by James Taymouth
Int. BBC Boardroom Meeting. White City. Day.
Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, is sitting at the head of a table, staring out the window, lost in thought as Lucy Richer and Mona Qureshi, commissioning editors for England, discuss their latest New Writers programme.
Lucy So you’re saying it’s a fund made available to writers from cold backgrounds? Mona Data shows the average temperature of locations our shows are being written in doesn’t reflect the diversity of modern British weather. People from colder regions will finally have a chance to tell their stories, but in compelling and innovative ways. Lucy Happy Valley was set in the North wasn’t it? That’s a cold place? Piers?
The camera cuts to Piers who hasn’t been listening, but rather stroking the sleeve of his Thom Browne cardigan.
Piers I just had a call from David Cider at Netflix.
Cut to the suddenly worried faces of the two ladies. Mona gulps.
Mona I assume they’ve taken Bodyguard off us then? Piers They bought the worldwide rights. The production company’s going to make a fortune. Lucy It was World Productions wasn’t it? Aren’t they ITV? Piers Of course they are! We blow Vanity Fair out the water this Autumn but still they get the reward!
Mona slumps back in her chair.
Mona It’s Bake Off all over again.
Piers suddenly rips a button off his cardigan.
Then another, before throwing them to the ground in a fit of rage. We watch them scatter across the floor then cut back up to the faces of the silent women as he calms himself.
Piers buzzes the intercom.
Piers Bring them in please, Marjorie.
Cosmo and Julian, consulting producers from Plan15 Productions, are brought through.
The camera follows them as they settle into their seats, but we see from their faces that they’ve noticed the mood in the room
Cosmo We lost Bodyguard didn’t we? Piers We didn’t… lose it, it’s still ours, we just… need you guys to come up with another contemporary idea then this time we’ll make the show ourselves in-house and own the whole thing. Julian How about this: a show about the gender pay gap in an elite Israeli sniper unit.
They consider it.
Piers We prefer presenting worlds without gender frictions now though don’t we? Practically all the snipers were women in Bodyguard – welcome to the future! Lucy Who do we think other women would want to see as the lead in shows then? Mona Three words. Aidan. Turner. Poldark.
Close up on Piers nodding in agreement.
Mona (cont’d) He’s sexy, plus he could pass as Israeli easily. Piers My first feeling is that Israel is too controversial. People like it when it’s based in a British city. Moody stuff. Plots and subterfuge under rainy skies. Lucy Maybe it’s backward of us to set things in Britain so much? Maybe it’s racist?
The room goes silent and everyone looks at Piers.
Piers So we make a show about an Israeli death squad squabbling about equal pay?! It sounds like a sitcom, Lucy! Julian We’ve got to take advantage of the shifting paradigms in gender identities, Piers.
Mumbles of agreement.
Mona Could we get a female director too? Cosmo The lead should be a woman of colour… but clearly from money. Julian Plus her marriage should be under strain from the dangerous nature of her work. Cosmo Perfect, Julian.
An intern, Karen, comes through with teas and coffees.
Piers (cont’d) It’s great for young girls to have role models to look up to, isn’t that right Karen? Intern Karen Yes, sir. Piers Good girl. Lucy I think there should be a character who keeps getting pregnant specifically in order to get constant paid leave. You know, something that upends our narratives about gender power structures, something that sticks into what we’re thinking today? Piers Sure. Cosmo I think we need something that is a consistent visual interrogation of the patriarchy. Mona I’m worried that sort of thing might stir up hostility from those people working in the C and D and E stratas, you know taxi drivers, electricians, dinner-ladies – Piers – Undertakers? Mona Exactly. Is this the sort of thing they’ll want to be watching?
Piers considers this. As he swings around in his chair, the camera tracks from behind as he looks out across White City and deep in thought.
The others sit in silence, waiting for him to speak.
Cosmo (whispering across table) So did you ever get a chance to watch Killing Eve in the end, Mon–? Piers (interrupting) – I’m going to give Kelly over at social a call. She’s a remarkably astute woman.
He spins back around and makes the call.
Piers (into phone) Kelly. Hi. We’re wondering if you can help regarding any advice for the creation of a hit Sunday night drama to replace Bodyguard. What’s hot and so on. Kelly (on phone) Okay. Here’s what it is. As long as it goes on at 9pm on a Sunday that’s all we need from a social point of view, and it’s got to be about issues. Piers (into phone) Sure… What issue? Kelly (on phone) Okay. Here’s what it is. You choose a sensitive issue and you pose loads of mysterious unanswered questions in the first few episodes and then, this is the key bit – you make sure we get a glimpse of the lead naked early doors – you know, the sort of thing the papers can write whole articles about. Do all that and you’ll have a winner on your hands. Piers (into phone) Ok, thanks Kel. Kelly (on phone) Before you go I actually was meaning to get in touch regarding that pay rise you mentioned I might be du –
He cuts the call.
Piers Ok. so… we hire cheap women to make a smash hit show … with some flesh on show in order that the Daily Mail readers can’t help but tune in? Mona This is top tier conceptualisation. Cosmo Fantastic! Julian I love it! Lucy I think we need full frontal exposure. We at the BBC need to push the boundaries. But the question is who? Piers Hiddleston jumps to my mind immediately. He’s got his arse out already. Cosmo And my what a lovely arse it is!
Julian flicks him a glare. Cosmo gulps.
Mona But his career – Piers Has completely flatlined. Mona But will he get his dick out? Julian (while still glaring at Cosmo) Well I certainly hope so. Lucy Didn’t you see that thing he did when he was going out with Taylor Swift? Mona I’ll get his agent on the phone at once. Piers Christian at Hamilton Hoddell Mona Of course.
Mona leaves the room.
Piers All the pieces falling into place. Just like always.
He slides his loafers off and walks around the table.
Piers (cont’d) (shouting through to Mona) Tell him this could mean Bond’s back on the table for him! Cosmo He hasn’t got the chin for Bond. Julian Oh so he’s not good enough for you now?
They share an awkward fake laugh, interrupted suddenly by;
Piers (top of lungs) Hiddleston!
Close up on his face as it contorts in agony. He has stood on one of his ripped off buttons.
Mona comes back through, pausing for a moment as she takes in the image of Piers on the floor cradling his left heel with the others not knowing where to look.
Mona I’ve got Christian for you on the phone Sir.
Piers gathers himself, takes a breath and gets up, hobbling across to Mona.
Piers (into phone) (suddenly upbeat) Christian! It’s Piers from the BBC. How are you my old friend? Listen, I’ve got an offer for Tom… I think he’s going to love it…
Cut to Black.