We all know that the nation loves a good drama to get their teeth into. The brilliantly crafted characters, intricate plotlines and twists and turns in the narrative are what keep us captivated by the genre, and while other channels have been known to throw up a classic or two, it’s surely ITV that is the home of truly great British drama.
From crime series such as A Touch of Frost, The Sweeney and Whitechapel to cosier shows like Fat Friends, Wild at Heart and At Home With the Braithwaites, and not forgetting period pieces, including Upstairs, Downstairs, Lost in Austen and Brideshead Revisited, ITV seldom disappoints when it comes to cracking drama. Surprisingly, though, none of the aforementioned shows were nominated in either of the categories in the poll; Best Drama Moment and Favourite Drama Character.
The other nominees, however, more than warranted their places in the poll. So, here they are. First up, we have Best Drama Moment.
Broadchurch – The Murderer is Revealed
In spring last year, the nation was captivated as Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch had us all guessing who was the murderer of tragic teen, Danny Latimer. My money was always on Mark, Danny’s dad, and in the end it was revealed to be…no, I won’t spoil it. The final episode attracted a staggering 10 million viewers – and that’s excluding audiences for ITV+1 and ITV Player, and with series two due to be filmed imminently, Broadchurch fever looks set to grip Britain once again.
Collision – The Car Crash
Starring Douglas Henshall, this metafictional series ran for five consecutive nights in 2009 and regularly attracted viewers of around 7 million. As the title suggests, the series told the story of a car crash which causes a group of strangers’ lives to become intertwined, leading to the exposition of numerous secrets involving smuggling, government cover-ups and murder. To remind yourself of the spectacular, and very costly, crash, take a look at this report from ITV’s Anglia Tonight.
Doc Martin – Martin and Louisa’s Wedding
One of the most popular ITV shows of recent years is undoubtedly Doc Martin – the story of a haemophobic doctor who, having quit his job as a surgeon in London, relocates to Cornish village, Portwenn and struggles to tone down his stubbornness and improve his people skills to fit in with the close-knit way of life. Running throughout the six series, which we have enjoyed since 2004, has been the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Martin and local headmistress, Louisa Glasson. It took them three series to even go on a date, Martin called off their wedding in 2009 and then in the last minute of the show’s returning episode in 2011, Louisa revealed that she was pregnant! So, with baby James bringing them closer than ever, Martin and Louisa finally made it down the aisle in the sixth series last year. In true Doc Martin style though, even the wedding was plagued by complications: Louisa was late, the couple had a tiff at the reception and the villagers’ gift of a honeymoon resulted in a shotgun being pointed at the newlyweds by a madman whose life Martin eventually saved when a caravan collapsed onto him. ‘Twas quite an episode!
Downton Abbey – Matthew and Mary’s First Kiss
When Matthew Crawley first arrived at Downton Abbey with his mother, Isobel, sparks flew as he was reluctant to marry one of the Crawley daughters and be the new air of the Abbey. However, when he saw Lady Mary, he instantly fell in love with her – it’s just a shame that she didn’t feel the same, as she displayed open hostility towards the twenty-something solicitor. The Dowager Countess felt quite the same about Isobel – and while the two women continue to be acerbic with one another four years on, Matthew and Mary thankfully got together, with the unlikely kiss that was nominated as Best Drama Moment.
Downton Abbey – The Death of Lady Sybil
Over its four year tenure, Downton Abbey has seen many much-loved characters come and go – sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. An example of the latter occurred in October 2012 when, during the third series of the show, almost twelve million viewers mourned the death of feisty Feminist, Lady Sybil. Having qualified as a nurse and married Irish chauffeur, Tom Branson, in late 1919, Sybil found herself pregnant – but sadly died during childbirth, making that episode one of the most poignant and best-written of the four series.
Foyle’s War – The End of World War II
Having been axed by ITV Director of Programmes, Simon Shaps, in 2008, it was widely believed that this episode of Foyle’s War, entitled ‘All Clear’, would be the last. The series eventually returned in 2010 and continues to run today, but it is this episode from the sixth series that was nominated for Best Drama Moment.
Law & Order: UK – Ronnie Tries to Save Matt Devlin
Its future may be unsure, as Bradley Walsh has recently stated that he is leaving the show, but for the past five years, Law & Order: UK has regularly attracted and intrigued millions of viewers with the cases that down-to-earth cop Ronnie Brooks comes across. The moment that finds Law & Order: UK in the poll is from the final episode of the fifth series, in which Ronnie attempted to save his colleague and surrogate son, Matt Devlin after he was shot twice by a masked gunman. In a gripping and emotional scene, Ronnie ran to the ailing Matt and placed his coat over him in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding, before the screen faded to black. It would be almost five months until British viewers discovered whether Matt lived or died.
Mr Selfridge – Selfridges Opens For the First Time
Based on the book, Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge, the first episode of Andrew Davies’s critically acclaimed period drama depicted just some of the trials and tribulations that Harry Gordon Selfridge faced when he came to London to create his now famous Oxford Street store. Having had success in Chicago with his transformation of the department store, Marshall Field’s, Selfridge came to England in an attempt to do the same, but unfortunately his business partner pulled out at the last minute. Undeterred, Selfridge soldiered on, recruited the help of Lady Mae Loxley and saw his store built in record time. Of course, many other obstacles would stand in Harry’s way over the coming months and years but this moment, when Selfridges opened for the first time, was a truly great one.
