Series 3 Q & A
With Ann Mc Manus & Maureen Chadwick
(Bad Girls co-creators)
An introductory note…
Thanks to all for sending in questions. There were literally hundreds and we would be here for a month if we tried to answer each and ever one of them, So, in order to meet this 9pm deadline, we asked Kristi to edit together the most frequently asked questions and we hope we've at least managed to address your main concerns and explain a bit more how the show is produced.
We really appreciate the passion you all have for the show, which is why we've done our best to answer you concerns and queries as best we can.
Please understand that we can't give out any information at this stage about the story content of Series 4, nor do we know its transmission date (this is entirely up to ITV). We hope it will be early next year.
We thought you might be interested in an email we received from our friend Russell T Davies, the creator of the fantastic Queer As Folk -
"Ah, time for my annual e-mail saying BAD GIRLS IS FANTASTIC! But I mean it! Bloody glorious last episode. Glorious whole series. I love the fact that you haven't taken your eye off the ball for a second - so many shows just slide a bit in the third series, as the creators move on or whatever, but Bad Girls just stayed on top form. Better than ever, in fact. I was just so happy for Nikki & Helen! And you drowned Kate O'Mara in the bathtub, TV doesn't get any better than that. You're all just MARVELLOUS. I love that show!"
Anyway, here goes….
Ann & Chad
Questions about Series 4
Will there be more new characters introduced in the fourth series, and will Jim finally get what's coming to him?
Yes there will be more characters and you'll have to watch Episode 4 to see what happens to Jim.
Will Shell and Denny be put back in Larkhall?
Shell and Denny will always be a part of Larkhall. Stay tuned to find out if they return this series.
How many more series are there going to be?
That's up to ITV, with a little help from the viewers.
Can you confirm as yet which principal characters will/won't be returning for series 4?
We can't say anything about who will/will not be returning.
It said, "To be continued" at the end of Series 3 this week. When will the next series of Bad Girls be broadcast?
We're hoping it will be in January next year. We're certainly working very hard on series 4 to ensure it will be. But we're not responsible for the ITV schedule.
Regarding the end sequence, to be continued. Will Simone and Mandana make a guest appearance in the first episode of Series 4 to tie up loose ends or is that it and we use our imaginations from now on? Only asking this question because Simone has officially announced she is leaving.
Again, we can't say whether specific actors will be involved in series 4.
What is now going to happen to Helen and Nikki?
What do you think?
Will Helen and Nikki return on the outside to get Fenner?
As Simone is no longer working on BG, how is the Helen Stewart/Jim Fenner storyline going to be carried on into the next series?
There is no way Helen will ever let Jim Fenner off the hook for what he has done. But life has a habit of getting in the way of plans. Sometimes you have to wait for the right moment.
Are you able to confirm whether or not Simone and Mandana have left Bad Girls?
Again - we can't say.
Now that Helen (Simone) has resigned from Larkhall, and Nikki (Mandana) has been set free from prison, will we be seeing anymore from the couple in the next series? If not how do you think the future series will get on without one of the best story lines of the programme?
Do you think bad girls will still be as successful without Simone in it? This H & N storyline would have to take some beating it really captured everyone's hearts do you think you will be able to keep us all tuned in and why?
Bad Girls is an ensemble drama. Helen and Nikki are fantastic characters and Simone and Mandana superb actresses. (Not only that - they're fab, down-to-earth, good laugh, good time girls). We are thrilled by the passion, warmth and downright sexiness they bring to their story. We know how popular they are and how popular their love affair is. However, we would ask you to recognise that there are other great actors in Bad Girls and other storylines which grip people or move them or make them laugh. Maybe not you guys, but many others out there. We can't say that Larkhall would ever be the same without Helen and Nikki. But - we hope - there will be plenty for you to enjoy.
With the likelihood that ratings may fall without the Nikki/Helen storyline in series 4 might you consider characters at least making reference to how their relationship is going so that it keeps it alive for us fans?
We're so touched by your reaction to Helen and Nikki. Like Bad Girls itself, we hope they'll go on forever.
The Creative Process
What other endings to the series had you discussed, if any?
What or who inspired you to write Bad Girls?
Is there anything you wish you could change about the show, i.e. a storyline you weren't too happy about etc?
How on earth do you manage to top each series? The shows get better and better?
Who wrote the final episode of the third series? When the episode began it said it was Jaden Clark, but elsewhere it was advertised as being written by Maureen and Ann.
Maureen,how much involvement in the writing of Bad Girls will you have in the next series given that you are heavily involved in developing a new drama for Shed?
Why were there so many different writers in Series 3?
Did you get any ideas for the ending from the fans' fanfic on the site?
Has "Bad Girls" become a victim of its own success? E.g. why did it appear that after series 2 the original writing team was largely disbanded? b) To what extent will the public's reaction shape the writing of those episodes of series 4 that are not already written?
How long does it actually take to write and film one episode of Bad Girls? & How long did it take for you as a team to write series 3 of Bad Girls?
