I was watching ITV1 last night. In fact, I am ITV’s wet dream on a Monday, because I turn the channel on at 7.30pm for the first instalment of Coronation Street and don’t turn it off until I go to bed. I don’t even turn over at 8pm since I don’t watch That Other Soap on BBC. At 8pm it used to be the Tonight programme which was always good for a laugh at the scaremongering that the British press indulges in on a regular basis, but last night it was Airport, which involves a lot of irate people shouting at airport stuff. Which is also good for a laugh. Last night 20-odd Geordies found themselves stranded in Bristol facing paying £100 each to get back to Newcastle which is 300 miles away. Apparently Ryanair felt it had fulfilled its duties since it had brought them back to the UK. They hired cars. Good for them. And people wonder why I don’t fly…

At 9pm, after the second instalment of Corrie, is an ITV Drama Premiere which is either a drama mini-series or a made-for-TV two hour film. This year has seen some good ones already – the moving Unforgiven starring the excellent Suranne Jones and the thrilling Whitechapel starring the always delicious Rupert Penry-Jones.

Last night was a two hour film called Compulsion. It starred Parminder Nagra (Bend It Like Beckham, ER) as a young, wealthy Camgridge graduate who’s father was trying to get her to agree to an arranged marriage with the son of a business associate. The family’s chauffeur, Ray Winstone (Scum, King Arthur), volunteered to disgrace this son if she agreed to spend the night with him.

She agreed, the son was disgraced, she slept with him and then fell in love with him. The son got murdered, her brother got embroiled and so did her new fiance, etc etc. In the end she stabbed Ray’s character and married the fiance, although the look on her face at the end gave the impression that she didn’t want to have.

The fiance was a white guy, which is why she hadn’t introduced him to the family to begin with. Once they did meet him, they approved of him and her father even gave him money to set up his business.

So why am I talking about all this? Well because something quite startling happened. There was not one mention of religion throughout the whole thing.

What? What’s that? Asian people on the television and there’s no mention of religion? You know, just like you can with white people? Oh my. Surely not.

I feel like I need to explain that in the UK if you say “Asian” you generally mean someone from South Asia – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh – whereas in the States and maybe in Canada you mean otherwise? I also feel like I need to explain that I’m from West Yorkshire, where there’s the joint highest Pakistani population in England and Wales, as well as sizeable minorities from all sorts of other kinds of ethnicities. I went to university in York which is extremely, incredibly white, and I really found it strange. I now live in a very white part of South Yorkshire and still find it strange. My husband is almost from the whitest place in Britain and I find dealing with my in-laws a battle on this matter.

(See, for instance, their calling of one of the shops in the village the “Paki shop”. I always, always call them up on it, because it’s offensive. My four year old niece now tells them off for it. She is FOUR, and she knows it’s wrong. Maybe there is hope)

Racially, I am as white as the driven snow. Ethnically, I am not. My grandfather (& his siblings) was born in India, had dual citizenship, and was culturally Indian. In a lot of ways, in way I can’t tell you but in ways that touch me some forty years after his death. I also studied Theology at university and these things interest me.

(What is the difference between race and ethnicity? I’ve been thinking about it all day. To me, race is biology and ethnicity is culture. But I could be wrong. What do you think? I also am fully aware of my white privilege, and I apologise for any errors herein)

So for me, for a TV programme to not only feature but STAR an entire Asian family WITHOUT mentioning religion is nothing short of miraculous. I have no idea now if this family was religious, and if they were whether they were Sikh or Hindu or Muslim or Baha’i or Jain or Buddhist or Christian or Jewish or I don’t know, bloody Jedis for all I care. It didn’t matter to the story. Of course in 2009 that should be the case, it SHOULD be the case but so often it ISN’T.

ITV Drama: ur doin it right, apparently. Who knew?