Jimmy McGovern’s excellent drama was back last night for another series about what goes on behind the closed doors and net curtains of a Manchester street. And as always with McGovern, I expected something truly gripping and I wasn’t disappointed.
Some might argue that because of the moralistic overtone of the story, it was inevitably going to end with the baddie getting his comeuppance, but even suspecting that to be true throughout, nonetheless, it was quite a nail biter.
The plot followed mild mannered pub owner, and recovering alcoholic, Paddy – brilliant portrayed by the legend that is Bob Hoskins – who’d barred Callum for smoking in the loo. Callum was the son of local hard-man and villain Tom – equally wonderfully played by Liam Cunningham. So, Tom took exception to this and gave Paddy a public ultimatum; serve my son and I tomorrow at 3.30pm or I’ll batter you.
So here was the problem; if Paddy backed down and served Callum, he’d look weak and it’d be morally wrong. If he didn’t, he was going to get a kicking. So, he tried to rally some support from the locals, but pretty much to a man, they all said no. In the meantime, Callum told his dad that Paddy had been right to bar him and he didn’t want him hurt, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
The pub’s footie team refused to help Paddy out on the grounds that Tom provided all their kit, their bus, their funding etc., and everyone else was simply bricking it that they’d get battered too. Paddy’s son Liam wanted to fight Tom but Paddy sent him back to university so he wouldn’t get involved. However, the coach of the football team, Bob, pointed out that as Paddy wouldn’t ask his own son to help, he shouldn’t be asking other people’s sons to help.
And on it went in a similar manner as the clock ticked inexorably to the appointed face-off time…
Those who felt they had to be loyal to Tom – such as his wife and son – did so begrudgingly and it soon became apparent that nobody wanted Paddy hurt, but just as Paddy couldn’t back down and lose face, neither could Tom. He had a reputation to defend and, despite his wanting to give Paddy a way out of receiving a beating, he insisted he had to go through with it if Paddy didn’t serve Callum.
Sure enough, when the time came, the pub was deserted aside from a lone alcy who couldn’t have done anything if he’d wanted to. As Paddy and his wife Liz waited nervously for the metaphorical sundown, he almost fell off the wagon and poured himself a drink but, phew, he tipped it down the sink instead of his throat.
Long but fascinating story short, Paddy got a beating but came back to the pub for the evening session. Tom and Callum came in and Paddy humiliated Callum in front of his dad. The tension was palpable as we waited to see what Tom would do by way of response, but all he did was walk out. So the good guy won, which was further reiterated when we saw that Tom’s wife and son left home at the end of the programme.
Jimmy McGovern’s writing of this piece – and the stellar cast who parlayed it into a very believable scenario – made it a thought provoking show which left me wondering what I’d have done; would I have done the morally right thing and stood by Paddy or would fear of reprisal have stopped me from doing so?
It’s all too rare to find a drama that has you on the edge of your seat and leaves you with a potentially bad taste in your mouth when you have to analyse what your own behaviour would’ve been. Bravo McGovern et al and roll on next week!