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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
This week's TV: Casualty diagnosis
William Gallagher
William Gallagher looks at the new Casualty season
By the BBC's William Gallagher

A year or two ago I was a writer on the Casualty website, charged with coming up with 150 trivia facts about the show, lots of character biographies and more story descriptions than you could count.

So earlier this year I pitched to write for the show itself.

It did not work out, it was just one of those pitches you try.

But I learnt something about the new production team that has shaped what I think of this week's new Casualty (Saturday 15 September, 2010 BST BBC One) and even gives me hope that this could be a good season.

Charlie's back but many of the other Casualty cast are new
Unfortunately you need hope because we have got 40 of these to get through and the first one, while it looked great, seems to be becoming a soap.

Sud's law

If you are a fan of soaps you typically argue that there is no difference between them and other types of drama series - but there is.

The shorthand for the difference is that a soap must never really conclude a story, it must always give it the ability to come back later and then only after it has been eked out to the longest possible length.

True drama series used to be ones where the character caught a bus to Damascus

Dramas on the other hand are supposed, very roughly speaking, to be about the key moment of a character's entire life.

That is why nobody will call Armadillo (Sunday 16 September 2100 BST BBC One) a soap but now that Casualty has been extended to 40 weeks a year, it is being labelled a soap no matter what the production team do.

In favour of soaps, the reason for the enormous length of stories is that they are meant to reflect real life.

True drama series used to be ones where the character had this epiphany or caught a bus to Damascus or whatever, but something would always happen to reset everything and make sure he or she was exactly the same at the end of the episode as at the start.

Arguably, Between the Lines broke that pattern by having stories that were separate, standalone ones yet genuinely had the characters going through ever greater life crises every week.

It also had the consequences of each episode impact on the next one and effectively it became an adult drama series.

Casualty used to be firmly in the reset category, with Charlie never affected by anything.


That is what the new production team want to change and it is a laudable effort.

What I learned from them is that this new season will focus more on the main characters rather than perhaps having such attention paid to the accident of the week.

That ought to be good: it works for ER.

Casualty's Josh becomes Thunderbird 2 - his character pod changes to become whatever is needed for the episode.

But unfortunately the team is working primarily with existing characters and in this first episode poor old Josh becomes Thunderbird 2 - his character pod changes to become whatever is needed for the episode.

So this week Josh will mostly be a boy racer for the first time in his life.

It is a good kickstart to the action of the series but because it relies on a false premise it is very hard to get interested in Josh's fate.

It helps that, unfortunately, the dialogue is all very soap-like and direct as Casualty characters say precisely what they mean and if they do want to lie, they wiggle their eyebrows to tell us about it.

See also:

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