Tuesday, October 16, 2007

From Torchwood to Coronation Street. The brilliant career of Russell T. Davies

Russell T. Davies has been heralded as the ''saviour of Saturday night TV” with his two most recent projects, Doctor Who and its adult oriented spin off, Torchwood. Ranked the highest of all TV producers in 2006 MediaGuardian, he has become the man who can pick any project he wants and make it fly. I decided to find out more about the guy who has joined the hallowed ranks of most influential people in British TV, and discovered he has a very varied resume.The Welsh born Davies studied English Lit at Oxford University, but his first taste of TV work was a stint at the Beeb as floor manager and production assistant. In the late eighties he decided to set his sights on direction, and took a course at the BBC. He added the T. to his name around this time to avoid confusion with a well known radio personality.From 1988-1992, Davies beavered away with the BBC in Manchester, producing hit shows for kids, including the ironically named 'Why Don't You', whose theme song, I vaguely recall, included the seminal line: 'why don't you just switch off your television and go and do something less boring instead? 'Television, to Davies, was anything but boring, and he found himself being handed control of the script for the the sci-fi six parter for kids, Dark Season, in 1991. The show, featuring a young Kate Winslet, was a big hit, and Davies found more success writing for other youth oriented shows, including hospital drama Children's Ward.In the early nineties, Davies did a stint as storyliner on Coronation Street, a show he admires thoroughly for its working class roots. He has been quoted as saying he loves 'the the wit and wisdom of that show - I watch it five times a week', and that 'I'm not a fan; it's just ingrained. I love it.'After the Friday night ratings disaster that was The Grand, when he was abandoned and left sole scriptwriter, he gained a name as a quality writer for drama, including work on the successful Robson Green vehicle, Touching Evil. It was the outrageous gay drama Queer as Folk which aired on Channel 4 in 1999 that brought Davies huge recognition, and he won a Comedy Writer of the Year award in 2001. The Second Coming, which aired in 2003, starred Christopher Eccleston and won Davies a Royal Television Society Award, and Casanova, starring the now famous David Tennant was another Davies production. Davies had long maintained that the only way he would return to the BBC was if they allowed him to revive the defunct cult sci-fi hit, Doctor Who. By late 2003, he was approached by the new Controller of BBC One, Lorraine Heggessey, to oversee the revival of the show. He knew his time slot was the crucial Saturday night at seven, and acted accordingly. The new Doctor Who would have no cheesy effects or wobbly sets. It would be loud, visually compelling, and very, very British. Eccleston's Doctor returned on 26 March 2005, and the rest, as they say....Well, then there was Torchwood. Following the germ of an idea he had even before the new Doctor Who, for a team who would be "Separate from the government, beyond the police and outside the United Nations”, Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who. It's all about taking on aliens, using their technology, with lots of smart one liners, darkness and sex. Oh, and John Barrowman as Captain Jack, not only another great homosexual character, but an 'omnisexual'. Men, women and aliens. Pure Davies.

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