Happy Valley Discoveries with Close Captions On

Siobhan Finneran and Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley

I watched season 1 of Happy Valley several times. I even wrote recaps of every episode. I decided to watch it all again this week with close captions on and found I had missed at least half of it. I thought my ear for a Yorkshire accent was getting pretty good, but I was wrong.

Geography Lessons

First of all, the town (it isn’t just one town) is not called Happy Valley. The many towns traveled by the characters in this film are located in Calderdale in West Yorkshire, named after the Calder River. Several of these towns are nestled in the valley formed by the Calder River, and are surrounded by windswept moors.

A map of the region around Sowerby Bridge

In the Calder Valley, we find the towns of  Sowerby Bridge, Ripponden, Heptonstall, and Elland. Halifax is nearby. All of those towns figured into Sergeant Catherine Cawood’s (Sarah Lancashire) police duties in what the show ironically calls happy valley. They are also all mentioned and frequently traveled in Last Tango in Halifax.

Sowerby Bridge

The mossy, ancient bricks of an older England are the main feature in Sowerby Bridge, where much of the action in Happy Valley takes place.

Useful Curses and Slang

Catherine Cawood frequently refers to criminals and baddies she’s fighting against as scrotes. I didn’t even hear this word when I listened to the dialog with close captions off. Oh, my, do I love this new word! Here’s how the Urban Dictionary defines it.

Literally short for scrotum. When a person, usually a male, is so useless and insignificant that they do not deserve the tiny effort it takes to spit out a second offensive syllable; less than a scrotum.

I also learned the word skunk, which is a type of cannabis.

Character Names

Amer Nazir in Happy Valley
Amer Nazir in Happy Valley

Many characters whose names I couldn’t quite grasp became clear when spelled out in close captions. For example, the police officer Shafiq. He was played by Shane Zaza. I wanted to mention him a couple of times in my recaps but I could never quite get his name. And there was a copper called Twiggy, played by Amer Nazir I couldn’t figure out. In fact, I had that problem with all the police officers except for the female officer played by Sophie Rundle.

The Graveyard

Sylvia Plath is buried in St.Thomas’ Churchyard, Heptonstall. That’s the same graveyard where Catherine goes to visit her daughter’s grave. I finally noticed it when young Ryan (Rhys Connah) made a passing reference to a grave with a lot of pens. I didn’t pick up on the Sylvia Plath connection from hearing him say the lines,  but when I saw the word pens I looked at the name on the gravestone.

The Writing

Seeing the dialog helped me fully understand it. Understanding every word of it made me appreciate even more the brilliance of Sally Wainwright as a writer. Some of the lines, especially ones given to Catherine, were pure genius.

The Moral

I normally want to made screen grabs as I watch Happy Valley. I use them when I write the recaps. However, a screen grab with a lot of words on it just looks silly. Also, if the close captions are there, I’m reading, I’m not watching the actors. So much of what actors do is subtle – a look in the eye, a twitch, a breath. I don’t want to miss that. Therefore, I’ve been watching with close captions off.

It hasn’t worked perfectly.

The moral for me is to turn them on, at least the first time through. I generally have to watch something two or three times to write a recap. So I don’t need to leave the close captions on every time, but at least one time.

When Happy Valley returns in 2016, I hope I do a better job with the recaps.

Oh, dear, does this mean I need to watch all 3 seasons of Last Tango in Halifax again, too? I give myself such hard assignments as the keeper of this waystation.

2 thoughts on “Happy Valley Discoveries with Close Captions On”

  1. I so agree with you. I’ve even watched other programs over again with close caps and found it to be a delightful experience.Ugh, I also got hearing aids this year…not so delightful!

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