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My inspiration to write Single Father

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Mick Ford Mick Ford | 11:34 UK time, Friday, 8 October 2010

I'm excited about Single Father going out on TV but also a bit nervous and a bit protective. I haven't felt like this with other things I've written. Maybe it's because I've spent five years on it but also because I never tire of watching David Tennant, Suranne Jones and all the actors zinging the characters into life.

Then there are the children, who could make or break it, because if the family's not believable the game's up.

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There were worries. I mean, how would they react to having Doctor Who as their Dad? Would they ever get over it? Would they forever be looking at David in wonder and awe? See what you think.

The story started to form nearly six years ago. I knew I wanted to write something around bringing up children but wasn't sure how to do it until I got some unintentional help from home.

We have three boys - at that time they were the same age as the children in Single Father. Like those kids they weren't allowed Xboxes, iPods, mobile phones, clothes with logos, virtually any television.

This ethos, which I agree with, was imposed by their mum, who one day looked at me and said "If anything happened to me, you wouldn't keep this going, would you? You'd give them everything they want!"

And there it was: Single Father, thank you very much. Except I almost didn't write it out of superstition, because to make a single father, I had to lose the mum and I didn't want to tempt fate.

David Tennant as Dave in Single Father, with children.

And maybe I wouldn't have written it if I hadn't had another nudge. I was down in Deal, in Kent, writing something else and overheard a story about a bandsman who was killed there in the bombing of the Royal Marines' barracks in 1989.

This bandsman's wife was working at the time in the café at the end of the pier. Because the wind was blowing off the sea, no-one there heard the blast, but at the exact moment her husband died, for no apparent reason, she blurted out "I love you too!".

And then felt an intense sense of warmth and wellbeing.

I couldn't resist that. It was a love story and that "I love you too!" contains everything.

There are no bandsmen or bombings in Single Father but that line's there and it echoes across the four parts.

I really hope you get involved with the characters over the coming weeks and enjoy the story.

Mick Ford is the writer of Single Father.

Single Father is on BBC One and BBC HD at 9pm on Sunday, 10 October.

To find out times of all future episodes, please visit the upcoming episodes page.


  • Comment number 1.

    I applaud Mike Ford and the BBC for tackiling this sensative issue, As a devoted, experienced, caring and holistic IFA for over twenty two years I have had to meet with my clients who have faced what this family go through. The unknown, never experienced feelings and incredible sea of changes of emotions happen so quickly with a feeling of loss of control, trying to maintain the "normal" family, true to life but tripped up at every hurdle.
    The greatest stress to add to this is the lack of money. Money will not bring someone back but it buys time to deal with these situations. Initially, there is grief and shock then surprisingly a common emotion is anger as to who someone they love could have left them in this situation. My point is that I hope the programme talks about the life insurance that pays on Rita's death as this is the saving grace and people need to be aware of this.

    I know it is not fashionable but it is essential to help restore life. I am passionate about people being able to continue life when all initually is lost.

  • Comment number 2.

    The first episode was brilliant. The whole family was believable and the children could not have been better selected for their roles.
    David Tennant's reaction to hearing of Rita's death was so real, it was heart breaking. Superb writing, I'm really looking forward to seeing this develop. Congratulations Mick!

  • Comment number 3.

    So heartfelt for everyone involved. Cannot imagine how one would cope if either mother or father was fatally injured. But why involve the best friend, who should just be trying to help with the worst situation she can imagine, and turn it into what could only be perceived as being a traitor to her friend, and her loyal husband, and eventually I assume to the berieved father? Is that not just the lowest of the low from everyone's perspective? I can imagine how vulnerable everyone feels, but is it worth introducing this aspect?

  • Comment number 4.

    After reading the article in the sunday magazine today with the daily mail... i was quiet looking forward to seeing this programme.

