Skip to main content

Reasons to watch new BBC drama This Town

Reasons to watch new BBC drama This Town

The new drama from the writer behind Peaky Blinders promises gritty social realism, an exciting young cast and brilliant music. We can’t wait

By Chris Miller, Feature Writer

With This Town, writer extraordinaire Steven Knight continues his quest to put the Midlands well and truly on the TV map. He’s the creator of Peaky Blinders, the Birmingham-set crime drama that ran for six series and was a huge international hit, making a star of recent Oscar winner Cillian Murphy. And now Knight has returned to the area for another explosive period drama, this time focusing on the early 1980s.


It’s the story of Dante Williams (Levi Brown), a young dreamer with the soul of a poet, who’s struggling to escape from his deprived, crime-ridden background. His salvation comes from Jeannie (Eve Austin) and the band they form, giving them an outlet for  their repressed creativity and the chance of a way out.


The six-part drama is set during a turbulent moment in Britain’s history, a time of huge social tensions and unrest. But Knight’s script is a heartfelt tribute to the power of music, and its ability to bring joy and optimism in the most desperate of circumstances. He’s also described it as “a love letter to Birmingham and Coventry”, parts of the country rarely seen in TV drama (the series was filmed on location in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent), as well as celebrating the two-tone and ska music that emerged from the area at the time.


This Town starts on Easter Sunday at 9pm on BBC One HD (CH 101), when all episodes are available on Apps > BBC iPlayer. Here are the reasons we’re looking forward to this explosive new drama.


Steven Knight has hardly put a foot wrong

Knight’s known for his huge TV drama hits: as well as Peaky Blinders, he created and wrote Taboo and SAS: Rogue Heroes for the BBC, plus last year’s prestigious literary adaptation All The Light We Cannot See on Netflix. But his record extends beyond TV drama. He’s also written the scripts for critically acclaimed movies like Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises and Spencer, as well as hits like The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Girl In The Spider’s Web and Allied.


And before that, he was the co-creator of long-running internationally renowned quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Knight has the golden touch, and we’re always excited to see a new project from him (he has plenty coming up, including the hotly anticipated Peaky Blinders film, set to start shooting soon).


It provides a glimpse into a tense period of history

Knight’s period dramas have shown he has a keen sense for the historical setting – as does This Town director Paul Whittington, who’s worked on The Crown, Jericho and Cilla. There’s a backdrop of civil unrest and violence in This Town, while one of Dante and Jeannie’s bandmates, Bardon (Ben Rose), comes from a family involved with the IRA and is striving to avoid being drawn in. This Town doesn’t shy away from the difficulties its characters face, while showing how art can emerge from conflict and poverty.


It’s a celebration of the music

For British people of a certain age, it’s impossible to hear the title of the show without immediately adding “…aah, aah, is coming like a ghost town”, and imagining the black-and-white artwork that characterised the genre. The Specials’ number one single “Ghost Town” was the biggest hit to emerge from the ska and two-tone scene that exploded in the Midlands in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but it was a huge and influential movement, and its tunes and fashions are integral to This Town.


The band’s songs in the show were written by acclaimed producer Dan Carey, musician and poet Kae Tempest, and singer-songwriter Eska, while you’ll hear cover versions of songs from the era by artists including Celeste, Gregory Porter, Sekou and Self Esteem.


It’s got an exciting young cast

Many of the main cast are taking on their biggest roles to date. Levi Brown had a small role in last year’s Payback on ITV1, while Eve Austin appeared in the fourth season of Netflix’s You, and Ben Rose was briefly in the final series of Line Of Duty. Jordan Bolger, playing Gregory Williams, worked with Knight when he portrayed Isaiah Jesus in Peaky Blinders. The Coventry-born Bolger was happy to play a role that required a Midlands accent – usually, he says, “when you go to auditions you're trying to hide your accent”. We can’t wait to see these talented young actors in prominent roles.


…And some more seasoned veterans we’re happy to see

Downton Abbey
’s Michelle Dockery headed across the Atlantic after the period drama’s ITV run ended, with roles in US dramas Good Behavior, Godless and Defending Jacob, but she’s back to take on the role of Estella in This Town. Nicholas Pinnock, known for Top Boy and Marcella, was in the US for a while too (For Life, Counterpart) and here he plays Dante’s father Deuce.


David Dawson (Ripper Street, The Last Kingdom) plays Robbie Carmen, svengali to the fledgling band, and Geraldine James – whose TV, film and stage career goes back to the mid-1970s – is Marie, desperate to keep Bardon out of the IRA’s clutches.


When does This Town start on the BBC?

This Town starts on Easter Sunday at 9pm on BBC One HD (CH 101), with the second episode following on Easter Monday at 9pm. All episodes are available on Apps > BBC iPlayer from Easter Sunday.

You might also like

TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.

HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box, Virgin TV V6 box or Virgin TV 360 box connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.

Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.

On Demand: Content available to view depends on TV package. Time limits apply for viewing chargeable On Demand content – see Once purchased, all chargeable On Demand content must be viewed within 48 hours. Premium channels and upgrades must be kept for at least 30 days.
Image Credit: This Town © Banijay Rights / Kudos / Robert Viglasky