TV preview: Father and Son

'I THINK the secret, emotional life of men is full of bruised, very tender injury." This is the late Frank Deasy speaking in 2003 about his BBC serial, Real Men, which revolved around the irreversibly damaging legacy of child abuse.

It's a statement that could easily be applied to almost every piece of the landmark television he wrote, from the BBC's Looking After Jo Jo, his breakthrough work set in a drug-scarred Scottish housing estate from 1994, which starred Robert Carlyle, to his final drama, the four-part Manchester-set Father and Son with Dougray Scott in the lead role, which is spread across this week on STV.

Deasy also scripted complex parts in accessible films about workplace racists (England Expects), violent prisoners (Captives) and biblical leaders (The Passion), while he memorably completed the Prime Suspect series with his Emmy Award-winning The Final Act in which Jane Tennison finally walked off into the distance leaving her staunchly macho world behind. "He was definitely a cartographer of masculinity," says Father And Son director Brian Kirk. "He really did map out the male psyche, exploring it in its positive and negative aspects, but his interests weren't exclusively male. The character of Jane Tennison was beautifully drawn and Father And Son's Connie (played by Sophie Okonedo] is a rich and complex woman; she has taken responsibility for her sister's child and sees herself as a community leader but actually is full of unresolved anger. She comes to a point where her inability to forgive is impacting on her negatively and that's very powerful."

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In Father And Son, Scott plays Michael O'Connor, a Manchester gangster now living in a safe Irish haven with his new pregnant wife, having left a trail of destruction and misery in his wake. After his first wife was gunned down in a revenge slaying, we discover, O'Connor fled, leaving his sister-in-law (Okonedo) to look after his teenage son, Sean (Reece Noi). When Sean is locked up for a serious crime he didn't commit, O'Connor returns to England and is offered a risky deal which might save his son. Rigorously intelligent, searingly violent and deeply compassionate, Father And Son is as good a place as any for Deasy first-timers to start.

"It encapsulates his unflinching honesty at the difficulty of being a parent and a partner even though those struggles are counterbalanced by enormous rewards," says Brian Kirk. "Intellectually, Frank was a very sophisticated man but Father And Son also functions really well as a labyrinthine thriller and I think he had a dual commitment to emotional realism and entertainment. He was a thinker but also a showman and that's a great combination for television and film."

Deasy was born in Dublin in 1959 but settled in Glasgow in the late 1990s, where he started a family with his wife Marie, a criminal lawyer he first met while conducting research for Looking After Jo Jo. In late 2004, two tumours were found on his liver. An operation soon afterwards was successful, but as Hollywood came knocking and a move to LA was in the offing, the cancer returned and an ultimately unsuccessful hunt for an organ donor was intensified.

When Deasy died in September, the praise from those he had worked alongside was fulsome. Scott described him as "one of the most extraordinary and beautiful men I was blessed to have met"; James Nesbitt, who played Pontius Pilate in The Passion, said "Frank saw and appreciated all sides of all people"; and Andy Harries, Father And Son's executive producer, described Deasy as "a writer who really engaged with the real world and its problems… he was one of the most generous, kind and optimistic people I have ever met."

But while the legacy of a stream of vital television writing is in place, the people who will miss him the most are his three children and wife Marie. Less than a fortnight before he died, Deasy wrote an article which highlighted his plight as he awaited a liver transplant; the feature resulted in a surge in the numbers of people carrying donor cards. But for Deasy, the hardest part was that he knew he would eventually be leaving behind a loving family. "Little changes at home," he wrote. "I take the kids to school, we celebrate birthdays and argue over whether they're old enough to walk to school on their own. They probably are, but the one thing I know for certain is they're not old enough to be without their dad. The thought of them losing their father at this point in their lives feels unbearable, too cruel to contemplate. Yet each day that passes it comes closer." v

Father And Son is on STV, 9pm, tomorrow until Thursday

• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday, June 6, 2010