From the All Creatures Great and Small reboot to Our Yorkshire Farm, the once-downmarket TV channel has won record ratings and awards – with comfort-viewing tales of the dales. But not everyone is happy
In The Good Companions, the 1929 novel that gave him national fame, JB Priestley begins high up on the Pennines – the “knobbly backbone of England”. Looking down on the huddled communities that make their living in a Yorkshire landscape both beautiful and bleak, the author tells us: “At first the towns only seem a blacker edge to the high moorland, but now that you are closer you see the host of tall chimneys, the rows and rows of little houses, built of blackening stone, that are like tiny sharp ridges on the hills. These windy moors, these clanging dark valleys, these factories and little stone houses, have between them bred a race that has special characteristics.”
From the literature of the Brontë sisters and Priestley to films such as Lindsay Anderson’s This Sporting Life and Ken Loach’s Kes, Yorkshire’s pastoral beauty, industrial grit and pugnacious spirit has proved fertile terrain for artists in search of contrast and drama. But few would have predicted that Channel 5, formerly the downmarket fiefdom of Richard Desmond, would become modern heirs to that tradition.
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