How long did series 3 take to compose? And do you work closely with the actors whilst writing it?
What, if anything influenced their decision to use more writers this series? I appreciate that new blood is sometimes fresh blood, but did they feel that it would enhance the storyline?
What has been the hardest story line that you have had to write and why?
We all noticed that the writing seemed more abrupt this time. In terms of plotting. I've been wondering if you had to make a lot of late cuts due to the imposed extra ad break... and that this adversely affected the 'flow' of the stories...? So did you make certain editing decisions which meant that the follow up of major dramatic events (i.e. Bobby Hollamby, Bab's possible murder charge Yvonne)? Were simply dropped for lack of space? Or was it all planned that way?
Did you have any extra material that we didn't get to see? And can we see it?
Do all the writer's have specific characters that they write for? & Do any of the Actresses/Actors give you any suggestions or storylines for there characters?
Did the series get edited differently for the different countries the series was sold to, and did the TV Company edit to suit the adverts. Also who gave the ok for the scripts by the several writers and who plotted the story line?
My question is why had the writing in the 3rd series seem totally lacking in substance and quality and why were there no follow-ups to storylines through out most of the series...e.g. Bodybag's reaction after being tormented by Shell & Denny etc....?
Chad & Ann chose to answer all of the above questions in one go - as follows…
Episode 16 was incorrectly listed in the TV magazines. The writer was Jaden Clark. However, as we've already explained in the BG book, all writers are given a master scene storyline, which details the action of every scene. Scripts are taken through two drafts with the writer, over a period of one month, and then edited by Ann, Chad and Brian. Any re-writing required at this stage is done by Ann and Chad. This way we can keep control of the story arc over the whole series and ensure that the individual characters' voices are sustained from script to script. Some scripts, especially in Series 1, have been almost entirely re-written by us - because our priority is to ensure a consistent quality of writing for every episode. It would be a mistake to suppose that only those episodes individually credited to Ann and/or Chad are the only ones to which either of us has contributed. We intend to maintain the same close creative involvement with all future episodes of the show, irrespective of our other writing commitments. Each episode is filmed in 9 days.
As Kristi can confirm, we NEVER read the fanfic. If we owe any of our source material to anyone else, the person to credit is Chris Tchaikovsky and her colleagues at WIP. We have not and never will change the storylines in response to viewers' comments - if we shaped our ideas to please the public we would never have made Bad Girls in the first place. We have to stick with our own convictions about what we want to do with the show - knowing that we will never please all of the people all of the time.
The extra advert break was imposed on all prime time dramas by ITV and we had to incorporate it into the storylining process for Series 3. Episodes are not edited differently for different countries, but occasionally late edits are made by us after the tapes have been sent to the distributors. For example, the infamous Helen/Nikki scene which was transmitted in New Zealand but not in the UK… What happened here was that ITV asked us at a very late stage to cut one minute from an episode for scheduling reasons. We decided to delete the H & N scene because it was a scene which could go without disrupting a storyline. We almost always have about 10 minutes extra material per script. Sadly it ends up on the cutting room floor.
On the question of 'follow-ups to storylines', such as Sylvia's reaction to being tormented by Shell and Denny, we can only ask viewers to hold their fire - as we showed with the reappearance of Sylvia's gold clock, everything that goes around comes around, sooner or later…
Episode 15 dealt with the outcome of Barbara's possible murder charge - the CPS rejected it.
How similar are the "goings on" in Larkhall to what actually goes on Britain's prisons?
Although prison officers don't like to admit it, the goings-on at Larkhall are very much based on fact. Let's face it, there are 15 officers suspended at Wandsworth Prison just now for physically abusing inmates. Last year several officers were caught running a brothel service for wealthy male prisoners. In Barlinnie Prison in Scotland last year, a senior officer was sacked for having a sexual relationship with a heroin dealer. Her husband was a warden - working alongside her on the same wing! Barry George - the alleged murderer of Jill Dando - at this very moment is pretending to be blind and walking into cell doors! As Chad and I always say: 'You couldn't make it up'.
Bad Girls has really opened my eyes, to what really goes on in prison, I would like to ask, accurate are the storylines that Bad Girls portrays, and how much research is involved in ensuring accuracy?
We have done a load of research for Bad Girls. Maureen Chadwick is a real stickler for accuracy. Naturally, because it's a drama, we tell stories at a faster pace. But everything that we do in Bad Girls has happened or could happen.
I am hoping to be Governor grade within the prison service in the future and was wondering if/when you visited establishments did you come across many women actually in the role played by Simone Lahbib, if so is the character of Helen Stewart realistic or based upon anyone in particular?
Helen isn't based on anyone in particular, but in the course of our prison visits - Holloway, Risley, Drake Hall, Winchester etc. we were lucky to meet a few people with progressive ideas, who actually liked the women in their care and who wanted to change things. We wanted to show how these attitudes could work within an institution so fundamentally flawed as the prison system, but we also wanted to show how fraught with difficulty changing things can be.