    But after watching i feel it was wrong in so many ways .... was it written taking in real life feelings and aspects from families who have ACTUALLY lost people-mothers, fathers, wifes, husbands. OR was it written by someone who wants to write a drama that 'he' thinks will make people cry and feel sorry for them!??

    it was wrong on so many levels...

    the flowers stopped the food parcels stopped... yet there was no emotion over this

    in no way would an aunt stay for 10 weeks, to cook and clean most family members leave within a week

    it is a fact that 6-8 weeks is the hardest time when it all hits in....so why was this missed?

    there was no day to day factors of sorting washing or where to buy things from? that the father would not have a clue about or even care

    there was no pressure on the dad to be both a dad 'and' mother....this would be his biggest heart ache and worry??

    there way the police would just leave him on a major road after them killing his wife they would take him home.

    yes i could go on and on but there is just to much to cover.....
    and i case you hadn't noticed yes i lost my mother and i am appalled at this programme every emotion was wrong and you have given every family out there who is currently grieving over a loved one a bad/fake/ and wrong image!

  • Comment number 5.

    single father was the best show ive watched in a long time really enjoyed it cant wait for next week well done everyone in it

  • Comment number 6.

    Mike just a short note to offer my congratulations. The drama and emmotions portrayed are excellent. Well done to all.

  • Comment number 7.

    Single Father was so far from the truth.
    The beginning could have been so much more powerful and taken the audience straight to the point rather than that arty use of going in back in time [for all of a day].
    There were very odd looks going on between the wife and her best friend when in the classroom situation, why what was all that about.
    Why no visits from the police compassion services, they killed her, but totally ignored. One tiny incident with Tennant on the bike, drawn out speeding back projection and being totally incorrectly handled by the police. No compassion, No reassurance, No support, No contact back to control and then being told who he was, they would NOT have left him sat there.
    A father would not have left the only love he had left in his life and risked his life on a bike, but if this was the point of the scene it was completely lost and wasted.
    The first weeks up to about 2 months are the worst and the most intense, messages on the answer phone, endless post and awkward letters to dela with, he would have gone into each of the schools [I'm a teacher and a dad and a widower of 4 months].
    Meeting people who don't know, people avoiding you because they don't know what to say, endless flowers and meals and then NOTHING and you are on your own.
    Why was the funeral ignored, could have been so powerful and allowed for many of the characters to be introduced visually if not contextually at that time. Why wasn't Lucy's father seen in the background of the graveyard.
    What happened to the police enquiry? Why the police anyway.
    The Will, is there one?
    Her income and sudden loss of joint family income. She would not necessarily of had Life Assurance, my wife couldn't get it.
    Family organising the funeral could have been emotional, sensitive and brought out all sorts.
    Tennant dealing with washing, cooking, shopping, did he have time off work?
    Who went through her clothes, her things around the house.
    Tennant could have needed something urgently, a passport, a birth certificate for Lucy, he may not know where these are - pure frustration and calling out and asking her for help in telling him where she had put them.
    Her parents played totally wasted rolls, cam and went in one scene, what was that about. Why make him a photographer and have images of the babies in the eggs which just made the viewer remember the classic images of babies in peapods etc, so what was the point.
    10 weeks, what time of year was this, holidays, halfterms ????????
    Any school would have reacted compassionately and spoken to parent in person or on the phone within the first/second week ....... 10 weeks and a visit from the EWO/social services ... that is not even correct either.
    Such a shame, major actor, lots of marketting, lots of build up, for what, most widows, widowers would have had to emotionally wound themselves up to watch this, expecting to be emotionally taken on a heart-wrenching journey back in time, touching on some raw times and things that they share with those watching with them.
    How sad .............. money very poorly spent by the BBC.

  • Comment number 8.

    I was touched to my core after watching the first episode. All the actors and actresses (inc the children) play their parts perfectly and I just want to thank all the writers and staff for such an excellent drama. I wish there were more programmes like this...

  • Comment number 9.

