Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Paul Abbott (born February 22, 1960 in Burnley, Lancashire, UK) is a British television scriptwriter, who has worked on many critically acclaimed and highly popular series and is widely regarded as being one of the finest dramatists currently working in the medium.
The ninth of ten children, his mother left home when he was nine and his father departed two years later, leaving Abbott and his siblings in the care of their seventeen year-old sister. Aged eleven he was attacked and raped on the way home from school, and four years later failed in an attempt to kill himself. After this event he was sectioned and spent a short while in an asylum – on his release he was taken into foster care and began attending a local Sixth Form College, also attending meetings of the Burnley Writers’ Circle after seeing an advert for them in the local public library.
He went on to study at the University of Manchester and earned a degree in psychology, and shortly thereafter began finding professional writing work with radio plays for BBC Radio 4. These attracted the attention of producers at Granada Television, who hired him at the age of just twenty-four, to be a script editor on their long-running and hugely popular soap opera Coronation Street, making him at the time the youngest ever person to occupy such a role on the programme.
He worked on Coronation Street for the next eight years as a Script Editor and from 1989 as a writer, contributing to several high profile and hard-hitting storylines. He also worked on other programmes for Granada, in 1988 co-writing his first televised drama script with fellow Coronation Street writer Kay Mellor, a one-off play for the Dramarama anthology. The same year, he and Mellor co-created the children’s medical drama Children's Ward, which was to run for many years, with Abbott regularly contributing scripts until 1992, returning briefly to the show in 1995.
In 1994 he worked as the producer on the second season of Granada’s acclaimed drama series Cracker, about the work of a criminal psychologist played by Robbie Coltrane. The following year he switched over to writing scripts for the programme, penning several well-received episodes. He made his first breakthrough with a programme of his own creation, the police drama serial Touching Evil, in 1997. The series, starring popular actor Robson Green, was a huge success and two sequel serials (although not written by Abbott) followed. Most recently, in 2004 the series was re-made for American television by the USA Network.
After writing another serial starring Green, Reckless, and a few other productions for Granada, in 1999 he began a fruitful collaboration with the independent Red Production Company. He contributed an episode to their anthology series Love in the 21st Century, screened on Channel 4, and in 2000 created and wrote the popular and highly-acclaimed series Clocking Off for them, which was screened on BBC ONE. Set in one factory in Lancashire, the series focused on a different member of staff each episode. The first season won both the BAFTA and Royal Television Society awards for Best Drama Series, and saw Abbott personally recognised with the RTS Best Writer award. Clocking Off eventually ran for four seasons, although Abbott’s contributions to the final two runs were minimal, as he was by this time busy working on other projects.
In 2001 he created another Red series screened on BBC ONE, the comedy-drama Linda Green, although this was somewhat less successful and ran for only two seasons before cancellation. Also in 2001, he adapted the D.H. Lawrence novel Sons and Lovers as a four-part television serial.
2003 saw Abbott experimenting with a new genre when he wrote the political thriller State of Play for the BBC – the six-part serial was another critical and popular hit, and confirmed Abbott’s status as one of the country's most varied and successful dramatists.
In early 2004, Channel 4 screened Shameless, a new Abbott series based on his experiences and family life growing up in Burnley, although the action of the programme itself was changed to Manchester in the present day. Once again, the programme was a critical and popular hit, and Abbott found himself very much in demand as a scriptwriter. At the 2004 BAFTA Television Awards he was given the honorary Dennis Potter Award for Outstanding Writing in Television, and in July of the same year Radio Times magazine placed him at No. 5 in a poll of industry professionals to find The Most Powerful People in Television Drama. Abbott was the highest-placed writer on the list, those above him being actors and executives. He is currently working on second seasons of both State of Play and Shameless, the latter of which has actually been commissioned up to a third season already due to the success of the first.
Abbott has been married three times, his first marriage ending in divorce by the time he was twenty.
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