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Writer’s Room: Paul Abbott says take No Offence

Scripted-logo-460Paul Abbott is the BAFTA Award-winning writer who cut his teeth on Coronation Street and Cracker before creating drama hit Shameless for Channel 4 in the UK, which went on to be remade for Showtime in the US. His other credits include Clocking Off and State of Play. His new cop series for Channel 4 is No Offence.

paul-abbott_MG_6968_2.jpgI love all cop shows full stop. I love police investigation; it is proper storytelling. No Offence was trying to combine something for a five-star crime-addicted audience with a set of ingredients that you could twist, taking viewers on a journey that they didn’t even know they wanted to go on.

It’s one of the funniest straight things I’ve ever written. However, that doesn’t describe No Offence enough because the gravity of it comes from all directions, but it all fits together and I think it is a really handsome pot.

Characters are the key, and in this instance I was actually creating a family of professionals. Writing a family like I did in Shameless is one thing; to write a family out of a bunch of strangers I think is my forte. No Offence stinks of Shameless, Linda Green, Clocking Off and State of Play, and I can see all of them within the personality of this series. Not in a lazy way – that is the toolbox you build as a writer. It’s really big storytelling at times.

Why should international buyers be interested in No Offence? Because it’s not like anything they’ve seen before – it’s not a rehash of Shameless, and its moral curvature is completely different

As a writer, you stand in the person’s shoes you’re writing about. The biggest thing you’re taught as a writer is to “give your enemies the best lines”. I never used to know what that meant. I can’t remember who said it first, but ‘enemy’ means the person you don’t understand. So you are standing on their side, and the humility that it takes to make that transition makes them not your enemy.

You’ve embroidered a little bridge and I think that’s why you become more peaceful when you write a lot – it takes humility to do it well. A dog, a child, a woman, a man – you step into their shoes. My characters are loveable because if you are stood in their shoes you can’t not show them mercy.

No-OffenceWhy should international buyers be interested in No Offence? Because it’s not like anything they’ve seen before – it’s not a rehash of Shameless, and its moral curvature is completely different. This is the public sector side of the greatest good for the greatest number.

No Offence is a series of crime stories that are comparative with flags from all nations, because I think it is just camouflaged as a cop show. The audience realise they are being fed air miles and bonus balls by the dozen, but underneath that is a cop show.

It is British, but it’s got a completely different presentation and vernacular from the Queen’s English – this is Manchester, like Shameless was. Shameless translated perfectly well.

I didn’t expect Shameless, the way we’d made it, to translate to an American or international sentiment, but John Wells could smell the authenticity when he remade it, and that’s what the viewer smells too; that’s what travels internationally. The authenticity is unbreachable.