The Moorside. Two pointless hours of unfettered desolation

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The Moorside. Two pointless hours of unfettered desolation

February 15, 2017 - 17:31
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Was there any reason for the deeply depressing drama The Moorside other than to cash in on a sordid real-life story that made big headlines?

The Moorside

Was there any reason for the deeply depressing drama The Moorside other than to cash in on a sordid real-life story that made big headlines?

Desperate to prove that this tawdry two-parter was more than just cheap sensationalism, the BBC tried to deliver an uplifting message to justify rehashing a dispiriting saga that appalled the nation. Mission not accomplished.

At the end of 120 minutes of unfettered desolation there was only one question to be asked about this grim production: What on Earth was the point?

The sad story of how poor little Shannon Matthews was horrifically mistreated was pretty much side-lined in favour of the wonderful way in which the local community rallied round in her awful mother’s alleged hour of need.

The Yorkshire sink estate on which they lived might have been a byword for social depravation, but these downtrodden yet marvellous folk looked after their own. Please.

Thus, the narrative was reduced to a series of “Help Find Shannon” candlelit marches and an endless procession of caring neighbours dropping by to offer support and to tell the police to stop being so suspicious of a family in despair. Frankly, in TV terms, it was repetitive and boring.

Naturally, we were bombarded with excuses for Karen Matthews’ unconscionable behaviour. Used and abused throughout her life, she confused love with lust and had seven children by five different fathers. She begged for friendship. Cue the violins.

Lots of women have terrible backgrounds. How many of them cook up a sick and twisted scheme to have their own child kidnapped, drugged and tied up under a divan? So forget all that bleeding heart claptrap and get real. Crafty Karen was a nasty piece of work.

Oh, but she was an undereducated inadequate. Pass the Kleenex. She wasn’t so inadequate when she put in Oscar-worthy performances as she sobbed for her missing nine year-old “princess” while the cameras rolled and millions of sympathetic viewers fell for her wicked lies. She was calculating and cunning.

All that said, the excellent Sheridan Smith was compelling as the Find Shannon campaign organiser Julie Bushby, a decent woman with a good heart who became rather too fond of being on the telly. Sian Brooke – who recently played sinister sister Eurus in Sherlock Holmes – was equally impressive as Natalie Brown, the disillusioned friend who didn’t buy her neighbour’s fabricated version of events. And Gemma Whelan’s tearful portrayal of sunken-eyed Karen was uncanny.

But great acting alone isn’t enough. The Moorside aspired to be an important document of our troubled times. But was nothing more than an empty trip down rancid memories lane. In a free country, the BBC had every right to embark on this project. But let’s not pretend its main motive wasn’t shameless ratings chasing.

One can only hope that now she’s an adult, the real Shannon was not traumatised by the state broadcaster dredging up her ordeal from the distant past. She was given a new identity and it’s reasonable to speculate that her life must have drastically improved since being removed from her monstrous mum’s clutches. Let’s face it, it couldn’t be any worse.

For 24 best forgotten days in 2008, Karen Matthews hoodwinked everyone. All the while, her daughter was being held captive by her accomplice Michael Donovan. And along the way, her lover Craig Matthews was arrested for hoarding child porn. Uplifting stuff.

Craven Karen’s plan to dramatically find Shannon and claim the £50,000 reward was as pathetic as her enjoyment of the celebrity status bestowed on her by the pretend nightmare that the whole country believed. Described by the prosecution as “pure evil”, she got eight years. Well deserved.

But, according to the right-on Beeb’s take on things, there was a silver lining to this cloud. When it was all over and the news crews had departed, Natalie Brown told Julie: “You stuck up for this place. You made people realise what we’re really like.”

I think we were supposed to accept that the shabby Shannon Matthews episode shone a light on deprived dumping grounds like the Moorside and as a result we all felt they were much nicer than we’d thought. Mission not accomplished. It turned out they were even worse than we’d thought.

There is 1 Comment

Anna May's picture

By Anna May @AnnaMayMight

As many have already said, it’s kind of bizarre this two-parter has even been made…and the fact Shannon Matthews is now 18 certainly gives the impression it was a drama waiting to happen.

The question I’d have to ask, though, is…why, after all these years, after all the time Shannon’s spent trying to blend anonymously into society, after allowing her story to disappear into the past never to be dragged up again…has this drama been made?

Surely there are people out there who DO know where Shannon is. How many school friends do you think she told her secret to? If she’s confided in boyfriends, have they promised to keep quiet and then told other people?

My point is…anyone who knows Shannon’s real identity may not have thought it worth the bother to come forward about her. Unless a story is pushed into the headlines, is it really worth trying to jump on a bandwagon that isn’t even there?

So...what better way to take advantage of the fact Shannon’s not classed as a child anymore, than to make a drama that brings everyone involved out of the woodwork and gets them talking about Shannon’s abduction, whether it be to support or show disgust.

Because, in so doing, the creators of this drama have alerted anyone who has either past or present ties with Shannon, or who just might have the slightest suspicion of who she is, that there’s a bit of limelight of their own to be had…even financial gain.

I read that Shannon had been notified the drama was due to be aired. Depending on her own circumstances at present, could she even be ready to come forward herself to tell her own story?

I know…I’m a suspicious person, but I cannot believe there isn’t at least one person out there who wouldn’t think twice about taking advantage of the re-emergence of this grisly tale.

Just look at the subject of the drama. Can you possibly imagine anyone betraying the trust of a vulnerable person to make money? Yes…yes, you can.