    This drama was so far from reality , it 's is almost a sick joke . Having lost my wonderful husband and father of my children 18 months ago , it was so obvious to me that the author had absolutely no clue what a widow/widower goes through, and how bereaved children react after the death of a parent (And I sincerely hope it a very long time before he does ). I found the whole thing very distasteful , and will not be watching any more

  • Comment number 10.

    The build up to the series encouraged me to watch, but I was sadly disappointed.
    I don't wish to be cruel, but David Tennant should stick to what he is good at. I didn't feel he handled this role very well.
    As for the play itself, I felt it was just a build up to the predictable affair with the friend of the wife, which I felt wasn't very subtly introduced.
    It started off unconvincing with respect to grief. I have known extreme trauma and grief when my partner was killed in a road accident, and I didn't recognise what I felt in the play. For one, would a loving father, go off on a motorbike, and leave his children alone, the night they lost their mother?
    Would a representative from the school come and treat a widower with such lack of sympathy? Why didn't the father comfort his step daughter when she said she didn't feel wanted? He just left her to go to her room, and he didn't make any attempt to reassure her.
    Would the police have been so callous about the enormity of the accident, and just leave him on the side of the road alone?
    Sorry, but I found episode one disappointing, as did my son and his wife, who watched it with me.
    It was all too predictable for me, and I'm sorry to say, not very well done.

  • Comment number 11.

    As a follow on to my previous post, I forgot to say, I think the child actors were very good. The youngest three were very believable.

  • Comment number 12.

    It seems to me that the viewing world is divided into two types of people - those who have the experience of being widowed and those who do not. If "Single Dad" were to be rated on the emotional roller-coaster aspect alone then it would score top marks. As someone who was widowed 7 years ago I can say that the feelings provoked in watching this first episode took me straight back to those first harrowing weeks of being a widow. As soon as the in-laws walked through the door and started taking control I knew that the writer must have researched his subject. That awful feeling of aloneness and everyone's need to possess a part of the deceased, and the terrible grieving stakes (my grief is greater than yours) especially on the part of the sister-in-law were spot on. The move between being so caught up in grief that you are unable to react to the needs of your children, and then that great yawning chasm of feeling that you cannot possibly cope, was beautifully portrayed by David Tennant. Yes, there were parts of the programme that I'm afraid gave way to artistic licence - but then this is meant to be a drama series. I appreciate that everyone grieves differently and that not everything about this programme will possibly ring true, but the rawness and intensity of the emotions were what won through for me last night.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think I made a mistake in the run up to the programme, thinking it was going to be about how the father and the family dealt with the aftermath of the wife's death and their grief. Having read Mick Ford's comment above, I now think his focus was about how a man copes with bringing up four children, and that the death was just a convenient plot device to get to that point. The problem Mick overlooked is that the death changes the story for a long, long time. If the wife had died years ago, when the littlest girl was a baby, say, then we could focus on how he copes alone and deals with the issues presented by having lots of children of different ages. But at 10 weeks everybody is still devastated and you can see it. Things are not moving on in the way he seems to be saying. And they're not pulling their spouse's best friend, because they're crippled with yearning for their partner and still believing that first ever miracle might happen. David would be looking for Rita arriving home on her bike every day. I'm still looking out for my partner coming home from work 6 months after his death.I was disappointed by this programme, and I think it's because the story was muddled. A well researched drama showing the crushing intensity of grief and a family's struggle to cope with their loss would be wonderful. A drama which skips over the details of grief in order to move onto a story about a dad and his kids is a mistake and misrepresents the awful, unbearable everyday pain that people are living through all around us.

  • Comment number 14.

    oh wow. what a moving and touching show. Mick Ford what a writer. loved every moment that I could see though the tears that kept welling up and then spilling over. I have never had to go through such a loss, but what a story and the acting from everyone spot on. Let the awards roll in.

  • Comment number 15.

    Single Father wasnt what I expected.I expected to see my life played out out on the tv screen with only the roles reversed,it wasnt.The first episode did not do justice to how it really is to be left behind with children to support.

  • Comment number 16.