Our feelings about the show
Why do you think that Bad Girls appeals to so many people?
I would really like to know if you feel you have achieved your aims of bringing the desperate situation of women in prisons more into public consciousness?
I would like to know if the series has gone in the direction you wanted it to? What did you envisage happening with the series in the long run?
I would just like to ask what it felt like to come on message board to find big fans of the show putting it down so badly and saying you let them down?
How personally do you take the criticism that has been levied against Shed over the current series?
How does it feel to be able to work on such a good project and drama series as Bad Girls and to write some of the most fantastic storylines?
The simple answer to why Bad Girls appeals to a big audience (as we've said before) is because it has big characters, big stories, big voices. It's an ensemble show with a wide variety of characters from different backgrounds - so there's someone for everyone to identify with. The situation of a prison is also inherently dramatic. It immediately presents survival challenges, putting people into new relationships and under new pressures. It makes us all wonder how WE would cope with it. And as well as the drama there's a lot of warmth and humour. Characters like Shell and Bodybag generate endless one-liners that the audience normally only gets from sit-coms. The characters have really come to life and fired people's imaginations. Children see the prison environment as a replica of their experience at school - the petty rules, authority figures you have to call 'sir' and 'miss', the bullying, etc.
We know that many women prisoners (and officers) watch Bad Girls and love it. (There are now a number of officers called 'Bodybag', apparently.) Readers of the BG book will know that members of the cast were invited to visit HMP Bullwood Hall to help promote a Health Fair and interest the local community in the needs of the women prisoners - a real example of how the show has raised awareness of the social issues. Our PR company tries very hard to interest the press in the disturbing aspects of women's imprisonment highlighted in Bad Girls.
Unfortunately, most newspaper editors seem to think that the only women prisoners worth comment are Myra Hindley and Rosemary West. But we certainly hope that the show is gradually softening any knee-jerk hardline reaction that viewers may have previously had towards the subject of women's imprisonment - and that we've made it a little bit harder for the hang 'em and flog 'em brigade to get votes.
Shed Productions makes an annual donation to the campaigning charity 'Women In Prison'.
Questions about Continuity/Multiple Storylines
Why did you feel it was necessary to change a winning formula? Gone were the ongoing stories and character development and in came the quick fix episodes, all script continuity disappeared, along with some of the inmates. Where did Buki go?
We didn't set out to change things for the sake of change, nor do we have a formula. We created this show. We love it. To suggest that 'all script continuity disappeared' is something we would not have allowed. We promise, although you think you know the heart and soul of the show, we know it better.
Was it quite so necessary to try and fit so many storylines in the series? Has quality been replaced with quantity this series?
We love telling fast-paced, on-the-edge storylines. Most of our viewers love it too. Of course, some won't but that's tv.
Can we see more plot development, and time spent on such plots, without all the bit characters coming into play?
Is series 4 going to have more continuity and fewer background characters?
Now continuity is being used comparatively! Is there a most continuity? We tell stories the way we want to. We do not make continuity errors. We rather enjoyed bringing new characters in for a one-episode story. Again, many liked this too. Some didn't. Such is life…
Have you not introduced too many new characters to the detriment of those already in the show?
Clearly we don't feel we have. We have enjoyed the challenge of bringing in new faces and allowing them to mingle with our established characters. We can assure you we would not allow our characters to be adversely affected by this. We feel for our characters.
Why the decision not to keep some of the new characters long enough to weave into long-term stories?
It was something we wanted to try.
Why did characters disappear whenever they were not the focal point of a story? This prevented any stories of the interplay between prisoners that was a hallmark of the first two series.
We have always made a point of writing out characters for an episode or two without comment - unless their exit had a story point. We can't concentrate on fifteen or sixteen characters all the time. Some have to have a rest. We don't want to be forever explaining why X or Y isn't popping up in a servery queue.
Whilst series 3 was very interesting (diverse and thought provoking) I would like 'Thank You Shed' - ergo the writers and actors for the Nikki and Helen ending which I thought was very well handled and put together, Series 3 did appeared more disjointed than 1 & 2 due to the introduction of new characters and storylines, do you feel that this was due to different writers or the fact that you/Shed were also trying to gear up for the 4th series?
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed series three, I felt somewhat let down by the lack of some story line endings. Was this due to lack of airtime, or did you feel you covered the stories completely enough?
We can only keep telling you the facts. The writers - the names you see at the front of the episodes - are not responsible for making up stories, introducing new characters, developing plot lines, continuity 'errors' etc. etc. Chad and I are in charge here. Everything you've seen - Series 3 included - we have to take the blame.
Why has character development been totally ignored in favour of incessant (sometimes farcical) and often unresolved plot, in Series 3?
Because we feel so strongly that the show is developing and improving, we cannot answer your question fairly. Obviously, we're sorry you feel let down. We try to write stories that will uplift and make an impact.
Don't you think Mandana Jones was terribly under utilised in series 3?
