Friday, July 03, 2009

Feared By The Bad, Loved By The Good. Del Boy's Back!

The BBC has, not unexpectedly, cancelled Robin Hood after ratings plunged during the climax of the show's third series. The Tiger Aspect series is the second Saturday tea-time casualty in the past fortnight, following ITV's decision to end Primeval, partly on cost grounds and also as part of a new focus on post-9pm drama. Another ITV family drama, Demons, was also axed after just one series. Because it was crap and nobody watched it. Robin Hood's third season attracted an average audience of 3.6m. The thirteenth, and last, episode however limped to the finish line last weekend when it suffered the indignity of a last-minute move to BBC2 to make way for live coverage of Andy Murray at Wimbledon. Following Jonas Armstrong's decision to leave the show the writers chose to kill off Robin in the final episode, though the mythological aspects of the character had left open the possibility of another actor replacing him - as happened in ITV's classic 1980s adaptation Robin of Sherwood. A BBC spokesman said: 'Viewers have enjoyed three fantastic series of Robin Hood but with the death of Robin in last week's finale, we feel that the show has reached its natural conclusion.' For which read 'we couldn't get shot of this lemon quickly enough.' Shame, actually because - as I've mentioned several times over the last few weeks - it could be a very good little show when it got the mix of comedy, action and drama just right. The series was launched following the BBC's success in reviving Doctor Who for family audiences and helped to bridge the gap between seasons of the Time Lord's adventures. Robin Hood was broadly praised by critics when it debuted on BBC1 in 2006 and over eight and half million viewers tuned in to watch the first episode. Audiences subsequently dropped, however, averaging 5.5 million in the first series, 5.2 million for the second, while the third averaged 4.6 million, not large enough to justify the cost of producing such an expensive show. Andy Zein, managing director of Tiger Aspect, said: 'It is obviously disappointing, but it has had a good innings.' Which, yeah, to be fair that's about as much as many shows can ask for these days unless they're pulling in Doctor Who-style figures - three years and thirty nine episodes. Robin Hood's demise leaves Doctor Who and Merlin, which was recently commissioned for a second series, as the only confirmed Saturday teatime dramas in the pipeline on any UK terrestrial channel. The dearth of drama is beginning to attract criticism from some of the most recognisable names on British television. James Nesbitt, who starred in the three-part BBC Iraq war drama Occupation, screened last month, has said he may have to consider moving to the US because of the lack of work in British TV.

Only Fools and Horses wide-boy Derek Trotter is returning to BBC1 in a comedy drama about his teenage years. Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Chips, set in 1960 and written by Only Fools and Citizen Smith creator John Sullivan, will also focus on Del's 'tarty' mother, Joan ('Britain's answer to Brigitte Bardot') and his workshy father, Reg. Sullivan said it would give viewers an insight 'into why Del and Rodney turned out they way they did.' Filming for the ninety-minute special, which is planned to be shown next year, will start on location in London in August. The Trotter brothers, Del - played by David Jason - and Rodney - played by Nicholas Lyndhurst - first hit television screens in 1981 and, despite an unpromising start, soon became something of British TV institution. Sullivan said the new show would be 'set in the real sixties, before The Beatles and Mary Quant made London the coolest place on the planet. The drama will feature South London at its least glamorous, where money was scarce, the staple diet was rock salmon and chips and the flicks offer the only hint of glamour.' The BBC adedd that, while the Trotter family have not yet moved into their flat in Nelson Mandela House, other familiar settings, including the Nag's Head pub, would appear. The plot will revolve around the release of safe cracker, Freddie Rodbal, from prison after serving a ten-year sentence which will 'ruffle some feathers in the Trotter household.' Teenage versions of other Only Fools characters such as Trigger, Boycie and Denzel will also appear. BBC head of comedy Mark Freeland said the prospect of 'once upon a time in Peckham' was 'incredibly tantalising. Nearly thirty years since Only Fools And Horses hit our screens, now we'll have the chance to see the vivid, bittersweet drama that underpinned the iconic series.' Meanwhile, the BBC has also announced that the classic children's book Just William is to be made into a Sunday afternoon TV series. Just William will be adapted by Men Behaving Badly creator Simon Nye for BBC1.

