Is PBS’ Ridley Based on a True Story?

PBS’ ‘Ridley’ is a British police procedural series that focuses on the Retired Detective Inspector Alex Ridley who is brought back into service as a consultant by his former protégée and newly promoted detective inspector Carol Farman. Needing Ridley’s consultation on a complicated case, Carol pushes him to return after his early retirement due to the pain and consequences he felt after losing his wife and daughter to a house fire. However, when the complex murder case that Ridley and Carol work on takes an unexpectedly dark turn, the former’s rather quiet retired life takes a back seat.

Created by Jonathan Fisher and Paul Matthew Thompson, the crime mystery show stars Adrian Dunbar, Bronagh Waugh, Terence Maynard, George Bukhari, and Georgie Glen, whose stellar onscreen performances make the narrative seem authentic. To add to that, the themes of a detective inspector retiring to come back for special cases and the complexities involved with certain cases are etched in reality, which is likely to make you wonder whether or not ‘Ridley’ has anything to do with any true events. In that case, let’s explore the same in detail, shall we?

Is Ridley a True Story?

No, ‘Ridley’ is not based on a true story. Well, it might not be based on a specific story or a person, but it is loosely inspired by the real-life stories of many retired police officers who came out of retirement to rejoin the force and serve as a consultant in order to help solve different kinds of cases. The intriguing yet seemingly realistic screenplay was the combined effort of the talented screenwriters — Paul Matthew Thompson, Jonathan Fisher, and Julia Gilbert — who made the most of their excellent penmanship and experience in the industry to conjure up the story.

Since detectives coming out of retirement to return as consultants is something that has become quite the norm due to funding cuts or resources being spread thinner, the makers reportedly took advice from actual police officers to fill them in with all the necessary details with accuracy. Are you wondering how did the co-creator Paul Matthew Thompson come up with the idea of ‘Ridley?’ Well, you aren’t the first person with that question in mind because, in a conversation with National World in late August 2022, he was asked exactly that.

Thompson explained, “Well, Jonathan Fisher, the producer that came to me, he had a very nice idea about a detective show set around a police consultant – the guy who advises our show is a retired Detective Chief Inspector, and he does a lot of consultancy work. I thought it was a really interesting concept: most of the people in the police force retire in their mid to late 50s, and in this day and age, that’s no age at all. I imagine if you spent your life in homicides solving murders, and to then find that you’re on the scrapheap and your services are no longer required must be quite a hard life adjustment.”

“We also like the idea that if you are a consultant, you effectively work as a sideline – you don’t answer to anybody in the sense of being an employee. It gives you a really nice way for a maverick character to go off and do their own thing. That was the kind of character I perceived Ridley to be in my head: he’s an old-fashioned copper, never had much truck with paperwork, an instinctive gut-feeling police officer whose approach to solving crime has gone out of fashion a bit. He’s a man out of time,” Thompson expanded.

With all the above-mentioned factors in mind, it would be fair to come to the conclusion that even though ‘Ridley’ is not based on one specific person or an event, some parts of it are still rooted in reality as it touches upon the theme of retired detectives going back to work as consultants after a certain age.

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