Our character, Nikki, is very dear to our hearts. For us she represented the political heart and soul of the show. Every word she spoke, she spoke for us. We would never under-utilise her. In fact, we know we gave Nikki impactful, dramatic, emotional and political storylines. As always, she emerged supreme.
Why, when they were so lauded for their efforts in the first two series, were such fine actors as Simone Lahbib & Mandana Jones, so underused and their characters rendered impotent in Series 3?
We just don't think they were underused. Remember - we have a very large ensemble cast each member of which wants - and quite rightly - to have her/his own storyline. Every cast member has her/his own fan club, desperate for a story about their favourite character. We try to be fair, we want to develop all our characters. It's hard. We hope we manage it most of the time.
Questions about Continuity Specifics
What happened to the storyline with Buki self harming?
People who self-harm don't do it to order, nor do they do it on specific times or dates. It is a long-running problem which can flair up in times of crisis, depending on the self-harmer's feelings of self-worth. Buki will be a self-harmer until someone in Larkhall discovers the reason for her doing it. It hasn't been dropped or abandoned. We want viewers to realise it's always there in the background without doing some trite 'Where the Heart Is' storyline about it in the one episode.
What happened to Lauren having her dad shot?
We know that this storyline has caused some anxiety. Bad Girls isn't a soap. We want the audience to engage with our stories and recognise that between - even within - each episode there can be considerable time jumps. Also, we tell very fast-paced stories which would be held up if we had to do soap-style dotting of i's and crossing of t's. Clearly, when Yvonne walks back on the wing, the assumption is that there has been a police investigation and she's been let off. Also, we assumed the viewers would assume her daughter was too - otherwise she would be distraught. However, nothing is ever forgotten and - for viewers who are upset about it - mention is made in series 4 when the circumstances require it to be. Please believe us - we don't forget about storylines.
Yvonne wants to get one over Fenner and get rid of him, so why doesn't she just use the photos she had done of him? The only reason she never used them before was because it would have incriminated Charlie.
The negatives of the photos were held by Charlie's mate. Since he would know that Yvonne/Lauren was responsible for bumping Charlie off, he wouldn't want to help. Also, the last thing Yvonne needs is a charge of blackmailing one of Her Majesty's prison officers. She has no hard evidence against Jim. You really have to understand how alienated from justice most prisoners feel they are. If you want an idea - read the prisoners own paper - Inside Times.
What's happened to the "Bab's the bigamist" storyline?
Babs received a letter in Episode 15 (Nikki opened it for her) which told her the CPS were not going to re-open her case.
Why was Di knocked out with no bruising?
This isn't a storyline issue, but a make-up issue. Maybe she's worn a lot of make-up to cover it up? Should we have gone to her house to see her apply it? Should we have written a scene about her making a special trip to a make-up shop to get the most concealing concealer? Would our viewers' enjoyment of the episode be increased if we had done that?
What about Caroline?
The only important thing for us in this story was the Helen-Nikki dynamic. It allowed us to explore a new way of looking at it.
What about Bobby Hollamby?
Bobby isn't a Larkhall character. We will hear - in due course, as always - what's happened to him.
What about Josh's wedding ring - only visible to viewers?
It's our view that people - especially young people - are not hung up on where they wear their rings. We - as individuals - would never assume someone was married because they wore a ring on their so-called 'wedding finger'. Wouldn't the world be a nicer place if the 'wedding finger' were cut off at the knuckle joint?
What about Simone's engagement ring - sometimes Helen's engagement ring?
This isn't a question we can address. We write/edit the scripts/storylines. You surely can't expect us to be watching what one of our actors is wearing on her/his fingers too?
Did Nikki pass the OU exam?
We'll have to wait till series 4 to find out.
How come Karen didn't ask Fenner about that statement on her desk? I realise she was more bothered about the murder but still she didn't ask.
Karen is really torn here. She has had a contretemps with Helen about Jim. She's defended Jim. Then there's a murder. She puts the file away - but - rest assured - it's burning a hole in her drawer.
In the first few episodes Nikki & Yvonne became quite close, but nothing came of it. Was there any reason for this?
Yvonne and Nikki remain close. Why should 'something come of it'?
Helen & Nikki
My questions are why the Helen and Doctor storyline and who came up with the idea? And who came up with the Nikki and the nonce story line and why couldn't Nikki have had a better storyline than one with a nonce?
The use of the word 'better' is very telling. It's like you are assuming there is a 'right' and a 'wrong' story. Of course, there is no such thing. Please believe us, we write from the heart. We don't try to second-guess our audience because therein lies blandness. We did the nonce story to highlight a few things. (a) That child abusers come in many shapes and sizes - even attracting our own darling Nikki. (b) To put a little bomb into Helen and Nikki's relationship. We especially liked the idea that Nikki would feel good about making Helen jealous. (c) To explore whether Nikki could feel for another woman after her intense passion for Helen. (d) To show how much Helen loved Nikki. Helen knew that Caroline was a nonce and she tried everything she could to warn Nikki off - apart from giving Caroline away which would have led to her being lynched. We thought it was one of the moments of the series when Nikki realised this.