    I’m from the charity Winston’s Wish, the leading childhood bereavement charity and we support children and their families who are bereaved of a parent or sibling. I watched “Single Father” with interest as sadly we hear about families who have lost a close family member every day. The death of a parent or sibling is one of the most fundamental losses a child will ever face; we know from experience that the right support offered at the right time can have a life-changing impact on bereaved children and young people. If you’ve suffered a loss like Dave and his family have in “Single Father” then please visit our website www.winstonswish.org.ouk or give our national Helpline a call on 08452 03 04 05 (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm).

  • Comment number 17.

    !I love you too! We all deal with grief differently - some lock it all up, some dive into work, some put on a smile too early to let the world know "I´m OK" but hiding their tears behind it and then there are others that cry for days and close themself out from the rest of the world. Dave´s way is in order to be strong for his kids - he tries his best and he starts digging into finding the biological father of devistated Lucy to show her he cares. So give this show a break - I care about the characters only after 2 episodes and am definatley going to watch them every week. Well played, catching and has this special british touch I love and is always missing in US series.

  • Comment number 18.

    Reading the comments has been interesting and it seems that a few people are finding this drama hard to relate to because they are looking for parallels with their own experiences. There have been points where I almost wanted to shout at the screen,for example, 'Comfort her, suggest adopting her,you fool!', but had he done so it would have been less real,as have we not all kicked ourselves afterwards for not reacting in the 'ideal' way at some point in our lives,not least when the emotions are in turmoil? The relationship between Dave and Sarah at this early stage of the grieving process seems to have upset some viewers, yet I find it believable because people do react to the deepest grief in very strange ways. After the loss of someone you love there can be a strong desire to try to replace that feeling of being close to another person without allowing too much thought or analysis to dissuade you. The 2nd episode also hints that these two have possibly been attracted to each other in the past (holiday snap on computer).
    I am throughly enjoying it. I am envious of such a well written script,think it is nicely directed and have been delighted by the performances of the cast. I look forward to the next two episodes. Another great drama from the BBC. Thank you.

  • Comment number 19.

    A TV drama cannot reflect the myriad of hideous experiences which accompany the sudden death of one's spouse, and I did find the occasional moment which rang true, such as when the about-to-be bereaved father is interrupted in his work by a kind of instantaneous premonition of his wife's accident. I recognise this strangeness from the death of my own husband when I was also interrupted at work by a deep sense of impending disaster. It also recalled for me having to go to my daughter's school to break the news to her. There is, however, an unfulfilled need for a good portrayal of the ongoing devastation which is utterly different from divorce (the experience to which those around the bereaved attempt to compare it), but which remains unsatisfied by this drama. At nearly three and a half years, I am at the stage reached by the protagonist at 10 weeks. One of the very painful experiences of the widowed with young children is the utterly unrealistic expectations of society for when one has finished grieving. This programme has reinforced such expectations and in the current economic climate, with the bereaved highly vulnerable to being targetted for redundancy or being lumped together with benefit idlers then this is not merely neglectful but dangerous. P.S. I do not believe in the existence of benefit idlers

  • Comment number 20.

    I am enjoying watching this program.
    The story may not be true to other people life, when a loved one is lost.People deal with situations in different ways.
    I think it is a good program. With good actors, and I look forward to watching it. Its a shame it clashes with Downton on ITV. But for some reason you both have to put good programs on at the same time. It's like waiting for a bus nothing for ages, then they all come at once.

  • Comment number 21.

    I have to say, after having read some of the negative comments on here, particularly from incy, widower and jackie, I feel compelled to share my views.

    It is important to remember that not everybody deals with grief in the same ways - a person's reaction to death can vary shockingly. I am a 19-year-old female who lost her father at 2, her nana at 11 and her mother at 13. I feel no emotion about my father for I never knew him. My grandmother and my mother: after both of their funerals, I came home and went and played outside with friends.

