Channel 4 has dropped its one-time flagship programme from its primetime schedules after ratings slumped and viewers branded plots ‘over the top’.
What was once the network’s pride has, it seems, become their embarrassment and the long running soap – which is as old as the channel itself – will be dropped from its thrice weekly weeknight slots with only the Saturday afternoon omnibus remaining.
This means Liverpool-set Brookside will now become a 90-minute weekly drama, however critics fear its the beginning of the end.
“Just look at when soaps are moved around, they don’t last much longer” Says expert Chris Stacey, adding, “In the UK series such as Weavers Green and Honey Lane were all moved about and just didn’t last the course. Even in Australia moving a soap out of its traditional slot can be the kiss of death, take The Young Doctors for example. I give Brookside a year at least.”
The final ever peak-time showing of the Mersey Television produced saga will be broadcast on November 21st at 8.30pm. From November 30 the show will remain solely in its traditional Saturday slot, however Chris thinks that may be short lived too.
“Night and Day’s omnibus was shunted into graveyard slots. If Channel 4 really want to get rid of Brookside, and unfortunately I fear they do, the next move will be to air it at around about midnight on Saturdays, but never at the same time each week in the hope of viewers will get fed up looking for it in the schedules.”
The move comes after boss at the none-profit-network Mark Thompson’s revealed his plans to revitalise the channel’s programming output as detailed at his promotion at the Edinburgh Festival two months ago. Viewers and critics watch with anticipation of how Thomson will steer Channel 4 forwards. Many are already concerned its losing its unique voice in the British media network, opting to show far more ‘main stream’ ‘populist’ programming than ever was originally intended for the broadcaster.
Channel 4 has a contract with Mersey Television to show the cul-de-sac set soap until the end of next year. It is unlikely the channel will drop it before that contract expires. Brookside was devised by Phil Redmond who also created the more successful teen-soap Hollyoaks for the broadcaster. Its future, with healthy ratings, appears to be far from uncertain – unlike its grown-up brother.