When did you decide on Helen and Nikki's fate?
Helen and Nikki - we hope - will go on forever.
What feelings and issues were you trying to engage the average viewer in with the relationship between Dr Waugh & Helen?
Wasn't the overall lesson of the Helen and Nikki relationship that "all you need is a good man"? E.g. Helen's acceptance of violence from Thomas and not Nikki, Helen's openness to support from Thomas and not Nikki.
Storytelling is artifice. If anyone says any different they're telling bleedin' porkies. Of course, it's part of our job to take our viewers on a journey, give them highs and lows, make them worry (in some cases make them almost have heart failure!), make 'em laugh and cry. Helen is a character who offers a rich mine for story tellers. Although she has the warmest and most honest of hearts, she's unsure about herself, unwilling to be different, scared of the consequences of being the lesbian lover of a con. This makes her - at least temporarily - an easy conquest for anyone who could possibly take her to 'Normality Land'. But she can't sustain it. And her final - and I'm sure you'll all agree - most definitive word on the subject is: 'She wants a woman.'
Had Thomas not been 'the perfect man', he wouldn't have been clever enough to understand her and honest enough to tell her the mistake she's making. If he'd let her - Helen would have married him, have had children with him, only to regret it ten years down the line. He did her a massive favour. He was - as he said himself - a quick fix. He was quite right - she was looking for that. She is not a saint. We never wanted to show her as that. She is a flawed, struggling, young woman in an institution where her ideals are trashed. But she is determined to maintain the difference between her and Fenner…even if it costs her her own happiness. We set out to demonstrate that the main obstacles to Helen's relationship with Nikki were always to do with the conflict between her professional position and her personal feelings. The ONLY WAY Helen and Nikki can have a relationship is if they meet as equals on the outside.
Would Shed consider doing a 2 hour special centred on the Helen & Nikki relationship? Although there have been 16 episodes this series I feel there relationship was not given adequate coverage and was rushed.
We would love to do a 2-hour special. Get on the phone to ITV!
On the 'adequate coverage' issue…we really feel we gave it our all. Remember - this is a love affair between a Wing Governor (who became Acting Prison Governor) and a con. The opportunities for developing a liaison are very few and far between. We didn't want to trivialise the relationship by having embarrassing, snatched moments in cupboards, listening for screws walking past. This would not have done justice to what is - we hope - one of the most intense and passionate relationships we've seen on TV.
Why didn't Helen Stewart just deny the allegations made by Jim Fenner? She could have just said that the diary was full of Nikki's infatuations and that the nurse's uniform was lost property. This would have meant that Helen wouldn't have had to resign.
Helen has integrity. Jim Fenner was going to make Barbara lie. Helen could not allow herself to do that.
Why did you decide to finally bring Nikki and Helen together at the end of Series 3? Does this mean that we have witnessed the final chapter in the Nikki/Helen saga?
There is no end to Helen and Nikki.
Did you find it necessary to have a happy ending for Helen and Nikki so the gay population who watch wouldn't revolt against the series?
We are storytellers. We want to tell stories that make the hairs in the back of our audience's neck stand on end. It was always in our plans to make it a happy ending. Of course, we wouldn't want to go out and deliberately offend part of our audience, but we can't write stories second-guessing what they want. We write what we want to see. We write from the heart. If people don't like it, we've got to take it on the chin. But, we promise, if we wrote to 'please', we would never have written Bad Girls.
Where did the estrangement between Nikki and Helen materialise from? They were confidantes.
Helen felt terribly betrayed by Nikki over the Femi issue. Before she knew where she was - she was facing a potential riot in her first few days as Governing Governor. Helen felt that Nikki should have known that she would have Femi's best interests at heart. On the other hand, Nikki was terribly torn between her loyalties to her fellow prisoner & her feelings for Helen. The whole situation again demonstrated the insurmountable barrier imposed between Helen & Nikki by their different roles within the prison.
Don't you believe that the relationship between Helen and Nikki in series 3 has had a negative effect on the public's view of lesbianism as it has shown such a major love story to be vulnerable to the first eligible male, and both characters to be inconstant.
But you know - surely - that when we first met Helen she was in a relationship with a decent, hard-working, rather handsome man. Isn't it positive that she abandoned what many, many people would think is a safe, happy life for a female ex-prisoner? She wasn't an out lesbian. She didn't even know she had those thoughts! Maybe you think it would have been better to have had two out dykes both desperate for each other who got together right away? We promise you, this would not have made as compelling a story. This is the most positive lesbian storyline ever. We wouldn't have had it any other way.
The Helen and Nikki relationship has been described on the web site message board as the 'greatest love story of TV' why do you think that the Helen and Nikki storyline has been so popular? What's the magic and can it be repeated?