    You cannot say that children should react a certain way, because there is no common way - I believe that the children in 'Single Father' acted superbly, and their performances were entirely believable. As for David Tennant, his role was also played excellently. Like children, there is no set way for adults to behave when they learn of something such as this: his reaction on learning of Rita's death was actually very powerful, moving and also very believable.

    The fact that things such as Rita's will and income were left out of the drama is obvious, for those asking: this is television and in television there are schedules to be kept to. There are a million and one things, some small, some major, that affect a family after the death of a loved one, and it's quite obvious that not all of these aspects can be portrayed in four one-hour episodes.

    I for one am loving the show, and not only am I enjoying it, I am able to relate to it. I think people should be a little more open-minded and remember that not everyone's experiences of bereavement are the same.

  • Comment number 22.

    This is a heartfelt drama. I find it is complsive viewing and it highlights the way everybody deals with bereavement in different ways. So many twists makes this compulsive viewing. It is so well written and acted.

  • Comment number 23.

    Single Father is probably the best program I've seen. Towards the end of the last episode I came close to pulling my hair out!

  • Comment number 24.

    I think this drama is one of the best I have followed on the BBC for some time. The actors were believable and genuine. I don't think any real life experience of the death of a mother or partner could ever be totally accurately portrayed in a TV programme but this gives a sense of all the issues that might come up.
    In response to some of the comments that Dave wouldn't have begun a relationship so soon after his partner's death I think people are forgetting he was angry at finding out he had essentially been betrayed for many years.
    People deal with death in so many different ways and this programme had it all - sadness, anger, worry, frustration, helplessness.
    Well done to all the actors, in particular the children who all played their parts so well. One that I could easily go back to the start and watch again - or continue with more episodes to see how it all works out!

  • Comment number 25.

    Congrats Mike Ford, 'Single Father' was superb! As an up and coming writer I can only praise this series from the writing to the directing to the acting, all first class. I notice previous comments had not let the show run its length and I don't understand why people comment untill the show has finished its run, (unless they say there enjoying it!)
    It was very beleivable and a subject that was hard to tackle. Please keep up the great work, writers like you are few and far between and keep writers like me going, something to aim at. Your at the top of your profession and there on merit, well done again.

  • Comment number 26.

    Brilliant. Thank you Mike Ford. Me and my sister were brought up by my dad, for me from the age of 6. It was always a bit chaotic but a lot of love!

    Always preferred it when my dad had a girlfriend!! Much happier when he was happy. Besides it was more fun to have a sub mum to let me stay at her house and have tea cooked for me etc! So wanted Sarah to stay around!

    Lovely superb acting from all. Thank you. And I ended up being an actor - not sure what that says! Lovely positive end to a great drama.

  • Comment number 27.

    Congratulations Mick Ford this was fabulous - TV drama at its very best and well done BBC Scotland for screening such a wonderful series. More like this please. I am not a follower of Dr Who and have never been a David Tennant fan until now - I just wanted to stretch out and cuddle him (in a motherly sort of way !!) - I could feel his anguish every night. The children were fantastic - in fact the entire cast were excellent. Well done to you all and I am sure there is more there for a further series !!

  • Comment number 28.

    Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment - I've waited till the story played itself out before responding but it's been really thought provoking reading the wide range of reactions. When people love your show it's easy and very nice for a writer. When passionate feelings are stirred up against what you've written, that's a different experience - although I've been lucky, the show's had very articulate defenders like SaraHenze and RGardiner - and there's no need for me to add to their comments - but to Widower, Jackie, Hazel 3336, Ruth, Sophielight and others who were offended by the show (I mean, maybe they stopped watching and have long gone) but if you're still around: I too would like to see a drama that deals with grief in detail - Single Father, though, was never ever going to be that story. Thanks again to everyone.

  • Comment number 29.

    I was glued to "Single Father" and thoroughly enjoying it, right up to the end of Episode 4. The acting was fantastic and I engaged with the characters although Anna was too over the top (someone would have killed her years ago). I really disliked Rita though, on the basis of one comment to Sarah that if she wanted a child she should just go ahead and have one without consulting her partner. Dave's subsequent doubts about her fidelity were entirely believable.

