Ackley Bridge is Channel 4’s first foray into 8pm weekly drama in quite some time, and school-based dramas can last a long time, if BBC’s Waterloo Road is anything to go by, as that ran from 2006 to 2015.
That said, Channel 4 regularly have college drama Hollyoaks at 6.30pm on weeknights, and when one girl posted something online with the text appearing onscreen as she typed, and with others looking at images on their phone, with them floating about above it like a futuristic hologram-creating device in Star Trek, I was reminded of that soap… and Star Trek, of course. So, can they differentiate between the two?
It begins with an outside scene, the night before a momentus occasion, with kids drinking cider as early evening draws in, before moving on to the day when two segregated school/colleges in Ackley Bridge are merging – one full of white children and one full of Asian children. You can tell that they’ll get on like Donald Trump and political correctness when the racist Nana Booth (Rita May) comments, on seeing Muslims in her street, “It’s like opening time at Visa section(!)”
As for the characters, Paul Nicholls and new head teacher Jo Joyner are doing the do, or is she now doing it with someone else? Liz White – from Life on Mars – shaves her legs in the taxi, although a lack of time is only the start of her problems; schoolgirl Hayley Booth (Cody Ryan) is retaking a year – much to her chargrin, while Samantha Power pops up in a brilliant turn as Hayley’s drunk mum – you’ll know her from regular appearances in the Quick Quid advert as the harrassed mum with static daughter and husband, and a smelly son – who could just have a normal wash in the sink rather than ‘smell today’ because there’s no hot water.
Ackley Bridge‘s first episode shows some elements of promise, but it’s not brilliant and there’s nothing here which we haven’t seen before, and at 8pm, no-one can swear properly so it’s not like a “late-night Hollyoaks”
Overall, I gave this a B- (or 5/10) for the first episode. The same score, in numerical and Star Trek terms, as Star Trek Into Darkness. Perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch will, therefore, turn up again as Khan, the Supply Teacher? Unlikely… but imagine the ratings!
Ackley Bridge begins Wednesday night on Channel 4 at 8pm, and then later on All4, and you can pre-order the series on DVD, ahead of its released on July 17th. Also, click on the top-right image for the full-size version.
Episode 1 Score: 5/10
Director: Penny Woolcock
Producer: Alexander Lamb
Writers: Malcolm Campbell and Anya Reiss
Music: Tim Phillips
Mandy Carter: Jo Joyner
Steve Bell: Paul Nicholls
Samir Qureshi: Arsher Ali
Saleem Paracha: Esa Ashraf
Jordon Wilson: Samuel Bottomley
Shireen Siddiqui: Kainatt Butt
Lorraine Bird: Lorraine Cheshire
Nana Booth: Rita May
Simone Booth: Samantha Power
Hayley Booth: Cody Ryan
Emma Keane: Liz White
Kaneez Paracha: Sunetra Sarker
Alex Hamilton: Sean Croke
Chloe Voyle: Fern Deacon
Jack: Jamie Dorrington
Missy: Poppy Lee Friar
Neil Sykes: Nathan Green
Nazreen Paracha: Amy-Leigh Hickman
Alya Nawaz: Maariah Hussain
Kevin Wilson: Steve Jackson
Razia Paracha: Nazmeen Kauser
Zain Younis: Zain Khan
Shannon Burns: Chloe Lumb
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.