Scott and Bailey

Full confession: I haven’t yet finished watching all of the Scott and Bailey episodes available on Netflix—thank heavens, I have a whole series to go!—but after finishing the first two seasons I feel confident in giving this show a very enthusiastic thumbs-up.  It centers around Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey, two partners on the Manchester Major Incidents team who “just happen to be” (I hate that phrase, but it seems actually appropriate in this case) women.  Their boss, Jill—my favorite character on the show—also just happens to be a woman, as do many of the higher-ups they interact with in the course of investigating the truly creepy crimes of Manchester, England.  The three main characters are exquisitely drawn, complex and full of faults and foibles, but great investigators and scrupulously ethical (except when they’re not) and kind of rumpled and mascara-smeared and maybe drinking a bit too much and struggling with man problems but also just doing their jobs and doing them well.  You know—like men.  (This is where the “just happen to be” comes in.)  

The fantastic thing about the show is that all this gorgeous female complexity and ordinariness is just … there.  It’s not foregrounded or thematized; it’s like the show takes place in a just slightly off-center alternate-reality version of Manchester that’s just a little bit better for professional women.  Professional white women.  Most of the time.  (Related side note: Janet Scott, who is a perfectly ordinary-looking middle-aged woman with a big nose, is the object of the insane passion of a quasi-stalker lover in the first couple of seasons, and the show does not ever once hint that only young and gorgeous women are appropriate objects of the insane passion of quasi-stalkers. Yay?)  

Everyone other than the professional white women, of course, ends up kidnapped and raped and murdered in numbers that seem improbable when you look at the yearly crime statistics for real-life Manchester, England, but this is simply a given of the genre.  My bestie actually recommended this show to me when I exploded in frustration about all the rapes on other police procedurals, apparently completely forgetting that every flipping crime on the show is a brutal rape. But I can see why she forgot: because the show is so deeply, thoroughly, unconsciously feminist that for once it isn’t a soul-crushing experience to watch another slightly prurient rape investigation.  These brilliant, funny, insightful, tough women will make it all be okay.

Note: Scott and Bailey is currently only available on Netflix DVD subscriptions in the US.

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Deanna K. Kreisel is associate professor of English at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where she teaches Victorian literature when not watching TV. Academic Website / blog / Unholy Screeds

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