Five-part factual drama, Mrs Biggs aired in 2012 and received instant critical acclaim for its alternative look at the infamous Great Train Robbery. Told from the perspective of Ronnie Biggs’s wife, Charmian (who helped writer Jeff Pope with some of the scripts), the series saw Daniel Mays nominated for a National Television Award, while Sheridan Smith was recognised by not only the NTAs but also BAFTA and the Royal Television Society. The use of Biggs’s wife to tell the story of the raid was ingenious and offered an insight into her trauma and turmoil that much of the nation had previously not considered. Whereas it could not match the impeccable timing of the BBC’s The Great Train Robbery last year (the first episode of which aired on the same day as Ronnie Biggs’s death), Mrs Biggs was a truly great drama which provided numerous memorable moments.
Poirot – The Death of Hercule Poirot
Last year, after a quarter of a century on our screens, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solved his last-ever case. Entitled ‘Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case’, this final instalment saw the immobilised sleuth and his old friend Captain Hastings return to their first case in order to prevent a looming murder. In Styles Court, where the pair first met thirty years ago, Hastings acted as Poirot’s eyes and ears, attempting to uncover, from a long list of possibilities, the killer in their midst. It was a gripping conclusion to the story of Hercule Poirot and more than satisfied the super-sleuth’s fans, even delivering the twist in the tale to which they had become so accustomed. Incidentally, ‘Curtain: Poirot’s Final Case’ will be the first programme shown on ITV Encore at 7:00pm tonight.
Scott & Bailey – Janet Scott is Stabbed
Based on an idea by two of the show’s stars, Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay, and written by Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley scribe, Sally Wainwright, Scott & Bailey has been entertaining ITV audiences since 2011. It was in the penultimate episode of the first series that this moment happened; when Janet Scott was stabbed and critically injured after Rachel discovered who killed 46-year-old mother, Lynn Stott. Of course, Janet soon recovered and in the next episode returned to work but she would later interview Geoff Hastings – the man who stabbed her – in series two.
The Widower – Malcolm Webster Drugs His First Wife
The most recent drama on the list, The Widower told the true story of nurse, Malcolm Webster who is currently imprisoned for the murder of his first wife and attempted murder of his second, and gripped viewers when it aired in March of this year. The scene in which Webster drugged his first wife, Claire, was an amazing piece of television. Reece Shearsmith showed the character’s manipulation, determination and ruthlessness perfectly, making for a fantastic miniseries.
Titanic – RMS Titanic Strikes an Iceberg
Broadcast in 2012 to coincide with the centenary of the maiden voyage of the tragic Titanic, Downton Abbey writer, Julian Fellowes’s four-part miniseries was met with a mixed reception, with critics seeming undecided as to whether or not it was worth the £11m it cost to make and nearly three million viewers fleeing after the opening episode. ITV Encore clearly believed it to be worthy of a place on this list, however, so the iconic moment of the Titanic hitting the iceberg was nominated for Best Drama Moment.
So those are all of the moments, surprisingly spanning only six years of ITV drama. My favourite had to be the reveal of the murderer on Broadchurch - Olivia Colman and David Tennant’s performances in that episode were exceptional, and Chris Chibnall’s writing made it inevitable that the show would have numerous awards heaped upon it. It seems that the 2,000 people polled agreed with me, as Broadchurch was indeed voted the Best Drama Moment, with 25% of the vote! Poirot was in second place, with the wedding of Martin and Louisa in Doc Martin and the death of Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey joint third.
ITV Encore also wanted viewers to vote for their Favourite Character. Those in line for that accolade included:
Broadchurch – Alec Hardy (David Tennant)
Broadchurch – Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman)
Broadchurch – Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker)
Broadchurch – Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan)
Doc Martin – Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes)
Doc Martin – Louisa Ellingham (Caroline Catz)
Downton Abbey – Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery)
Downton Abbey – Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens)
Downton Abbey – The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
Downton Abbey – Violet, Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith)
Endeavour – Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans)
Foyle’s War – Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen)
Foyle’s War – Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks)
Law & Order: UK – DS Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh)
Lewis – DI Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately)
Lewis – DS James Hathaway (Laurence Fox)
Marple – Jane Marple (Julia McKenzie)
Midsomer Murders – DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon)
Midsomer Murders – DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles)
Mr Selfridge – Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus)
Those were just some of the nominations for Favourite Character – many more were available. Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) and Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) tied in first place for Favourite Male Character, with 25% of the vote each, while DI Alex Hardy (David Tennant, Broadchurch) secured second place and DS Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh, Law & Order: UK) and DI Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately, Lewis) tied in third position.
As for the female characters, unsurprisingly, Downton Abbey‘s Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) was most popular, with 32% of the vote. Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman, Broadchurch) and Louisa Ellingham (Caroline Catz, Doc Martin) were second, and DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn, Vera) came third.
Don’t forget to tune into ITV Encore from 6:45pm tonight, when the last-ever Poirot will be followed by a double-bill of Broadchurch and the first episode of The Ice Cream Girls on Sky channel 123.
All images included in this article courtesy of ITV