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Series / The Lakes

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The Lakes was a BBC television drama series broadcast in Great Britain from 1997, created and written by Jimmy McGovern. It ran for two series and fourteen hour-long episodes. The series brought writer Jimmy McGovern and actor John Simm to public notice. This show's realistic characters and their painfully honest but flawed decisions hit audiences hard. Simm played Danny Kavanagh, a twenty-something trapped in a life of compulsive gambling, theft, and being on the dole in Liverpool. On a whim he heads north to the Lake District. He expects to find countryside quiet where he might contemplate his life and explore his hidden poetical leanings. However, he is soon embroiled in a rural community with a lot of dark secrets and hidden skeletons to conceal.He discovers a web of lies, temptations, human failings and tragedy beset every household. Danny's links to the Lakes becomes an exercise in torment when he is suspected after the accidental deaths of three schoolgirls. A whole lot of subplots involve affairs, some adulterous, others complicated by religion.


The core of both series is the relationship between Danny Kavanagh (John Simm) and Lucy Archer (Kaye Wragg). In Series One, Danny is a compulsive gambler and philanderer, who escapes from the dole queues in Liverpool to live in the Lake District. After he meets and marries local girl Emma Quinlan, they move back to Liverpool. Emma finally returns home because of Danny's gambling. He follows her, gets a job looking after a rowing boat concession, and starts to patch up his relationship with Emma, who now has a daughter.

Danny rejects unsubtle advances from the attention-seeking Lucy Archer, who determines to gain revenge. When three schoolgirls are drowned in a boating accident while Danny is on the phone to the bookies, Lucy lies to implicate him. Danny is unwilling to tell the truth, as he has promised to stop gambling, and the community is looking for someone to blame. Lucy is exposed as a liar in the subsequent inquest, when phone call records provide Danny with an alibi.


In Series Two, the unpopular and hated Lucy is raped by three locals. Only Danny, enduring the claustrophobic hostility and seething tensions of the Quinlan family home, can testify as a witness, putting him at odds with the village, his wife and her family.

This TV series has examples of these tropes:

  • BlackBraAndPanties: Philandering bully and village psychopath Gary Alcock makes his wife's life a misery with violence, the threat of violence, and frequent undisguised affairs. After he is (deliberately) knocked down and temporarily paralysed, Ruth Alcock gets her own back by dressing in the sexiest underwear possible for a night out and an equally undisguised affair, and as she dresses in the classic black set, tells her bedridden husband in explicit detail what she intends to do that night, and for him not to wait up for her. She blows him a kiss on the way out of the bedroom door.
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  • Campbell Country: the small-town claustrophobia of the Cumbrian rural community.
  • Hot for Preacher: Bernadette "Bernie" Quinlan has a disastrous affair with Father Matthew, the local Catholic priest, and gets pregnant by him, to find herself blamed and disowned by the Church and facing a marriage break-up.
  • Oop North: Very much so. The Lake district of Cumbria is just south of the Scottish border.
  • Rape as Drama: what happens to Lucy Archer, and its consequences.
  • Scenery Porn: the series was filmed in and around the Lake District National Park.
  • Sunday Evening Drama Series; it was screened late night on Sunday for several very good reasons - sex, violence, murder, swearing...

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