I Love British Drama, but Happy Valley is Too Bleak Caption: Calderdale, is part of W. Yorks

I doubt viewers of Netflix and Lightbox’s Happy Valley will have missed it – but there is an unsubtle irony in the naming of this TV series set in the hard-scrabble towns of the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire.

Sarah Lancashire n

Like many of the towns and cities of the North, the Calder Valley towns have been ravaged by drugs and poverty, and life for many is far from happy. Indeed, the bleakness seem to have congealed. Even those of us who fondly remember northern dramas  – like The Boys From The Blackstuff – and the stories set in Thatcher’s Britain – may find it a bit much. Those us who loved the first series of this police drama would have been challenged to see out the entire second series. I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the North. My wife grew up in the industrial Halifax. There is something unique in the way that New Zealanders  can relate British towns excuse of their familiarity due to the early focus of TV,


Hebden Bridge in Calderdale.

But when I lived in there, it was in the genteel spa town of Harrogate in nearby North Yorkshire. disparaged by Yorkshire folk as “a little bit of he South East in the North.” As part of my house husband duties, while my wife worked, I would take out infant son on trips and walks into Yorkshire Dales and beyond into these tough little towns that pepper the foothills of the Pennines. Towns like Elland, Halifax, Brighouse and Keightley. With nearby Leeds the home of Yorkshire TV the entire area seemed was a drama film set familiar even to a kiwi guest who grew on TV One and British dramas.  That ultimate Yorkshire comedy, Last of the Summer wine was filmed in Holmfirth,  Emmerdale farms filmed just north of Leeds. Happy Valley as made by the BBC. The first series was compulsory viewing, uncompromising enough, and displaying raw human emotion.  The local copper, played by Sarah Lancashire, was facing the bad penny return of her daughter’s former antagonist and protecting her grandson from his father’s interest. The second series picks up where the first left off, albeit with a sense of impending doom and more small-scale tragedies, I’m embarrassed to say that as a fan of super realist British drama, it bleaked me out. By the time I had watched Series 2, episode 4 binge viewing, I had to give it a rest. There was that brooding moors thing, which I still liked. It was shown to great effect in another recent TV series set in the area, that played in the Sunday Theatre spot on TV One, Called Last Tango in Halifax. the show ran over four series.

Derek Jacobi and one Reid in Last Tango in Halifax

Derek Jacobi playing the part of a cultured and wise well dressed Yorkshireman. working class but sporting a nice Harris Tweed jacket. He played opposite his middle-class paramour Anne Reid, a sign that love conquers  even in Yorkshire.  Sarah Lancashire played a big role in that series as well, as Ann Reid’s daughter. Rather than a dark cynical copper. she Lesbian head teacher at a private schol in up market Harrogate. It was a much less credible version of the Yorkshire I came to know and love.  But it was much more romantic and palatable entertainment. And I lasted through all four series.  

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