Why Jimmy McGovern’s jail drama Time is ‘troublesome to look at’

Sean Bean and Stephen Graham star in BBC One’s new jail drama Time, which begins on Sunday. The three-part sequence has been written by Jimmy McGovern, who says he hopes it shines a lightweight on the truth of the British penal system. McGovern, a famend screenwriter who was additionally behind Hillsborough, Damaged and Accused, says he initially had the concept of setting a drama in a cell block almost 4 a long time in the past. “From about 1982 onwards, I did a good bit of labor in prisons,” he remembers. “I used to be all the time popping in there, doing the author‘s workshop, coming out once more. And I used to be all the time fascinated by it for every kind of causes.

However I believe the principle motive is I all the time felt ‘there however for the grace of God go I’. As a result of I used to be younger and skint as soon as, and I did a couple of naughty issues, however I used to be extraordinarily fortunate.” (McGovern has admitted committing non-violent crimes in his youth.) “And I am all the time in search of tales, and the factor a couple of British jail is it is filled with tales.” Liverpool-born McGovern’s newest drama Time follows Mark Cobden (performed by Bean), a former instructor who has been sentenced to 4 years inside for drink-driving, after a highway accident he was concerned in left a bike owner useless.

To start out with, the impression the viewer will get is that Cobden would not belong right here. He is a delicate, well-educated man, who has discovered himself locked up with some significantly vile and violent younger males, who assume nothing of actually torturing each other. “Some scenes ought to nearly definitely carry a content material warning, if they need to even be proven in any respect,” stated Digital Spy in its in any other case beneficial evaluate. “It is bleak stuff,” agreed The Night Customary. “There is a sense of grim, nearly tragic inevitability to lots of the tales that unfurl over the course of three episodes.”

Finally, Cobden has to adapt and toughen up if he desires to outlive. Considered one of a number of factors McGovern appears to be making is that the system is stacked towards even probably the most well-intentioned and well-behaved prisoners. However there are different themes at play too. The inmates are under-stimulated. There may be drug-taking, blackmail, abuse and self-harm. Fights escape over meals and cellphone calls. One character makes the purpose that their jail has almost as many workers members as inmates. One other means that half of the convicts belong in a psychological well being facility fairly than a jail.

McGovern helps the penal system generalit is the place many criminals belong, he feedback, notably those that are violent. Certainly, viewers will really feel a way of aid that prisons exist once they see a few of the characters’ behaviour. However he clearly desires to focus on explicit components which, in his view, might be improved. “[The series] says one thing that must be stated in regards to the penal system, and it isn’t good,” McGovern says. “The British penal system isn’t good I am afraid, it wants taking a look at.”

He will get extra particular in one other interview with BBC Radio 4’s At present. “There must be extra significant exercise in British prisons. There must be training and coaching and jobs,” he says. “In the mean time, the overwhelming majority of prisoners are locked up 23 hours a day due to Covid, however even when Covid is not there, they’re nonetheless locked up in cells for lengthy intervals of time, they usually shouldn’t be. We should always goal to ship them out higher than once they went in.” In response, a Jail Service spokesman tells “We all know training is vital to lowering reoffending and chopping crime, which is why we’re creating a brand new Prisoner Schooling Service and work with round 400 employers to offer work and studying alternatives to offenders.

We now have saved training operating all through the pandemic the place attainable, and prisons are actually easing restrictions consistent with public well being recommendation.” Bean and Graham beforehand labored collectively within the second sequence of Accused, which was additionally written by McGovern. Right here, Graham performs jail officer Eric McNally – one other of the present‘s robust characters, albeit with a seemingly good coronary heart. He leads to a conflicted and unenviable place when inmates get wind that his personal son has wound up in one other jail, and use that data to threaten him.

Time is hardly the primary gritty drama that Graham has discovered himself showing in: This Is England, White Home Farm and The Irishman are amongst his different movie and TV credit. However the darkish and sometimes violent themes operating by way of a lot of his performances are exactly what attracts Graham to them within the first place. The actor says: “I like the truth that stuff I do is troublesome to look at for folks.” He pauses for a second. “What was that one on Netflix, set within the massive home or no matter, that was useless profitable over lockdown?”

His spouse, fellow actor Hannah Walters, ventures a solution: “Bridgerton? Yeah, that was not troublesome to look at,” continues Graham. “So why is this troublesome to look at? As a result of it is coming into your lounge and, as Jimmy stated, we have got to have a look at the penal system, we have to take a look at sure issues and components inside this piece. “It is not overly political or ramming the message down your throat. But when it is troublesome to look at, that is since you‘re taking a look at a society which is represented by your self. So absolutely it is placing a mirror as much as society, and going, ‘Undecided if we’re getting this proper right here.’ So possibly that is why it is troublesome to look at, as a result of it makes you assume. And that is all I ever wished to be part of. One thing that is saying one thing socially. I would like all the things I do to be troublesome to look at.”