Special Report: BBC Drama – Where Could the Axe Fall?

 

Last week the controller of drama commissioning at the BBC, Ben BBCStephenson, warned that some of the corporation’s longer running dramas could be culled to make way for newer, innovative dramas. While it’s since emerged that series’ such as Casualty, Holby City, Waterloo Road and New Tricks are relatively safe a question mark hangs over the future of show long running dramas such as Waking the Dead, Hustle and Silent Witness. So where could the axe fall if indeed it does at all? In this special report we list those shows that could very well be cancelled by the corporation to make way for newer productions.

Last week the controller of drama commissioning at the BBC, Ben Stephenson, warned that some of BBCthe corporation’s longer running dramas could be culled to make way for newer, innovative dramas. While it’s since emerged that series’ such as Casualty, Holby City, Waterloo Road and New Tricks are relatively safe a question mark hangs over the future of show long running dramas such as Waking the Dead, Hustle and Silent Witness. So where could the axe fall if indeed it does at all? In this special report we list those shows that could very well be cancelled by the corporation to make way for newer productions.

 

A clear out of dramas at the corporation is by no means a new thing. Only several years ago the BBC BBCaxed several of its dramas in a move to cut budgets. Amongst the victims of that cull were detective shows Dalziel and Pascoe which had run for 12 seasons, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Judge John Deed, Sea of Souls and Lilies which had proven popular with audiences but was not renewed by the BBC. All of these shows where dropped within 18 months of each other as the corporation struggled to cut budgets in the wake of a smaller than expected licence fee increase. However, this time if a show is axed it won’t be because the BBC needs to trim its budgets but because Stephenson has deemed its run too long. Below are some of those dramas that could very well fall.


Waking the Dead

 

The gritty but often cold-case detective series was created by Barbara Machin in 2000 and since then there have been 8 seasons. The series currently stars Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston, Wil Johnson, Tara BBCFitzGerald and Stacey Roca who was introduced in the recent 8th season. The critically acclaimed and award winning drama continues to attract strong ratings with over six million viewers per episode but the BBC has yet to announced its renewed the series. The stories are often harrowing, dark and completely nuts but fans of the show love it for the strong performances of Trevor Eve and Sue Johnston and its strong writing. Over the eight years it’s written out several characters with Claire Goose and Felicite du Jeu’s characters both being killed off while Holly Aird and Esther Hall both disappeared between two seasons. However, after 8 seasons is there a feeling at the BBC the series has run its course? How long can tortured Boyd [Trevor Eve] go on before he completely cracks and how long before his seniors pull him up well and proper for his constant unprofessional and reckless antics?

 


Hustle

Con-artist drama currently airing its sixth season on BBC One and so far enjoying good ratings; the BBCsixth season stars Matt Di Angelo, Adrian Lester, Robert Glenister, Robert Vaughn and Kelly Adams. The drama has won the BBC critical acclaim and seasons three and four of the series were produced with American channel AMC as co-producer. With the co-production deal between the BBC and AMC several episodes were filmed in America with the series enjoying more funding. However, several of the original cast members, such as Marc Warren, have since left the series and there is some feeling among the fans that it has run its course.

 


Silent Witness

 

Another gritty investigative drama along similar lines some might argue to Waking the Dead but while that series concentrates on cold-cases this series deals with the forensic investigations into crimes. Often criticised by some for giving the forensic pathologists a more involved role in murder BBCinvestigations than they actually have in real life – despite this major flaw in the show fans and audiences seem to lap it all up. The show is currently in its 13th season and the opening episode of it enjoyed strongest ratings for the drama in years thanks to the adverse weather conditions and subsequent episodes have also rated well. Original star Amanda Burton quit the drama after seven seasons and was replaced by Emilia Fox who has carried the series as some shows struggle to survive after introducing a new central character but six season on and Fox is still going strong. However, 13 seasons is a long run for any drama and Dalziel and Pascoe was axed after 12 seasons even though ratings were still healthy. Given the shows strong ratings so far and success oversees the drama should be save but then Stephenson did warn that the corporation’s longer running dramas could be culled to make way for new shows and Silent Witness is certainly a long-running series.