    And hey presto, it cropped up at the end when it was revealed that Sarah had committed just that heinous betrayal of Dave. My disgust suddenly turned what would have been a happy ending into dislike of Sarah and disbelief that it could ever work. I was looking forward to buying the dvd and rewatching, but not now. What a disappointment.

  • Comment number 30.

    Brilliant series. So pleased when I read the credits written by Mick ford was hoping it was your good self. congratulations. Archer 4721.

    thank you.

  • Comment number 31.

    Congratulations Mick - if I had read this as a stand alone book I would have been very moved and thinking about what I had just read for a while. It is rare for a television drama to do the same but Single Father has done exactly that. A thought provoking and moving written piece conveyed by the truely believable David Tennant and Suranne Jones.It pulled me in and I "didn't want to put it down". I hope that there are more dramas to come in the future. DEDEE

  • Comment number 32.

    I've just watched the final episode on iPlayer and I loved it! It was a wonderful script, wonderful direction and wonderful acting. Who was the director? (Directors are important and I can't find out without scrolling through the credits!) It wasn't sentimental, it wasn't mawkish. David Tennant was brilliant: his face says so many things, all so nuanced. And I know the ending was kind of Hollywood-ish but I honestly didn't know if she'd so no and walk off. The suspense was terrific! I'd love to see a sequel: or would that spoil it? (no, of course it wouldn't)

  • Comment number 33.

    Doretta, the director is Sam Miller - and I agree with you, I think he's done a brilliant job because I can't tell you how difficult it is to film family scenes with young children - they go off the boil very quickly - so to deal with that, Sam used two cameras, at least, and had them shooting from a distance so the crew never impinged on the family - it was a very clever method and quite brave. But the best thing about Sam, is that he always wants to see what the characters are going through - and he tells the story - which you might think all directors do.....

    And mark morris: 4721 indeed! That was many moons ago!

  • Comment number 34.

    Just finished watching the final episode on iplayer. A great series; loved the ending. It has been an inspiation to me as an amateur writer to rewrite one of my own screenplays. You have led by example Mike. Thank you. All the praise the series has received is richly deserved. I look forward to your next creation.

  • Comment number 35.

    I was hooked on this drama from episode one and I dare say that I'm not easily impressed. The premise was compelling and the story was both heartrending and heartening. This was a well written story.

    What took it over the top for me, though, was the acting. It is rare, in my opinion, to find acting that doesn't *feel* like acting. David Tennant delivered! I've never been interested in watching Doctor Who, but I am definitely going to check it out now!

    All of the actors were great, believable, human. You're right, the children could have broken this show, but they really helped make it. Their characters were written as the types of kids that we all have in our families, and the child-actors made us really care about them.

    I left every episode just bursting to tell someone about it and that, sir, is a credit to all involved.

  • Comment number 36.

    I'm a big fan of Mick ford acting. I really hope i get to see this soon. I'm in the US so not really sure when i will get to see it.

  • Comment number 37.

    Also loved your acting in fear on 4.

  • Comment number 38.

    I really enjoyed this series. A single father myself for over 10 years with my wife dying suddenly leaving me with 3 children, I can relate to much of the emotion. Superb acting from the cast and I was brought to tears frequently with resonant feelings of loss. Some others could not relate to David going off on his bike but I could - despite a love for my children I so sincerely just wanted to die at the time and leave all my troubles behind. It is so different for us all so we must not expect it to fit in perfectly with our own experiences. My kids would also agree that I'm a much better dad when I have a girlfriend in my life. I am sorry for all those watching and all those blogging whom have lost their loved ones. Thank you Mick Ford.

  • Comment number 39.

    I loved the show. I really sympathised for him and everyone involved. Thought it was a pitty that it ended after 4 episodes. I think the BBC makes great shows; too bad we haven't got a network like that in Holland.


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