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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lizzie Edmonds

Happy Valley to be taught to TV university students after 7.5 million tune into BBC finale

James Norton was full of praise for co-star Sarah Lancashire

(Picture: BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire)

BBC drama Happy Valley will be taught to university students studying television writing following the success of the gritty series starring Sarah Lancashire and James Norton.

Viewing figures reported on Monday by Broadcast suggest 7.5 million Britons tuned in to watch the finale of the three-series BBC drama starring Lancashire as Sergeant Catherine Cawood and Norton as villain Tommy Lee Royce.

Speaking to The Herald, Professor Ann Marie Di Mambro, of Glasgow’s Caledonian University, said she was planning to use the drama — written by Sally Wainwright — in MA in TV fiction writing lectures.

She said Happy Valley was a “masterpiece” in writing and “goes against” what a lot of budding writers are taught.

Speaking about the drama, Professor Di Mambro said: “[Happy Valley is] the perfect marriage of brilliant writing and perfect casting.

“It goes against a lot of what we teach, that’s what is so wonderful about it, the penultimate episode ends with a phone call between two people [Tommy Lee Royce and son Ryan].”

James Norton starred as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley (PA Media)

"You tend to teach people not to over-write the dialogue," she said.

"Phone calls can be quite dull. Don’t have scenes that are too long. But because it’s so unique and so original [it works].”

"It’s so deeply, deeply emotional," she added. "It’s raw from start to finish.”

She said the fact that the lead character was a single woman on the verge of retirement was also fairly exceptional in TV drama.

The figure of 7.5 million viewers is expected to rise in coming days as more fans catch up on the conclusion on BBC iPlayer.

Around five million tuned in to watch the first episode live as it was broadcast. However, the audience for the episode and the rest of the series swelled to more than 11 million in the following days.

The second episode of series three was watched on the night by 5.3 million viewers. This was significantly more than the 4.1 million who tuned in to watch Tom Bradby’s heavily publicised interview with Prince Harry on ITV which was broadcast at the same time

The ratings, supplied by Barb data from, make Happy Valley the highest rated show of 2023 so far. It means almost 42 per cent of people who were watching television at that time were watching the BBC drama.

Sarah Lancashire as Sergeant Catherine Cawood (BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire)

Line of Duty — the long-running series about police corruption — is the current record holder, as it pulled in 12.8 million viewers for the final episode of its sixth series in 2021, making it the most-watched episode of any drama since records began in 2002.

As the Happy Valley finale was aired, seven years after the second series ended, some of its stars reminisced about working on the drama.

Norton spoke to GQ magazine, hailing Lancashire and Wainwright as “absolute heroes”.

The actor said: “You’ve got Sally Wainwright at her absolute best. Sarah Lancashire, standing opposite me, giving her absolute best. These absolute heroes, these Queens of our industry, are the best there are.

“So it was an absolute privilege. I know actors throw those big words around a lot, but it was genuinely one of the most special moments of my career.”

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