Think about the most dramatic stories/plays/novels you've ever read/seen. They're always about crossing divides, overcoming hurdles, challenging existing class/religious/race chasms. Now consider a women's prison. One woman,in love with another, locks her up at night. One believes herself to be heterosexual. The other is an out lesbian. One wants a career in the prison service. The other scorns all people who choose to lock people up for a living. One is scared of her feelings. The other wants to tell the world. Can you think of anything more dramatic to tackle than that?
We regulars have spent an awful lot of series 3 (effectively from the beginning of episode 2) puzzling over the writers' intentions as far as the development of Helen's character is concerned: if the plan was somehow to show her inner confusion about her sexuality, why was it not portrayed more clearly, e.g. through interaction/heart-to-hearts with a character such as Claire, whom she claims, in S2/11, to have known "for yonks" & to whom she can, therefore, reasonably be presumed to be close enough to confide?
There is no one else responsible for Bad Girls episodes that you've seen but Chad and me. All our writers write to a very detailed brief. Perhaps we should post up on the site one of our master scene breakdowns to show how detailed it is! You believe that we didn't portray Helen's sexual confusion clearly enough. We believe we did. We will have to disagree on that.
If Helen has been the idiot she claims to Nikki at the end of episode 16 she's been, why was she shown watching TV coverage of the successful end to the appeal in a bar, of all places, instead of present in the courtroom or, at the very least, at the bottom of the steps, waiting for Nikki to emerge into the street after it's over? Hardly plausible behaviour from someone Nikki regards as her mainstay throughout the appeal process.
Helen didn't want to piss on Nikki's chips. Nikki had told Helen that she 'had a whole new life waiting for her on the outside'. Remember, the two had been estranged for some time. Helen knows what Nikki feels for her and that she might cause trouble by assuming some personal interest (especially if there is another woman involved). Also - she needs time to think… When Helen walked into Nikki & Trish's club, she made an enormous (for her) leap into the dark in order to see Nikki again. For many hitherto straight women, the whole idea of going out into "the gay world" for the first time is a nightmare. Nikki would have known how much courage it took for Helen to do that, alone.
Series 3 vs Series 1 & 2
What was your favourite story line in series 3? And do you think that this series lacked certain things compared to series 1 and 2?
We know there has been a strand on the website which has 'ranted' at us for Series 3. Although we appreciate the passion with which these 'rants' are made, we must impress upon you that we, also, have maintained a passion and integrity for Bad Girls which will never leave us. This is our show. We have not taken our eye off it for a second. Yes, we have told different stories and yes, we have told stories differently. Since it is ours, this is our prerogative. Some may work. Some may not work. Some may work for some, some may work for others. We could go on in this vein, but we're making a point. Story telling isn't an exact science. We can piss people off - and we're sorry for that - and we can engage them like mad - and we're glad of that. But we have to do what WE feel is right. Bad Girls is a drama like no other on TV. We really hope, even if it gets you down sometime, you recognise it for what it is - something very different, very challenging, adult and subversive. Please stick with it or welcome to a world where 'Where the Heart Is' wins.
Why in series two and three did you get rid of the endings in series one? Where the inmates would shout out and say goodnight etc.
We LOVED the night calls. We felt they fitted in with what we see is a highly stylised drama. However, not all of the Great British Public agreed. In fact, they turned off and started flicking for another channel. ITV said - er.. this is affecting the ratings. And that's the sad story.
What was your main goal throughout series 3 and did you achieve it?
'Main goal'? We just want to tell stories about characters that we've made up in a setting we've invented. We hope you recognise that political issues will always be raised in Bad Girls - the appalling treatment of mentally ill prisoners and disabled prisoners, the horror of foreign national drugs couriers, separated from their children, unable to speak English and not knowing what's going on at home; sexual abuse in the workplace etc etc. If we can tell stories that engage and entertain, all the while 'sneaking in' our political agenda, we're well chuffed.
Are you, the creators and main writers of BG, proud of the way this last series has turned out (especially in comparison to the first two series)? Why?
Yes - we honestly are. We're not being complacent. Every series presents us with huge challenges, but we were much more confident about Series 3, much more sure of ourselves and what we could deliver. We know many of you aren't happy, but - away from the website - the reaction has been universally positive.
Do you think that series 3 was of the same standard that series 1 was?
When series 1 was screened you prided yourselves on not having any "names" yet series 2 and 3 saw the introduction of household names (ex soap stars). Why the change?
If you could ask actors' agents about the change Bad Girls has meant to their young, female clients, they would tell you it's been enormous. Suddenly, along comes a drama series which wants young character actors, excelling in their craft, - not dolly birds who can pout to camera. We cast Claire King because she exactly fitted what we wanted. We know from our PO contacts that she exactly fits the bill. She's dead, dead nice too. We got a bottle of champers for our Xmas from her.
