Channel 4 drama will ‘test the outer limits of disability on TV’


A “ground-breaking” new Channel 4 comedy drama series featuring a cast of disabled actors aims to “blow preconceptions of disability out of the water”.

Cast Offs, a six-part “darkly comic drama series”, follows six disabled people who have been marooned on an island as part of a TV reality show.

The actors include well-established disabled talent such as Mat Fraser, Kiruna Stamell and Sophie Woolley, as well as former radio producer Tim Gebbels, and newcomers Victoria Wright and Peter Mitchell.

Two of the show’s three writers are disabled people, while the theme was written by the band Heavy Load, some of whose members have learning difficulties.

Producer Joel Wilson said having disabled writers allowed the series to be more authentic and irreverent, while cast members contributed “texture” to the script with anecdotes about their own experiences as disabled people.

Wilson said he hoped that viewers who came to the show with their own preconceptions or prejudices would find the characters’ impairments gradually disappear until they “just see them as characters and the disability fades into the background”.

And he said he hoped that those who might criticise the show’s “ghettoising” of disability would realise their intention was to satirise the way disability is treated by the media.

Wilson said he would love to work with the six actors again, and has not ruled out a second series.

Alison Walsh, Channel 4’s editorial manager for disability, said the channel had made “huge strides” in casting disabled people in shows such as Shameless, Hollyoaks and Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word, and providing opportunities to disabled directors in New Shoots and The Shooting Party.

But she said Channel 4 had wanted to “really test the outer limits of disability on TV” through a drama series.

Early reactions to Cast Offs from disabled people – before its first episode has been screened – have been overwhelmingly positive, with a string of supportive comments on the show’s Facebook page.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability charity RADAR, said “portraying disabled people as adults who swear, drink and have sex” would provide a “real break from covering disability with kid gloves – or not covering it at all”, although some “may well find it offensive”.

She added: “I welcome all this controversy as it makes the very important point that disabled people are not all the same and not all angels.”

The first episode of Cast Offs is on Channel 4 on Tuesday (24 November), at 11.05pm.

17 November 2009