Paul Abbott

Paul Abbott (born 22 February 1960) is an English television screenwriter and producer. Abbott has become one of the most critically and commercially successful[1] television writers working in Britain, following his work on popular series such as Coronation Street, Cracker and Shameless, the last of which he created. He is also responsible for the creation of some of the most acclaimed[1] television dramas of the 1990s and 2000s, including Reckless and Touching Evil for ITV and Clocking Off and State of Play for the BBC. [2][3]

Paul Abbott
Publicity photo of Abbott taken in 2011
Born (1960-02-22) 22 February 1960
Burnley, Lancashire, England
OccupationScreenwriter, television producer
Notable worksTouching Evil (1997–99)
Clocking Off (2000–2003)
State of Play (2003)
Shameless (UK) (2004–2013)
Shameless (US) (2011–2021)
Hit & Miss (2012)
No Offence (2015–2018)


Born into a dysfunctional Burnley family, Paul Abbott is the seventh of eight children.[3][4] When he was nine his mother left home to pursue a relationship with another man (with a child around Abbott's own age); his father, who Abbott describes as having been "bone idle", departed two years later. His mother had supported the family from three jobs. Abbott and his siblings were in the care of their pregnant seventeen-year-old sister.[4] His father didn't claim benefits for the family, for fear of alerting social services to their abandonment.[3] Although a compulsive truant, Abbott cites his English teacher at Barden High School as an early positive influence.[4]

Age 11 he was raped by a stranger, leading to him jumping from the roof of a multi-story car park in an attempt to take his own life.[3][4] Two years later after another suicide attempt he was sectioned into an adult mental hospital for a short while, later becoming a voluntary patient.[4] On his release, he was taken into foster care and placed with a much more settled working-class family than his own, where having both adults in steady employment was a new experience for Abbott, as was their ownership of a television and a car. At the same time he began attending a local Sixth Form College and started attending meetings of the Burnley Writers' Circle after seeing their advert in the local public library.[5] Abbott enrolled at the University of Manchester in 1980 to study psychology but decided to leave to concentrate on writing when a radio play was accepted by the BBC.[6]


Abbott entered the Radio Times drama competition at the age of 22 which had the requirement to find a professional sponsor. A contact knew the address of the leading British dramatist Alan Bennett who, after seeing his script, was of the opinion that Abbott had written a perfectly acceptable piece of work which he would be happy to endorse. His work on radio plays for BBC Radio 4 attracted the attention of producers at Granada Television who hired him, at age twenty-four, to be a script editor on their long-running soap opera Coronation Street. This made 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 story editor and from 1989 as a writer. He also worked on other programmes for Granada. In 1988, he co-wrote his first televised drama script, a one-off play for the Dramarama anthology, with fellow Coronation Street writer Kay Mellor. The same year, he and Mellor co-created the children's medical drama Children's Ward, which ran for many years—Abbott regularly contributed scripts until 1992, then returned briefly to the show in 1996.

In 1994, he worked as the producer on the second season of Granada's drama series Cracker, about the work of a criminal psychologist played by Robbie Coltrane. The following year he switched to writing scripts for the programme and wrote several 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 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, he began in 1999 a 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 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 factory staff each episode. The first season won the BAFTA award for Best Drama Series, and the equivalent at the Royal Television Society awards; Abbott personally was recognised with the RTS Best Writer award. Clocking Off 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. In 2000, he was due to adapt the D. H. Lawrence novel Sons and Lovers as a four-part television serial but pulled out due to work commitments.

2002 saw Abbott experimenting with a new genre when he wrote the political thriller State of Play, which was directed by David Yates and produced for the BBC by Hilary Bevan-Jones. In late 2003, Abbott and Bevan-Jones founded their own independent production company, Tightrope Pictures, based in Soho, London.

In early 2004, Channel 4 screened Shameless, a new Abbott series very loosely based on his experiences and family life growing up in Burnley,[7] although the action of the programme itself was changed to Manchester in the present day. At the 2006 British Academy 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.

Tightrope Pictures have produced several high-profile dramas for the BBC, including Richard Curtis's The Girl in the Café (also directed by David Yates for BBC One, 2005) and an adaptation of William Golding's novel To the Ends of the Earth (BBC Two, 2005). In 2009, Abbott acted as executive producer on the film version of State of Play for Universal Pictures.

The first series of No Offence aired on Channel 4 beginning in May 2015. In 2021, Sky Max would broadcast Abbott's newest crime series, Wolfe.


In July 2006, it was announced that the University of Salford had appointed Abbott as a visiting professor, and in the same month Manchester Metropolitan University awarded him with an honorary doctorate. Abbott's November 2006 lecture at Salford entitled "The 21st Century Box" explored how media is changing and provided 'first aid for British television makers'. Attendees included the Mayor and Mayoress of Salford. In 2013 Dr Beth Johnson (University of Leeds) published the first book-length academic study of Abbott's work (with Manchester University Press). In 2015 Abbott was awarded an honorary doctorate from Keele University.

