January is a month with a flurry of new TV shows, perfect on the cold, dark nights. 

After seeing numerous adverts for the six episodes series, Screw, I had high hopes. We all enjoy a prison drama, don’t we? After the magnificent Time last year, with the ever-brilliant Stephen Graham and Sean Bean, I was looking forward to another gritty prison drama that is inspired from creator, Rob William’s own time working in prisons himself.

Featuring a serious and complex Nina Sosanya, as Long Marsh male prison’s C Wing, S.O (Supervising Officer), the episodes depict the harsh reality and traumatic experiences of the prisoners. Supported by a cast including Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Stephen Wright, Faraz Ayub and Laura Checkley, we get insight into the officers themselves; their demons and desires.

The everyday struggles, monotony and violence of life behind bars is portrayed well, with some dark humour injected, and some gasping shock mixed in. Viewers will develop an understanding for many of the characters as well as obtaining a sense of potential rehabilitation, often snatched away at the last minute by heinous acts and behaviors, that could feed into the debate of our real-life penal system.

Credit: Channel 4

There are scenes in Screw that feel emotionally choking. Where the creator and actors have allowed us to see the prisoners as people first; humans with their own past, struggles and dreams. This part of the show is brilliant. One stand out episode with Jack McMullen playing a vulnerable, grieving prisoner in the depths of desperation is emotionally charged in all the right places. There are parts of the show when we watch a real camaraderie between prisoners and witness joy in activities those not incarcerated take for granted.

Screw had some excellent strong points; engaging drama, gritty storylines, inclusive characters. Evoking empathy in viewers, with the human touch being a thread throughout. What I struggled with was the stereotypical “Corrupt prison officer,” portrayal. This has been done to death, and whilst it keeps the audience engaged, it potentially loses the reality that most prisons are staffed by hard working, underpaid people who want to help rehabilitate offenders. Screw didn’t just have one “Bent screw,” it had many who were offenders themselves, held views discriminatory against race, religion and gender and were massively unprofessional. Whilst this possibly entices the viewers, it felt over-kill at times. Screw is definitely worth a watch. Leaving us with a cliffhanger, we could see a possible second series of this gritty drama.

Screw: Available to watch each week at 9pm on Thursday until 8th Feb or watch the whole series on 4 on Demand.

Screw Unlocked: Available on Channel 4 – YouTube


Helen Aitchison

Helen is a journalist for Radio Gateshead, a local lass who has spent the last two decades working in health and social care. She has recently set up a community interest company called Write on the Tyne which amalgamates her passion for supporting and empowering marginalised groups to thrive with her love of writing. Her debut novel, The Dinner Club, was released in March 2022 with UK based Cahill Davis Publishing, and her second book The Life and Love (Attempts) of Kitty Cook will be released in March 2023.