee.”
Eventually we find that Julie was abused by her father, but it’s so late in the drama, it still doesn’t seem a full explanation.
The Moorside was ultimately slightly unsatisfactory – the performances was uniformly excellent, but it was Karen’s neighbour Natalie (Sian Brooke) who really seemed to embody the community more than Julie.
Always there to help with other people’s kids, a good mum, but not blind to the community’s faults – she was the first to suspect Karen – we need more Natalies in our communities.

Gemma Whelan played Karen Matthews in The Moorside, and she also appears in Uncle (BBC iPlayer and online), which is the best thing on TV at the moment – funny, filthy and tender, just believably human.

The latest series of Homeland (Channel 4, Sundays, 9pm) took its time setting out the plot, and now it finally has, with an explosive fourth episode, Channel 4 pulls it in favour of an X-Men movie. I’m fuming.