MISSING your Sunday night slice of Rob James-Collier in Downton Abbey?
Well, you can see the former Coronation Street star in series three of BBC1’s acclaimed Moving On.
Along with the likes of Fay Ripley, Reece Dinsdale, Paul Rhys, Dean Lennox Kelly, Christine Bottomley, Ben Daniels, Eva Pope, Sally Philips and Warren Brown.
Together with less famous names (for now) like Shaun Mason.
Rob and Shaun appear tomorrow (Monday Nov 14) in The Milkman, the first of five new Moving On dramas screened at 2:15pm each weekday next week.
Worth setting the recorder for if you can’t watch them at the time they go out.
Shaun plays shy milkman Bugsy with former Bad Girls actress Alicya Eyo – who recently joined Emmerdale as Ruby Haswell – as single mum Ally.
Rob leaves Downton behind – at least until the Christmas special – to take the role of Ally’s estranged husband Clive, an assistant supermarket manager.
Written and this time also directed by John Fay, The Milkman also features a certain Billy Bragg track:
Former Shameless star Annabelle Apsion is among the cast of Tuesday’s drama – Tour Of Duty.
Paul Usher – Brookside’s legendary Barry Grant – makes a welcome return to the screen in Wednesday’s story – Punter.
Click on this link to read my exclusive interview with Paul earlier this year.
While Donor (Thursday) and The Poetry Of Silence (Friday) complete this 2011 series.
I attended the BAFTA launch of Moving On 3 last month.
A drama series created and still mentored by award-winning writer Jimmy McGovern.
Speaking again to LA Productions boss and series producer Colin McKeown and BBC Daytime Controller Liam Keelan.
I’ve got a lot of time for Colin and everyone involved in Moving On.
For them it’s not about making money or appearing on red carpets.
It’s about encouraging new writers, giving fresh talent a start in all areas of TV production, creating work and telling a good story.
Judging from the ratings for the first two series, it’s something that viewers have a lot of time for too.
Colin told me: “A lot of agents have said to me, ‘Why do you do it? The money’s too low.’
“And I’ve said, ‘I don’t care how low it is. It’s an opportunity for us to say – this is our work.’
“It is a loss leader, we don’t make any money but I’d rather put every single halfpenny that I’ve got on that screen than to say, ‘I’ve made something weak but I’ve made some money out of it.’ It’s a silly equation, really.”
Below is a flavour of what they all said at BAFTA.
Liam Keelan spoke before a screening of The Milkman and a showreel of highlights from the other four dramas:
“It needs very little introduction this drama. It’s very much a platform for new and up and coming talent, whether that’s writers or directors and so on, mentored by Jimmy McGovern and Colin’s team. We’re very grateful for this drama because it now feels at the heart of BBC Daytime and at the heart of what we should be doing.
“I joke – or not joke – with Colin sometimes about how I think as long as I’m doing this job I want to see Moving On in the schedules. That might not be too long given the BBC cuts going on but I’m very proud of the series.”
Liam assured me later that he had, indeed, been joking about his job.
Colin McKeown added: “It’s been a fantastic opportunity to give people their first start in different things. John Fay is a very experienced writer but it’s his first opportunity to write and direct. I think he’s done a great job on it.”
Liam: “I’ve often said that Neighbours going to Channel 5, as scary as it was at the time because it was the highest rating show on BBC Daytime, was probably the best thing that could have happened because it freed up a lot of money to do more interesting stuff. It was a stroke of luck in a way.”
What about a fourth series for Moving On?
Liam: “We’re sorting out finances and stuff at the moment. As I say, as long as I’m doing this job I think it will continue. No-one else really does it in this way, so I think it’s pretty certain that it will come back.”
Every other series has also had a later primetime BBC1 re-run slot. The same for series three?
Liam: “I would certainly hope so, yes. I’m sure it will. It’s always been commissioned solely for daytime and it’s the strength of the stories that’s given it a primetime outing.”
John Fay explained that The Milkman was his first experience of directing as well as writing:
“I’ve never seen before ‘written and directed by John Fay’ and it just looked wrong! I’ll be eternally grateful for getting the opportunity to do it. I don’t think anyone else would have given me that chance. And it was a fascinating process to go through. The whole team knew their job.