Series 1 & 2 showed your commitment to creating a ground breaking hard hitting drama concentrating on the plight of women in prison-your advisor being Chris Tchaikovsky. Why then did you allow series 3 to deteriorate into a carnival zed travesty of your original intent? I would cite the awfulness of the muppet wing sequence, the over the top rantings of Ms.Stephenson and your failure to introduce any new convincing and sympathetic characters who could carry the show into S4 with any credibility. Continuity has been appalling, issues have been trivialised and restricted to one episode wonders and your most convincing characters have been underused to a point where it appears to be deliberate. This should be not so much a question answering exercise rather to explain the whole rationale of Series 3 offering to we who provide your regular fan base.
We're sorry, but we simply disagree. But that's drama for you. Can you imagine writing something which had universal approval? Try it - it might open your eyes to some of the difficulties we face. Leading academics in the field of criminologly are thrilled at the way Bad Girls promotes hitherto invisible issues to the general public. They comment after every episode on the prison issues we've highlighted.
Regardless of sexual orientation, women were quick to praise your portrayal of three-dimensional, believable characters in the first two series. Many of these same women now feel betrayed by what has been presented under the same name in this series. Can you still say that you have been true to your feminist principles on the evidence of series 3?
Absolutely. We are both straight-down-the-line, dyed-in-the wool, committed, do-or-die, go-to-the-wall, in-your-face feminists. Get the picture? If you find a story which sells any other message, we'll slit our wrists and never write again. Remember - we're not presenting paragons. Our characters are as three-dimensional as we are - and we can assure you - we ain't paragons.
Do you have any plans to sell the show in North America, or to sell the rights for an American version similar to "Queer as Folk"? (These PAL to NTSC conversions are expensive!)
Yes, we are in talks with a production company to make a US format.
Is it true that there is going to be a Christmas special?
We'd love there to be.
Will you be releasing another book to let us about the new characters and the rest of the story of series 3.
There are no plans as yet, but who knows?
Now that Oxford Prison is going to be changed into a hotel, flats, shops and museum site early next year; what will Shed use now for exterior prison scenes? Have I heard correctly that a cast of the prison is being taken to build your own set somewhere closer to the studios in East London?
You're quite right. We are building a new exterior set.
At the end of Series 2, I really felt for Di and wanted her to get together with Dominic. However, having watched this series, my pity has turned sour and I don't like her one bit. Was this change intentional, or, having seen what she's gone through, did you expect the audience's feelings for her to remain?
We love Di and feel for her. She's basically a nice, warm person who's lived in a domestic hell with her infirm mother - and she knows as well as any of her critics that she's fucked up. We were gratified when she was first introduced that many people thought: 'She's too good to be true.' This is the reaction we wanted. But there's still hope for Di… Watch Series 4.
Why was Denny Blood made to undergo the radical personality change? Undoing two years of growth, and maturity, and abandoning her partner.
Denny didn't undergo a personality change, she got out of prison. Can you imagine what that would feel like? She left Shaz at the roadside because, basically, Shaz, according to the script, was too badly injured to go with her. Maybe this didn't come across on screen. Also, Shaz told Denny to leave her and Shell insisted. Denny isn't very bright and thought she would come back for Shaz.
How do you think you have managed the character of Shell?
Mmmmm. Hard one this. We showed people why Shell had become what she is. We've shown what she can do while under the influence of drink and drugs. We've shown her vulnerable, nasty, cowardly, and a bully. When it's Shell v Fenner, we root for Shell.
How come Jim Fenner gets everyone into trouble but he never does? Why not try a bit of a softer side to him next series?
Ask us again when you see what happens to Jim Fenner next series.
Episode 16: We all agree that the final episode was one of perhaps only 4, at a pinch 5, in the entire series, which were of a sufficiently high standard to make us not think twice about sitting down to watch them again. By the same token, that handful of ' decent' episodes serves only to highlight what might have been and they in no way compensate for the farcical rubbish we had to endure in the other 10/11.
Again, we're sorry, but we disagree. We feel that, perhaps, some of those who committed themselves to a negative position half way though series 3 - before the stories had run their course - may now find it hard to revise their views. We may be wrong…
'Farcical rubbish' - what? Could you be referring to Episode 8? We showed Shell and Denny subject Sylvia to the conditions which she subjects many prisoners to and achieved what many viewers thought would impossible - feeling sorry for Sylvia.
This series finished on a high, but do you feel that 16 episodes was a tall order to fill? The continuity seemed to be lost in some episodes and they had no bearing on the current themes/storylines, which have been the essence of the entire show from the beginning. I talk in terms of having a character like Charlotte Middleton who fizzled out and the introduction of Helen Grace's character that was with us for a handful of scenes. The final two episodes were class, but it seemed that the preceding 5 or so episodes detracted from all the good work and strong drama which is associated with SHED. Did the series reach your expectations or would you, in hindsight, have liked more continuity. The Yvonne storyline with Charlie being shot was so dramatic and shocking but no one has ever mentioned it, other than Yvonne being out of an episode on a supposed other Wing. That is what I mean by how disappointing aspects have been. Maybe you have made our expectations too high, although I would like to think you would strive to reach those dizzy heights again in the future.
