Friday, 6 December 2013

Dear Points of View...


As my followers on Twitter and Facebook will know, the BBC has recently taken the decision to axe the excellent TV drama ‘Ripper Street’ after just two series. The timing of the decision and the apparent reasons for it are a bit hard to swallow. That’s why I’ve hijacked the blog for a day to write an open letter to the BBC…

It’s not often that I feel compelled to email a TV company about the decision to axe particular shows. In most cases, I just figure that a show has run its course, and accept the decision. But in the case of Ripper Street, I just can’t believe that’s the case. Moving it from its Sunday night slot, and citing the ratings being won by ITV’s “I’m a Celebrity” as a main cause for concern smacks of short-sightedness.

Ripper Street is hands down my favourite show on TV at the moment. The writing is getting better and better, the production values are incredible, the cast is superb. Just when I thought it was ‘finding its groove’ I heard the news that it was being cancelled. It seems like it’s the victim of a scheduling mishap. Never has a show been more suited to Sunday night viewing – it’s certainly on a par with Poirot, Sherlock, Foyle’s War, et al, and should probably be treated as such, with a bit more respect. (I am, sadly, reminded of the similar – and excellent – Murder Rooms, which received the same treatment years ago).
Well, when you see it like this, how
could a quality drama hope to compete?
What guile. What mastery.

Let’s be charitable and say that someone at the Beeb has considered these things. But to me it's obvious that people watch less TV on a Monday night than on a Sunday, and nowadays most people record their favourite shows. I can't believe that all of the old 8 million viewers just stopped watching – many probably just record it.

Several options have been mooted by fans, such as to get BBC America to jointly fund and produce the show; move it back to Sundays; give it to BBC2 where perhaps it’ll find a more natural home; or even make a shorter series with longer episodes to avoid slicing the budget too much for a third season. I’ve seen messages of support, incidentally, from US fans who are eagerly awaiting ‘season two’, only to learn that it’ll be the last. Surely, at the very least, the hard-core fans (numbering in their millions still!) deserve to have the existing storylines wrapped up satisfactorily? Or at the very least a response to their concerns?

The axing of this show has basically produced a strength of feeling that I don’t remember seeing in recent history. Just search Twitter for #SaveRipperStreet, or check out the growing petition over at https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/reverse-the-bbc-s-decision-to-cancel-ripper-street (almost 3,000 signatures in 24 hours). The arguments seem to be that the BBC is a publicly funded channel, but is making a conscious decision to remove intelligent period drama in order to compete with dumbed-down pointless reality/celebrity fare. If the BBC is no longer interested in giving viewers genuine options, then what is it for?

As if to compound matters, this letter was originally posted to the Points of View message board, the address of which since found its way onto Twitter. All other Ripper Street boards had been closed, with a message pointing the one official ‘active’ board. Sadly, the moderators have now chosen to close that one too, this time with no explanation. What is going on BBC? Why don’t you want to listen to the people who pay for your programming?

The #SaveRipperStreet campaign is going well, and I’d love to think we could change the BBC’s mind, but with the lack of response so far, it seems that perhaps ratings rather than quality are the Beeb’s prime concern these days. A shame. 


EDIT: If you're on Twitter, then I also urge you to follow @saveripperst for the latest on the campaign.

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