Writing credits

Production Notes Broadcaster
  • "Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night" (1988)
Children's Ward
  • 32 episodes (1989–1992)
Coronation Street
  • 7 episodes (story associate, 1987–1989), 8 episodes (1991–1993)
  • "Born Losers" (1995)
  • "Best Boys: Part 1" (1995)
  • "Best Boys: Part 2" (1995)
  • "True Romance: Part 1" (1995)
  • "True Romance: Part 2" (1995)
  • "White Ghost" (1996)
  • Co-creator (1996-1997)
Channel 4/Sky One
  • 6 episodes (1997)
Touching Evil
  • 16 episodes (1997–1999)
Police 2020
  • Unaired pilot (1997)
Reckless: The Sequel
  • Television film (1998)
Butterfly Collectors
  • Miniseries (1999)
Cracker: Mind Over Murder
  • "First Love: Part 1" (1999)
  • "First Love: Part 2" (1999)
  • "Best Boys" (1999)
Love in the 21st Century
  • "Reproduction" (1999)
Channel 4
The Secret World of Michael Fry
  • 2 episodes (2000)
Channel 4
Best of Both Worlds
  • 3 episodes (2001)
Clocking Off
  • 13 episodes (2000–2002)
Linda Green
  • 7 episodes (2001–2002)
Tomorrow La Scala!
  • Feature film (co-written with Francesca Joseph, 2002)
State of Play
  • 6 episodes (2003)
  • Television film (2003)
  • 11 episodes (2004–2013)
Channel 4
Mrs In-Betweeny
  • Television film (2008)
BBC Three
  • 3 episodes (2011)
Hit & Miss
  • 6 episodes (2012)
Sky Atlantic
  • Feature film (co-written with Jimmy Dowdall, 2012)
No Offence
  • 8 episodes (2015–2018)
Channel 4
  • Pilot, also producer of series (2021–)
Sky Max

Awards and nominations

Year Award Work Category Result Reference
1993 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award Coronation Street TV – Original Drama Series (with Martin Allen, Ken Blakeson, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Tom Elliott, Barry Hill, Stephen Mallatratt, Julian Roach, Adele Rose, Patrea Smallacombe, John Stevenson, Peter Whalley, Mark Wadlow and Phil Woods) Won
1995 British Academy Television Awards Cracker Best Drama Series Won
1996 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award TV – Original Drama Series (with Jimmy McGovern) Won
1998 Edgar Allan Poe Awards Cracker: "White Ghost" Best Television Feature or Miniseries Nominated
1998 British Academy Television Awards Touching Evil Best Drama Series (with Jane Featherstone) Nominated
1998 Royal Television Society Awards Best Writer Nominated
1998 Royal Television Society Awards Reckless Best Writer Nominated
2001 Royal Television Society Awards Clocking Off Best Writer Won
2001 British Academy Television Awards Best Drama Series (with Nicola Shindler and Ann Harrison-Baxter) Won
2002 TRIC Awards Linda Green Comedy (with Beryl Richards and Matthew Bird) Won
2002 British Academy Television Awards Clocking Off Best Drama Series (with Nicola Shindler and Juliet Charlesworth) Nominated
2003 British Academy Television Awards Best Drama Series (with Nicola Shindler and Juliet Charlesworth) Nominated
2003 British Academy Television Awards State of Play Best Drama Series (with David Yates and Hilary Bevan Jones) Nominated
2004 British Academy Television Awards Shameless Dennis Potter Award Won
2004 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Writer's Award Won
2004 Prix Italia TV Drama - Series and Serials (with Mark Mylod, Dearbhla Walsh and Jonny Campbell) Nominated
2004 Golden Nymph State of Play Mini-Series - Best Script Won
2005 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Writer's Award Won
2005 Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Television Feature or Mini-Series Teleplay Won
2005 Primetime Emmy Awards The Girl in the Café Outstanding Made for Television Movie (with Richard Curtis and Hilary Bevan Jones) Won
2005 British Comedy Awards Shameless Best TV Comedy Drama Won
2005 Royal Television Society Awards Best Writer Won
2006 Royal Television Society Awards Best Writer Nominated
2006 Banff Rockie Award Best Continuing Series Nominated
2007 Royal Television Society Awards Instinct Best Drama Series (with Terry McDonough, Paul Frift and Hilary Bevan Jones) Won
2008 TRIC Awards Shameless TV Drama Programme Nominated
2009 British Academy Television Awards Best Drama Series (with George Faber, John Griffin and Johann Knobel) Nominated
2009 TV Quick Awards Best Drama Series Nominated
2010 TV Quick Awards Best Drama Series Nominated
2010 TRIC Awards TV Drama Programme Nominated
2011 TV Quick Awards Best Drama Series Nominated
2011 National Television Awards Most Popular Drama Nominated
2012 British Academy Television Awards Best Soap & Continuing Drama (with George Faber, David Threlfall and Lawrence Till) Nominated
2014 OFTA Television Awards Best Writing in a Comedy Series (with John Wells, Nancy Pimental, Etan Frankel, Sheila Callaghan, Davey Holmes and Krista Vernoff) Nominated
2016 RTS Programme Awards No Offence Best Drama Series (with Martin Carr, Catherine Morshead and Anna Ferguson) Won
BAFTA Television Awards Best Drama Series (with Martin Carr, Catherine Morshead and Anna Ferguson) Nominated


  • Jeffries, Stuart (7 February 2005). "Why I Write". The Guardian.
  • O'Carroll, Lisa (16 May 2003). "Abbott turns his 'sub-working class' life into drama". The Guardian.
  • Wylie, Ian (24 April 2007). "Abbott blasts today's TV". Manchester Evening News.
  1. Abbott, Paul (15 May 2005). "The South Bank Show – Paul Abbott". The South Bank Show (Interview). Interviewed by Melvyn Bragg. ITV.
  2. British Film Institute screenonline database. Accessed 22 October 2007.
  3. Decca Aitkenhead, "Estate of Play", The Guardian, 12 July 2008. Accessed 14 July 2008.
  4. Stars and Stories. "Paul Abbott profile for State of Play". Telegraph. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  5. "Paul Abbott biography". screenonline. 13 June 1988. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  6. BFI Screenonline: Abbott, Paul (1960–) Biography
  7. Ian Wylie (29 November 2010). "Shameless creator Paul Abbott talks about his new Channel 4 series". Guardian. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
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