Nick Ahad: Send out a search party, TV needs more female writers

Kay Mellor, flies the flag for quality female writers. Picture by Simon Hulme.
Kay Mellor, flies the flag for quality female writers. Picture by Simon Hulme.
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You may or may not be aware of a bit of a brouhaha caused by some terribly upset females this week. Well, they are a rather emotional set of creatures aren’t they, the gentler sex?

The ladies are upset because they are severely and outrageously under-represented in television drama land. In fact, they are so upset that 76 of them gathered together to sign a letter this week to explain just how emotionally overcome they were at news that ITV drama’s list of ten shows it was planning on releasing in 2018 featured only one female writer.

Signatories included Tracy Brabin, now MP once actor and writer of shows including Shameless, Doctors and Hollyoaks, along with writers of Emmerdale and many other British TV productions. The open letter to TV commissioners had the poor ladies wailing and gnashing their teeth at the fact that British drama is ‘overwhelmingly written by men’. Have the women who wrote this letter, some on social media opined, stopped to ponder that maybe they’re just not good enough, simply don’t have the right stuff to write the big TV shows? Some, I saw, suggested that writing is absolutely a meritocracy.

I mean, if your stuff is good enough, it gets made for TV, right? Maybe the female of the species (and ethnic minorities, also hugely under represented in these figures) just don’t have the same stuff that white men who went to Oxford and Cambridge have? The secret stuff that makes them good enough to write these shows.

As a journalist, I wanted to get hold of people to comment on this fact, the fact that it probably is the case that women aren’t good enough writers to come up with decent TV shows but I couldn’t get hold of Kay Mellor OBE. Or BAFTA winner Sally Wainwright. Or BAFTA winner Abi Morgan. Or Girl with a Pearl Earring movie writer Olivia Hetreed. Or BAFTA winner Michaela Coel. All I wanted to do was ask if they agreed that perhaps one explanation might be because women just aren’t up to it, that the quality would be lacking if they were somehow given a leg up. So I started to wonder if there were writers in America I could ask, to see if they knew why women writers might not be up to the job of writing big TV series, but I couldn’t get hold of Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder) Ilene Chaiken (creator of The L Word) or Tina Fey (creator of 30 Rock).

I guess they were all too busy being brilliant writers who are more than capable of creating TV shows and writing on any single primetime show on television: while some naysayers were writing tweets.