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Each programme provides an Aesop's fable where working class life is represented as gritty, unforgiving and a constant struggle. Every week switches to a different hero whose life on a Manchester street is transformed by a single moment or decision.

The third series plows through the major contemporary debates from the war in Afghanistan to the effect of prostitution on the women forced onto the streets to immigration and alcoholism.

The treatment of each of these themes is raw, uncompromising but sweetened by the fact the lead character survives to live another day usually as a much better person.

The first episode of the current series (all of which is currently available on BBC's iPlayer) stars Bob Hoskins as a landlord terrorised by the local gangster and is perhaps the most difficult to grapple with.

Hoskin's character, Paddy, tries to round up support to prevent a beating but finds friendship and solidarity are not always the same thing. The latter has to be consciously built at a time when it's not necessarily needed.

The episode, which has a masterful twist at the end, asks the question: what is community and why do people chose to attack each other or stand together?

Conundrum
The second helping stars Anna Friel as Dee, a single mother who becomes a "brass" to pay off a mortgage on a house she has bought close to a successful school. This is perhaps one of the most realistic and empathetic representations of prostitution shown by the BBC.

Daniel Mays as plumber and unsuspecting boyfriend is, as always, blinding.

We are then in episode four whisked into the world of Nick (Jonas Armstrong), a soldier severely wounded in Afghanistan who battles with heavy drinking, suicidal thoughts and aggressive racism until the accidental intervention of a Muslim taxi driver saves his life.

Episode five shows Kieran (Joseph Mawle) is portrayed as an angry and isolated racist who provokes fights with black people and white immigrants. Fate forces him to understand the plight of a Polish single mother and as he abandons his prejudice he finds love.

A recurring theme is how people are often mean and bitter because they have been unable to cope with shock or abuse. The current episode stars Stephen Graham as Shay, an absent father who sinks into alcoholism after an armed robbery.

I wouldn't be surprised if the final episode answers the conundrum of the first and we see solidarity in action. This would be the perfect tying up of the various themes and plots which are subtly tread across each other in this series.

Jimmy McGovern brought us Brookside, Hillsborough and Cracker (okay, no-one's perfect). The Street represents the very best of his work.

At points life on The Street can seem too sweet and you are never far from a happy ending. With every character comes redemption and the moral of the tail is 'look out for each other'.

However, this is scriptwriting and acting at its best. And isn't it about time working class people are represented as diverse and adaptable - each a possibility of good in a world of almost unremitting bad.

The Street
BBC One
Monday, 9:00pm
Or on iPlayer.

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