This summer, BBC4 presents a season of programmes looking at the complex biological war that rages beneath our skin. The season of biology programmes – a mix of dramas, documentaries and archive footage – provides a fascinating look at the biological discoveries that have shaped the modern world and our attitudes towards religion and the enduring question of where we come from. The biology season delves into this captivating subject with a documentary series examining the building block of all life in the universe, the cell. In two moving dramas, the season explores the little-known stories of two medical heroes. Spanish Flu – The Forgotten Fallen, with an outstanding cast that includes Bill Paterson, Mark Gatiss and Ken Cranham, pays tribute to the public health pioneer Dr James Niven and his efforts to protect the people of Manchester from the 1918 influenza pandemic, The drama was written by Peter Harness (City of Vice). Breaking The Mould, meanwhile, stars The Wire's Dominic West and follows the work of Professor Howard Florey and his team, who persevered against all odds to make penicillin an applicable medicine. From the archives, BBC4 draws on Casualty 1906 and its two sequels, which explore the historical stories of life on the wards early in the Twentieth century. Finally, a Horizon special charts forty years of documentary footage on the science of viruses and pandemics. Richard Klein, BBC4's controller, says: 'BBC4 has dedicated a season of programmes to a complex subject that has yielded life-changing discoveries and changed the way we look at ourselves. By exploring the importance of the cell – the basis of all life – and the social impact of two of the most important biological events in history, the season will offer us a richer understanding of the impact that biology can have on our lives.'

Veteran ITN news presenter Alastair Stewart has attacked the BBC, saying it would benefit from a 'Beeching-style enquiry' to assess whether all its services are really 'necessary and viable.' The BBC needed a 'shake-up' to help protect the plurality of news provision across the country as the commercial sector suffered a tough economic climate, Stewart told the North-West region CBI dinner in Liverpool last night. 'In extreme circumstances we need unusual solutions and this is just such a circumstance,' said Stewart, currently a presenter on the ITN-produced ITV London news and regularly presents ITV lunchtime news. So, no obvious and rather pernicious self-interest there, then. Perhaps Mr Stewart's ire would be better served by questioning his own network's decision to drop regional news coverage. Or, he could just carry on tongue-rimming them, I suppose. Either/or. Stewart welcomed recommendations made by Lord Carter's final Digital Britain report last month to top-slice the licence fee to help pay for ITV local news services (of course he did), saying the corporation had come to regard the TV licence as 'the BBC licence.'

The Bill star Simon Rouse has claimed that the show does not need to compete with US crime drama CSI. Which is a good job, really because in any like-on-like face off The Bill's going to lose. Badly. I mean, really badly. Speaking to What's On TV, Rouse - Jack Meadows on the ITV cop drama and a really excellent actor in this bloggers opinion, let it be noted - said that The Bill's new post-watershed timeslot does not mean that the two programmes are now in competition. 'Why do we want to compete with them? I love American shows but they are very different people, they're much more cartoon-like. We're not like that, we're a bit more subtle and ironic,' he said. Yeah, valid point, I guess. 'We're an English cop show. I think people get worried about "are we as good as..." I think we're very, very good and I'm very proud of what we do.' Good on ya, Sime. But, I'm still going to be watching CSI in preference.

Channel 4's coverage of Michael Jackson's death has divided viewers, with questions raised both about the amount of air-time given over to the pop star and of whether Big Brother housemates should have been told. Tribute programme Michael Jackson: A Life of Pop was C4's most praised programme in June, with twelve messages of support. However, it also attracted seventeen complaints, both from those who argued, in one viewer's words, that 'it was yet another example of celebrity culture taking over' and from fans who wanted a more meaningful tribute. Some criticised the channel's decision to broadcast the programme twice in two days. Some viewers also questioned the amount of time Channel 4 News gave to the story. As one viewer put it: 'Mention Michael Jackson's death by all means, but the lead story? Is there no crisis in Iran or Zimbabwe?' The BBC, meanwhile, reportedly received more than seven hundred complaints about its coverage of Jackson's death, with viewers claiming there was too much of it across the network's news programming. However, the head of the BBC newsroom, Mary Hockaday, defended the output, saying Jackson was a major international figure and the coverage was not to the exclusion of other stories. One senior BBC source revealed that there were ten to fifteen times more complaints received from viewers about Jackson than about BBC executives' expenses, which were published for the first time last week. BBC News channel went into rolling mode as reports of Jackson's death broke on late Thursday night in the UK, with the story dominating bulletins throughout Friday and the following weekend. News specials were also aired on BBC1 and BBC2 on Friday night. Hockaday described Jackson as a 'huge figure, internationally' and said BBC News 'went into gear to report a big breaking news story.'

The Royle Family actor Geoffrey Hughes is set to serve real royals after being appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant for the Isle of Wight. The comedy actor, who played Twiggy in the BBC sitcom, lives in Newport and will deputise at formal engagements. Hughes, sixty five, also starred as slobbish Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances and was a genuine cult figure in the 1970s playing Stan and Hilda Ogden's lodger, Eddie Yates in Coronation Street. He was also the voice of Paul McCartney in The Beatles animated movie Yellow Submarine. He told the BBC he was 'absolutely thrilled' to have been asked and it was 'a great honour.' Hughes had been a regular visitor to the island, before moving there from the Wirral in 2003.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re:Robin Hood. I think the time was right for it to go. With so many good actors having left it, the following would not of been there. I did enjoy it while it lasted, but was not impressed with the inconsistency of this third series.

The cast were brilliant though. It's the writers etc that I blame.

*Just for the record. Robin Hood was 39 episodes, not 30;)*