Not Just Tolerated, but Loved: Andrew Billen on the Awkward Truths of Shipman, a Docudrama That Disappoints. (Television)

By Billen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), July 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

Not Just Tolerated, but Loved: Andrew Billen on the Awkward Truths of Shipman, a Docudrama That Disappoints. (Television)


Billen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


Just as Dr Harold Shipman traded on his folksy bedside manner, so ITV's dramatisation of how he murdered 15 going-on 200 patients got by on the folksiness of its setting. Although set in the late 1990s, Shipman (9 July, 9pm, ITV1) looked like a cosy period drama, a cross between All Creatures Great and Small and Miss Marple Investigates. If only the murders had indeed happened a century ago, we might have actually enjoyed it. As it was, who did not sympathise with the outrage of the relatives of those he killed? ITV was making a drama out of tragedy even before its extent had been determined.

To rehabilitate his commission, several options were available to Michael Eaton, the writer. One might have been to concentrate on the police investigation. This would have had the virtue of concentrating the mind on procedural flaws and the lessons to be drawn from them. It would also have shoved the murders off-screen. A really clever script might even have avoided showing Shipman's face at all.

A more ambitious approach would have been to assess Shipman's motives and make a biopic that stretched back to his childhood, the early death of his mother from cancer, and his later drug addiction and censure by the General Medical Council. The film could have ended with him about to take his first life.

One can, however, see the problems with either alternative. The investigators were slow off the mark but there was one, not terribly interesting, excuse for the slowness: the sheer unlikelihood of what was going on. Once the investigation started, it was relatively quick, for the equally boring reason that you did not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to work out what was happening. The only interesting forensic breakthrough came when it was discovered that Shipman had altered the dates of his computer records, a deduction that it apparently took a porcine computer geek no longer to arrive at than it took him to eat a pepperoni pizza.

Attempting a detailed portrait of Shipman would have been equally likely to fail, as the man was inscrutably dull. The film showed his facade of avuncular authority cracking only twice: first when, under interrogation, he forgot how many nines there were in "999" and second when, bang to rights, he broke down and wept as he clutched his solicitor's legs. The one other insight was the state of his home, which seemed to be the sort of place that made you want to wipe your feet as you leave.

So Eaton took the most plodding approach of all and came in to the story the moment just before suspicions were raised, but while some of the murders were still about to happen. With one fleeting flashback, the story proceeded soberly, via a series of deaths, until Shipman was jailed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Not Just Tolerated, but Loved: Andrew Billen on the Awkward Truths of Shipman, a Docudrama That Disappoints. (Television)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.