Last week it was announced that Lucy Allan was quitting her role of producer on Hollyoaks to be replaced by Paul Marquess. It’s not the first time the incoming producer has worked on a Channel Four having previously produced Brookside but it’s his tenure at The Bill he’ll be back remembered for as he blew up the Sun Hill police station, killed off countless characters, introduced many an ex-soap star and sexed up the police drama in an attempt to boost ratings. We take a look at Paul Marquess’ career from Brookside to Family Affairs, Footballers Wives to The Bill.
Last week it was announced that Lucy Allan was quitting her role of producer on Hollyoaks to be replaced by Paul Marquess. Allan had taken over from Bryan Kirkwood in January 2008 having previous produced the first season of Hollyoaks Later. Kirkwood was indeed a hard act to follow after such a successful run of good storylines, strong ratings, a string of awards and critical acclaim so any new producer was always going to have a tough time living up to Kirkwood’s legacy. One year on and after some of the soaps worst ratings in years and some poorly received storylines Lucy Allan has decided to step down. Replacing her is Paul Marquess; the man who blew up Sun Hill police station and killed off countless characters in The Bill.
As we stated in our introduction it won’t be the first time that Paul Marquess has produced a soap for Channel Four having previously worked on Brookside for several years. As you probably all know Hollyoaks and Brookside were both created by Phil Redmond and over the years the two soaps – while Brookside was on-air – featured a few crossover elements. Paul Marquess was producer on Brookside between 1999 and 2001 during its declining years. The Liverpool soap had seen better days and its heyday was long behind it. A series of sensationalist storylines over the years had seen viewers turn off the soap in favour of “lighter soaps” that didn’t tackle such taboo subjects as incest. An over-reliance on these plots and stunts – such as huge explosions and car accidents – had also taken their toll on audience levels.
The ratings for the soap were falling and within a few years it was cancelled but Paul Marquess tenure at the soap represent its final watchable days before the rot really set in. It was by no means back to the golden days of Brookside in the 1980s but it was better than what came later when Phil Redmond took back control of his soap in 2002. By this time the soap had got a reputation for being depressing and the storylines that would be introduced by Marquess would not alter the public’s perception of them. One of the more memorable storylines from his time on the soap was the bullying storyline of Anthony Murray [Raymond Quinn] which resulted in the young lad accidentally murdering one of his bullies. The storyline which controversial and prompted some complaints from viewers but it did also receive good reviews from critics and also an award at the British Soap Awards. The storyline was a long-running one and dealt with the full implications of Anthony’s ordeal and the devastating effect it had on his family. One of the actors heavily involved in the storyline was Bernie Nolan who played Diane Murray – the actress would later quit the soap to follow Paul Marquess across to The Bill.
Another storyline which was well received and seen as relatively ground-breaking at the time was the murder of Suzanne Morrisey/Farnham in 2000 sparking a whodunit storyline. The storyline progressed as a series of flashbacks revealing her final hours and the confrontations she had with various enemies who were all suspects. Eventually the killer was revealed in a final flashback. The use of flashbacks – while common in American soaps – were not a typical convention of British soaps at the time but within the next few years flashback segments would feature on Hollyoaks, Night and Day and EastEnders. However, a poorly received storyline was the bizarre lesbian love triangle involving Lindsey Corkhill [Claire Sweeney], her mother Jackie [Sue Jenkins] and another female. The character of Lindsey had been transformed, over the previous years, from a down-trodden chip-shop worker into a gun-toting, bisexual gangster and then producers decided to turn Jackie Corkhill bisexual as well in one of the soaps worst love triangles ever. Needless to say those who were still watching by this point were not impressed.
In 2002 Paul Marquess was made the new producer of ITV’s police-drama The Bill. The series wasn’t performing as well as the network wanted and they particularly wanted to attract a younger audience to the series – they wanted the serial sexing up. Paul Marquess was ruthless in his goal of turning around the fortunes of the show and injecting younger blood into it. Six characters were axed from the soap almost immediately, several of them long-running characters who were popular with audiences. In a storyline about racial tension in Sun Hill riots broke out resulting in the death of one character while an explosion in the police station itself killed off a further five characters.
