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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Is constant recommissioning diluting the best dramas on TV?

Yesterday brought the news that BBC Two have given The Fall a third series.   Obviously we reported the news, but it was through gritted teeth. Do we honestly need a third series of this, or more likely is it the BBC's attempt to capitalize on the popularity of leading man Jamie Dornan?  The press release reads: "The third series will be made up of five one-hour episodes as the complex relationship between Stella and Paul intensifies and the story of the investigation into the murders becomes more complex and intricate." Perhaps it is the case that writer Alan Cubitt has more story to tell, but giving these types of shows more series is a frustrating current trend in British television.

Regular visitors will be familiar with my views on that second series of Broadchurch, and I won't subject you to to further ramblings on how silly I found each and every minute of the eight clearly unnecessary episodes. I love Sally Wainwright, but I'm worried that the BBC's decision to grant her recent masterpiece Happy Valley a second series could tarnish my memory of the faultless first series. It's not that I don't think there's more learn about Wainwright's perfectly crafted characters, but more that Happy Valley had a story to tell. It used the six episodes the BBC commissioned to tell that story so well that I don't see where the second series could possibly go. Wainwright has admitted to being nervous and feeling the pressure to follow up one the BBC's biggest drama hits with a second series, and as much as adored every second of Happy Valley I'm happy with how it finished and would be far happier to see Wainwright tackle a completely new series with new characters.

As I say, it's a worrying and frustrating trend of late for broadcasters to commission a second series, down to ratings rather than whether there's actually a story left for the writer to tell. I'm not utterly nuts, I understand that TV is perhaps more dependent on the ratings than it has ever been, but I remember a time when a writer could write their story and move on to the next project. My argument in simple terms is as follows: when broadcasters keep recommissioning these sort of one story arch dramas it dilutes the original. Broadchurch is the perfect example of this. The whole country was captivated by the brilliantly paced mystery. I had its ending whether you were satisfied or not, it had its conclusion, but then ITV announced a second series. We know how that went. All that series 2 proved was that there wasn't enough story left to tell, and so what we get is a bizarre jarring series that tries desperately to recapture the popularity of the first but fails dismally.  The second series of The Fall drew criticisms for being too slowly paced and dull, but because the first outing drew record ratings for BBC Two they gave it a second series. Now they've given it a third, and I've lost all hope that anyone is commissioning things for the right reasons.

What is wrong with working with the initial 8 episodes you're given and tell and full story and leave it there? Leave the viewer satisfied and move onto the next hit. To keep me from moaning often like this broadcasters need to learn there's nothing wrong with a brilliant series done well. If Broadchurch 2 hadn't happened I'm certain I'd be happy.


Anonymous said...

To a certain extent, I think you're right. I loved 'Happy Valley', and am distinctly uneasy about a second series. Likewise 'The Missing'. Just as exasperating to me, though, is the habit of NOT recommissioning series that are left hanging on a never-to-be-neatly-tied-off thread. 'The Hour' and 'The Crimson Field' come to mind immediately. I was enjoying both, and was extremely frustrated when neither was re-commissioned, especially since in both cases the writers clearly thought they would be, and had written accordingly. I suppose it's because of the perceived need to chase ratings, although why the BBC apparently feels it must do that is something I have never really understood.

Happily, some series that are worth being re-commissioned (at least in my humble opinion) are - 'Call The Midwife', 'Line of Duty', and now, I devoutly hope, 'Poldark'. Some you win, some you lose, I suppose.

Unknown said...

I think you are totally right. I wonder if Happy Valley 2 is necessary... The Fall 2 wasn't that good and there were no need for Last Tango in Halifax 3.

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