Paul Abbott: Protecting TV Drama from “Crap, lazy people””

TWO AND a half years since he last spoke at Coventry Conversations, the only university outside Manchester that he comes to speaks at, award winning creator of Shameless and State of Play Paul Abbott spoke about “Crap, lazy people” that are failing captivating TV drama writing.

As Shameless verges on American shores Abbott spoke about how the gritty world of a Manchester council estate would transfer to the USA: “I wrote the first script with John Wells so I know what’s in it but its how they play that’ll make it work”

He added: “They chuck about four million dollars at that 40 minute pilot and that terrifies me because if it starts going wrong I get blamed”

It’s widely known that Shameless is based on his own youth and the characters are a “polished up” version of his family. He grew up in a family of ten with eight children who had to fend for themselves after both parents left. At the ages of 15 Abbott was sectioned after being diagnosed with severe depression, it was at this point that he started writing, which he said he used as an “internal immune system” to deal with isolation he felt as the youngest of such a large family.

The talk focused around the quality of British drama or the lack of it. When asked about the change of tone in Shameless after it’s second series Abbott said “It really disappoints me”, suggesting that the focus of production changed from making groundbreaking drama, to making “tele” something he considered to be the issue for most current British TV that is too quick to commission “warm” friday night drama.

Abbott takes a supervising role on the production of Shameless providing notes etc however he said he would be writing on the new series of Shameless suggesting it was quicker than reading a lot of “crap” scripts.    

Accomplishment as a writer comes at a price according to Abbott as he admits that he’s become a victim of his own success: “Because I’ve got my reputation I’ve become a brand that can actually be it’s own curse because `if they’ll buy anything, I don’t want them to by anything”

When asked about his time at ITV and particularly how he felt about the cuts which have moved ITV drama out of Manchester Abbot said: “They had access to some of the most talented writers in Britain and they ripped them off” 

For aspiring writers “emotional honesty” and meticulous drafting were essential attributes, he added: “It’s your job to know how to step into other peoples shoes and this applies to journalism, novel writing, screen writing even radio plays and poetry”



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