 


Spooks

 

The BBC has confirmed that a 9th season of the hugely successful spy-thriller series will be made following the shows 8th season late last year. Beyond that the BBC hasn’t committed to the long-term BBCfuture of the series and there’s a slightly overtone that perhaps the 9th season of the series will be its last. Spooks has proven to be such a well received and critically acclaimed series for the BBC and came at a time when other drama’s failed to make a mark. The constantly changing cast does help to keep the series fresh and the stories are often very topical and sometimes almost too close for comfort but can the team keep up the high standards the show has set itself? The BBC may decide to simply rest the series for a year after the 9th season or even concentrate on developing a cinema film of Spooks.

 


Casualty 1909

 

While the regular series of Casualty is thought to be relatively safe from the BBC axed its Edwardian counter-part may not be so lucky. The historical version of Casualty is set in the East End of London during the late Edwardian era and is based on real life diaries and medical notes from the time with storylines and cases inspired by events of the era. It stars Sarah Smart and Cherie Lunghi and has so BBCfar aired three seasons – the name changes according to the year in which it is set. However, the show has never enjoyed huge ratings usually just averaging 4 million viewers and as it’s a period piece it is likely more expensive to make. Stephenson did warn the BBC wouldn’t be producing so many period pieces from now on and considering the corporation’s only other regular period drama, Lark Rise to Candleford, rates much higher its likely Casualty 1909 would be cut in favour of Lark Rise. Also rather unfairly it is considered part of the Casualty franchise by the critics even though strictly speaking it is not as its set in a completely different era and city – Casualty is set in Holby. As some consider it part of the Casualty franchise it’s been criticised for being another spin-off in the franchise and this could put off some potential viewers.  

 


Torchwood

 

The Cardiff based Doctor Who spin-off series which has so far aired on three of the four BBC television channels. Its first season aired on BBC Three and due to its strong performance was moved to BBC Two for its second season. Following this a five-part third season aired on BBC One during the BBCSummer to strong ratings and critical acclaim. However, the second and third seasons saw several cast members killed off with just John Barrowman and Eve Myles now remaining out of the original core cast. Despite the strong performance of Torchwood: Children of Earth the BBC hasn’t yet actually commissioned a fourth season and while speculation is rife that they will the BBC may feel it’s wise to end the spin-off on a high. The Doctor Who franchise is another one that has come under some criticism for spawning shows set in the same “universe”, ala the Casualty franchise. The corporation may therefore decide to concentrate just on Doctor Who and the CBBC spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures which also enjoyed a successful third season in the autumn. The popularity of Torchwood here and in America might however prove to be its saving grace.

 


Merlin

 

The first and second seasons of the BBC fantasy series were fantastic so let’s hope the third series can continue its good performance. Now let’s remember that Robin Hood fell at the end of its third BBCyear so Merlin next year could face a tricky season. The critics may be watching it to see if it loses it’s magic and ends up on the scrap heap like Robin Hood. Somehow we don’t think that’s likely especially as the producers have already stated they have a five year arc for the series already planned. What can we expect from the third year? Well more brilliant guest stars along the lines of Emilia Fox and Sarah Parish, more building on the show’s mythology and drawing from the legends of Arthur and Merlin. We would also like to see the drama stick to just one timeslot instead of constantly moving around the schedules at the whim of the BBC.


 

The BBC has already axed several of its dramas such as Hotel Babylon, Paradox and Mistresses – which will return later this year for its final season. Meanwhile Ashes to Ashes will draw to a close this BBCyear with a third and final season and Bafta winning drama The Street won’t return because of budget cuts at ITV Studios which produce the series for the BBC. Jimmy McGovern, the creator, has already stated he won’t take the drama to another producer but is already working on new projects for the BBC. BBC Two drama The Tudors will also end this year after four seasons as the Showtime produced drama reaches the end of Henry VIII’s reign. Showtime has already lined up a new historical drama as a successor to The Tudors which will concentrate on the Borgias but its as yet unknown whether or not BBC Two will pick up the new drama.

 

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