Sixteen was not a 'tall order', but a fabulous project for two people who love their characters and love telling stories about them. We do not make 'continuity problems', but storytelling decisions which make assumptions about our audience. Many of the comments we've seen about continuity have been premature judgements about where storylines are going.
Regarding the whole H & N storyline, you should not underestimate how deeply felt it was to have for the first time on mainstream TV a mature, believable and responsible depiction of a relationship between two women constrained by their individual positions. Why then was the decision made to marginalise it in S3 without proper explanation or exploration of the characters' feelings? By the lack of interaction between the characters throughout most of S3, the ending becomes contrived and highly sceptical. Lastly, it would appear that as S & M are both rumoured to be leaving their characters will not be party to an eventual Fenner downfall. This would be a complete failure for Shed to show your commitment to your original principles. To introduce an H/N storyline would be easy and most credible-N becomes a Tchaikovsky figure with interests in reform and welfare, H the same, both trying to deal with and overcome the Fenner issues. At some stage F/H/N just have to be in a room with much menace and a bottle, which will remain unbroken!
Finally, DS and CK up for awards, sorry no can vote-again why have you neglected your greatest assets and the wonderful acting they have brought to the programme, Simone and Mandana should have received joint noms. But perhaps Shed are a little shy due to who their characters are.
Your negativity ('Shed are a little shy') suggests there is a hidden agenda which we will never be able to fathom. We wish we could be responsible for nominating actors for the National TV Awards. We're not. We are as ignorant as you are about how and why the nominations are made. Debrah and Claire are very worthy of their nominations and we do urge you to vote for them. But we are very proud of so many of our actors and truly believe they're a lot better than almost anyone on TV - Simone and Mandana included, of course.
It's funny - we reach the end of a lot of questions which suggest our viewers want to perpetrate the notion that the show is only loved because of its lesbain storyline, its grittiness and slow-build character development. Now here is a good old-fashioned (story-driven) desire to have Fenner get his comeuppance. It's exactly the kind of emotions we want to engender and we hope - despite your antipathy to series 3 - be disappointed when it happens.
Our principles remain true and intact. Please - no matter what you think of individual storylines - call them into question. We might get rather annoyed.
Was the "Muppet Wing" fair to the mentally ill, or the prison service's attempts to cope with them?
We don't know what you mean by this question. Is showing a homophobic assault 'fair' to gay people? We visited the 'Muppet Wing' in Risley prison. We didn't see anything 'fair' there. We saw deeply abused, traumatised women locked up in coffins, in strip dresses, being handed out soporific drugs to keep them quiet. The British public just does not know what goes on in prisons. We'd like to think, if they did, there would be change.
Was the decision to treat Virginia's disability as comic relief a wise one?
Virginia's disability was not treated as 'comic relief', but as a ruse by a very clever, manipulative woman to pave the way to her appeal. We, nevertheless, showed up the inabiility of the prison service to deal with disabled prisoners. Chad gave an interview to a magazine for the disabled about how the case of V O'Kane showed up the lack of sensitivity and provision in the treatment of disabled prisoners and we passed over our extensive research on the subject. Until the revelation of Virginia's scam, her character served the serious issue points very well.
Was it a deliberate decision to have Shell and Denny as representatives of lesbians for most of series 3, and a paedophile, a psychopath, and an unsympathetic Helen Stewart as representatives of bisexual women?
Shell isn't a lesbian. She uses sex to get what she wants. We challenge you to find a more positive model for lesbianism on British TV ever than Nikki Wade - proud and out and political and brave and gorgeous. We are in the world of a women's prison. We see many lesbian liaisons - all seen as natural and normal and fun. Some, very few, women - lesbians amongst them - are disturbed and damaged. They end up in prison. Which is why we dramatise their stories.
Has series 3 not done a disservice to women in the workplace: Karen, controlled by a male underling, (a promising ambitious, ostensibly intelligent character in series 2, becoming an obtuse, gullible pawn); Di and Gina literally fighting over a male colleague; and Sylvia (no explanation necessary!) as the only other example of the female worker in a major role. Di Barker is presented as the classic erotomaniac. This is perverted to allow her to use sex to exact revenge, which is NOT a symptom of the disease. Don't you consider this to be an exploitation of people who genuinely suffer from the condition?
Bad Girls is a drama series, not a 'How to Run the World and Keep Everybody Happy' polemic. Karen is a strong, intelligent character, but strong, intelligent characters make mistakes. She's fooled - not gullible. None of us likes her relationship with Jim, but how many people do you know who say: 'I can't believe she's going out with him?' 'What THE FUCK does he see in her?' These things happen. We'd like to think this is why Bad Girls is so popular. We do things where people are shouting at the telly: 'Noooo!' As for your 'erotomania' comments - you've decided Di's condition and are now looking at the (lack of) facts to back up your analysis. Would that life were so simple…there would be a pill for everything. We can only ask you to watch this space.
Ann and Chad