15 Reasons To Watch The Fifteen Streets

Why this epic drama about a turbulent family might well be the ultimate Cookson saga…

Fifteen Street

1. IT'S THE FIRST OF THE COOKSONS

Even if it wasn't a riveting watch (which it is), The Fifteen Streets would be remembered today as a landmark of British TV drama. That's because it was the very first of the great Catherine Cookson adaptations. All the other ones, from The Rag Nymph to The Girl to The Gambling Man, wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the success of The Fifteen Streets.

2. IT'S ALSO THE QUINTESSENTIAL COOKSON

Everything that comes to mind when you imagine a Cookson TV drama was basically invented in The Fifteen Streets. That unique mingling of squalor and beauty, the emotional intensity, the raw performances, and the epic depiction of the North of England... the blueprint for all of this was set in The Fifteen Streets. Even if you don't watch any of the others, you'll get the full Cookson experience with this one.

Sean Bean

3. IT GAVE US SEAN BEAN

It was The Fifteen Streets which first alerted the world to Sean Bean. Before then, he'd been an unknown jobbing actor in random small roles (think The Bill and the occasional art film), but watching him in The Fifteen Streets as a cocky, hard-drinking dock worker with an eye for the ladies and a penchant for sudden fist fights, you'll see a future mega-star finding his path before your very eyes.

4. IT HAS INCREDIBLE ACTION

Catherine Cookson isn't generally famed for her action setpieces, but there are some awe-inspiring confrontations in The Fifteen Streets - whether it's Sean Bean's embittered character launching into an explosive scrap with his own father, or hordes of street children clashing on the cobblestones like a pint-sized reenactment of the English Civil War.

5. IT FEATURES A YOUNG JANE HORROCKS

You might not picture Bubble from Ab Fab in quite the same way again after watching The Fifteen Streets. A young, unknown Jane Horrocks can be glimpsed here in the small but important role of a religious mystic on a tragic trajectory. Look out for her tense scene alongside fellow star-in-the-making Sean Bean.

Fifteen Street

6. IT TACKLES THE BIG, BIG THEMES

Every Cookson drama tackles a big subject or two, whether it's love against the odds, social upheaval, sex and teenage pregnancy, the plight of the poor, or achieving seemingly impossible dreams. The Fifteen Streets stands out because it covers all of it at once, and also throws in an intense sub-plot about religious conflict and violence between Catholics and Protestants.

7. IT'S GOT A POWERFUL LOVE STORY

Can a working class lad with not a penny to his name really make a relationship work with a well-to-do teacher in turn-of-the-century Tyneside? That's what we'll find out in The Fifteen Streets, which features one of Cookson's most passionate (and poignantly troubled) romances. You'll be rooting for them all the way.

8. IT'S GOT OWEN TEALE

Game of Thrones fans will enjoy the chance to see a young Owen Teale - aka the violent and formidable Alliser Thorne from the fantasy epic. Don't expect him to show that sort of brute strength here though, because he's playing the sensitive and heroic lead, while fellow GoT alumnus Sean Bean is his brother. Speaking of which...

Fifteen Street

9. IT'S GOT A BRILLIANT BROTHERLY RIVALRY

From Cain and Abel to JR Ewing and Bobby in Dallas, there's nothing quite like a heated brotherly rivalry make a story extra-gripping. The Fifteen Streets takes this theme and runs with it, with Owen Teale and Sean Bean utterly gripping as the chalk-and-cheese siblings who are set on a collision course by matters of love, lust and retribution.

10. IT'S TRULY IMMERSIVE

Right from its opening moments, The Fifteen Streets completely immerses you in its era. With cinematic flair it sweeps us through the claustrophobic streets, showing us everybody from exhausted housewives toiling with the washing to kids playing in back alleys. It conjures up the atmosphere so convincingly that the overall effect is as close to time travel as period dramas can get.

11. IT WILL MAKE YOU CRY

We don't want to give away any major plot points here, but rest assured you'll want to have the box of tissues handy for some moments in The Fifteen Streets. Whether it's the heartbreaking way some characters have to hold in their dreams and desires, or the sudden bursts of tragedy, this saga is a real emotional rollercoaster.

12. IT WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH

The Fifteen Streets isn't exactly brimming with comic relief, but there are some moments that will make you giggle quite unexpectedly. Especially whenever Sean Bean asks about his tea.

Fifteen Street

13. IT'S UNPREDICTABLE

Seasoned viewers of period dramas can often get a sense of how things may unfold ahead of time, but The Fifteen Streets is too loose and unpredictable for that. Rather than fitting into a particular genre, it's more like a snapshot of life, in all its bustling messiness, than a neatly set-out story. You can't second guess it, you just have to be swept along with it.

14. IT LOOKS GREAT

It may be a "mere" TV drama, but The Fifteen Streets is arguably the most film-like of all the Cookson adaptations. From epic dockland scenes to gang battles to a dramatic moment on a boat (which we won't spoil), it often looks more like a classic British movie than a small screen show.

15. IT HAS BIZARRE MYSTICISM

Catherine Cookson is known for her gritty realism and down-to-earth themes, but The Fifteen Streets bucks that trend a bit. In a rather surprising twist, it features Christian faith healers as major characters, one of whom reckons he has Christ-like powers. Intrigued? You'll just have to watch it then.