“It’s about giving a chance to new people. I think that’s really valuable – and I have been knocking around for a while on the right side of things. But its great to have that opportunity. It’s basically Play For Today, which is fantastic. It’s great as a writer to be given a slot. Budgets are very low and all that and there’s limited time that you have to film it but just as a writer to be told, ‘Go and write a story, whatever the hell you want,’ is just fabulous.”
John Fay wrote the script with Shaun Mason in mind:
Shaun Mason: “It was fantastic. I felt so lucky and so fortunate to get the part. I was doing a pantomime, of all things, and I get this call and it was like, ‘Can you do this milkman thing?’ It was amazing. This is a brilliant character.”
I asked Colin what lessons he had learned from making the first two series?
Colin: “I think things have got a lot easier because when we first started I’d speak to the agents and they’d go, ‘Who? What?’ So I’d have to try harder to try and convince people.
“One of the things that’s happened organically is that people have liked the show and come together with the show. As a producer it’s the opportunity to have a screen, to get out there and to try your art. And if you don’t practise it you don’t get better.
“I’ve learned an awful lot about every single aspect of it. But I’ve also learned that if you’re really faithful to the material and you put so much emphasis on good writing – and Jimmy is a hard taskmaster for all the right reasons, which is fantastic from our perspective – and don’t try and scrimp and save…
“It’s my series so I can pull in my favours. Having been 40 years in the game, have I got a lot of favours to pull in. And I made them work, hence the cast. But I have to pull in less and less favours these days because people genuinely want to do it. So you do learn and you have to push the bar up and every time we push the bar up. And when we get series four it will be even better.”
I spoke to Liam afterwards and asked if the proposed transfer of some BBC2 daytime content to BBC1 might put pressure on the 2:15pm drama slot?
Liam: “The success of those dramas speak for themselves really and even though the schedule is changing, that part of the BBC1 schedule hasn’t changed at all. It’s still that 2:15 slot in the afternoon. I think it would be mad not to carry on doing drama in the afternoon because it’s so successful.”
Only five films in the series this time compared to the usual 10?
Liam: “That was down to money, at that time. I think you’ll continue seeing about five of these.”
And finally I sat down for a quick chat with Colin McKeown:
Colin: “I love it when people say, ‘Do you think you could deliver in an X amount of time?’ If you need a mountain moving by Thursday night, I’ll do it by Wednesday for you. And with the same quality. So I was grateful for the gig, even though it was a reduced gig. But I’m confident that the standards haven’t dropped. If you get less you have to try harder.
“We’ve got an awful lot of people queuing up now saying, ‘Can I be in it?’ And that’s really refreshing. I can’t wait to tell you the list of people who are doing to do series four when we make it. It’s so exciting. Some of the names that have said they’ll do it are breathtaking.
“But already we’ve had Anna Massey and Corin Redgrave, both of them now passed away unfortunately. We had the opportunity of working with both of them just before they died. And I was happy that their last testimony of their work was working with us. Dominic West had a fantastic experience. And the cast for this series is phenomenal.
“I want to inspire other people. I think other people should give chances to writers coming through.
“We get very good feedback. Jimmy sets a standard which is incredible. He’s one of the best writers of his generation. And if it stems from good scripts, it transmits itself to other people, other writers.”
Is he worried by BBC budget cuts?
“I worry about what I can do. As long as I’m given the opportunity then my job is not to let that standard fail in any way. The way I see it is, ‘Nobody can not commission quality like that.’ More fool them if they don’t, in my humble opinion. It’s worrying to see a closing in of the industry but from what I believe, drama is not going to be hit anywhere near other areas. I think they’re losing one series overall on BBC but they’re going to be made up in a couple of years.”
“We know we can’t get the green light until April 1st because that’s when the financial New Year starts. And where we place it in that year – we can shoot it sometime within that year. But because we’ve got an awful lot of people who have said they want to be in it, we’ve got the luxury of making sure it fits their availability. And that’s what we’ll do. We’ve still got to keep the bulk of the shoot together but if it means pushing it towards the back end of the year, we will.”