Women are increasingly ruling the writers’ room. Here are the names you need to be dropping in 2018…
Age Before Beauty, Tuesdays from 31 July, 9pm, BBC One/HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
You might not know her name, but Debbie Horsfield is currently the queen of Sunday night telly. She’s the writer of Poldark, the drama that’s made a star of Aidan Turner, turned Cornwall into the UK holiday destination and led to many a Turner/Bond rumour.
She knows how to capture the British imagination – take that very memorable Poldark scythe scene for example. You know the one we mean. Turner, shirtless, holding a farming implement. It sent social media into a meltdown, and even now if you google “Poldark Aidan Turner” it’ll feature in your top ten results. Twice.
What we’re saying is that Horsfield knows how to make headline-grabbing TV. Now, she’s working her magic on new BBC drama, Age Before Beauty. Set in a Manchester beauty salon, the series, starring Robson Green (Grantchester), Sue Johnston (Waking The Dead) and Polly Walker (Rome), is a compelling but cheeky family saga. The kind that blends the best bits of the soaps with some truly tender moments. It's spray tans, stick-on nails and Emmerdale’s Lisa Riley rolled into one cracking Thursday evening of telly.
If you were a fan of Horsfield's excellent Cutting It, you'll know what to expect. Think clever, confident dialogue from strong characters trying to make sense of their lives. Bel (Walker, above) is the series star. As her kids leave home, she finds herself asking what's next and questioning where she fits in the world.
But Horsfield isn’t the only female writer lighting up our televisions this year. Here are five more women whose names you need to be dropping right now…
You know her from: The Hour, River
Abi Morgan makes great drama – and she’s got a cupboard full of awards to prove it. Tsunamis (Tsunami: The Aftermath), sex addiction (Shame) and human trafficking (Sex Traffic) are among the topics on her impressive cv, but you’ll know her best for The Hour – the period piece starring Romola Garai (Born To Kill), Dominic West (The Affair) and Ben Whishaw (A Very English Scandal) that took us behind the doors of a newsroom in 1950s Britain. More recently she hooked us in with legal drama The Split (above).
Up next: The Split series 2 is filming now
You know her from: Fleabag (pictured), Crashing
Writer/actor/director Phoebe Waller-Bridge crashed into the public consciousness with the compelling and complex Fleabag, which had people whispering in corners in case they spoilt the ending for everyone else. Since then, Waller-Bridge has been stateside working on Killing Eve, a tense drama about a psychopathic assassin and the agent tasked with tracking her down. Starring Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) and Jodie Comer (Thirteen), the show has already picked up an Emmy nomination. Miss it at your peril.
Up next: Killing Eve
You know her from: Ordeal By Innocence (pictured), And Then There Were None
Rework Agatha Christie you say? Isn’t that against the law? Even if that were the case, we doubt that would stop the inimitable Sarah Phelps. This self-confessed non-Christie fan doesn’t suffer fools – or anyone who disapproves of her revisionist ways – gladly. She even tweaked the ending of Christie’s book Ordeal By Innocence in her TV adaptation, but won over fans all the same. We wonder what she’ll do this Christmas with that lover of the little grey cells, Monsieur Hercule Poirot?
Up next: The Alphabet Murders, this Christmas on BBC
You know her from: The Affair (pictured), House Of Cards
She’s the only American on our list, but as the mind behind the Golden Globe-winning The Affair, we couldn’t miss her out. This is mind-bending TV. Treem puts just four characters at the centre of her story and the narrative plays out from each of their perspectives. But which, if any, is the truth?
Up next: More of The Affair. Series 1-3 is available to buy on the Virgin Media Store now
You know her from: Happy Valley (pictured), Last Tango In Halifax
This is the woman who took Sarah Lancashire’s career, picked it apart and then pasted it back together again in the shape of a BAFTA. She also taught us to beware of BBC dramas bearing cheerful titles. No one could have guessed what was in store when Happy Valley aired one Tuesday night in April 2014. We don’t bandy the term “landmark telly” around lightly, but it definitely applies here. Oh, and she taught us that James Norton (Grantchester) was much, much, more than just a pretty face.
Up next: Gentleman Jack
Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package.
TV channels: Channel line-ups are subject to change and regional variations. TV packs currently exclude some teletext services.
HD: HD TV required to view HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.
Image credits: Age Before Beauty © Mainstreet Pictures – Photographer: Todd Antony
The Split © Sister Pictures – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian
The Affair © Showtime, LLC All rights reserved
Happy Valley © Red Productions 2014