In their place newer characters – most of who were acted by ex-soap stars – were brought in. Roberta Taylor, Beth Cordingly, Pal Aron, Diane Parish, Todd Carty, Russell Floyd, Natalie J Robb and Jane Danson were just some of the new actors introduced to the series all of whom had regular stints in other soaps before joining The Bill. The character of PC Luke Aston [Scott Neal] was brought back for the shows first gay romance storyline in order to cover the topic before rival series Merseybeat did. Paul Marquess openly admitted he wanted to screen a gay male kiss between two officers before BBC One’s Merseybeat did and so a love triangle between Luke, Kerry [Beth Cordingly] and Craig Gilmore [Hywel Simons] was crafted. Following the conclusion of this gay love storyline two more followed with DS Debbie McAlister suddenly turning bisexual at the drop of hat and later the poorly received character of PC Lance Powel being introduced – later killed off by a “gay serial killer”.
The Bill moved away from being about cops and robbers as it shifted its focus towards the personal lives of the officers and a series of sensationalist storylines were introduced; serial killer, serial rapist, serial sniper, rape, murder, suicide and incest were on the menu under Marquess reign and more and more characters were killed off. Several were victims of murders [stabbings, shootings, drownings] while others were victims of deranged killers – such as PC Cathy Bradford [Connie Hyde] who was a fully fledged bunny-boiler who wrecked havoc during her stint at the station. Other storylines included the abduction of DS Sam Nixon [Lisa Maxwell] daughter Abigial [Georgia Moffett], the disappearance of DC Eva Sharpe’s daughter, the suicide of Superintendent Tom Chandler [Steven Hartly] and the drug addiction of Nick Klien.
In 2003 Marquess launched the shows second attempt at a spin-off series with M.I.T Murder Investigation Team in which the first episode saw yet another Sun Hill regular killed off. Samantha Spiro and Lindsey Coulson lead the cast of the first season while the second season saw Diane Parish’ character cross over and half the cast axed with just Coulson and two others returning. The spin-off was axed after it second season as ITV lost faith in the series and constantly delayed its broadcast.
It was also in 2003 that he was made head of drama at Thames Television meaning he also took on a role as Executive Producer on the company’s other soap – Family Affairs. The Channel Five soap had always struggled with ratings and over its short span – it launched in 1997 – had undergone numerous revamps designed to boost ratings by various producers. Each revamp met with little success although in its last few years the soap did enjoy wider recognition thanks to a series of high-profile storylines which boosted its ratings somewhat and also lead to several awards at the British Soap Awards. Alongside these higher profile storylines were the casting of familiar faces to audiences such as Gary Webster, Kazia Pelka and Kim Taylforth amongst others. Later on Webster and Pelka would both go on to have recurring roles in The Bill when the axe fell on Family Affairs in 2005.
Marquess’ other notable credit is as the man behind Footballers Wives – the ITV glossy/trashy drama series from Shed Productions. While Brian Park and his Shed team developed the drama for ITV it is Marquess who is credited as having come up with the concept for the series. Footballers Wives didn’t really take off until season three when the shameless antics of its characters, such as Tanya Turner [Zoe Lucker] reached a peak with the introduction of a bisexual couple Amber [Lalia Rouass] and Conrad [Ben Price], the death of Frank [John Forgeham] via too much sexless and other bonkers storylines which won it millions of fans.
In 2005 Marquess left Thames Television for a role at Endemol bringing about his end as producer on The Bill. His replacement was Jonathan Young who had produced the second season of Murder Investigation Team. Under Young the series has shifted its focus yet again with more emphasis on the typical criminal investigation story rather than the personal lives of the officers. While certain storylines do still involve a personal aspect of their lives the drama has got more of a balance now than under Marquess.
So what will he bring to Hollyoaks? Will half the cast be killed off in a huge explosion? Will Hollyoaks suddenly be populated by a load of former soap-stars? Will it suddenly feature a series of sensationalist storylines involving bisexual gun-totting gangsters, serial killers, incestuous lovers, crazy cults and psychopaths around every corner?? Well going by his past history the er signs aren’t good but then maybe this time Marquess will try something new, original and a little bit more realistic?