The man who helped revive Ripper Street on Amazon Prime Instant Video says the current fan campaign to save BBC3 zombie drama In The Flesh is the most impressive he’s seen since then, but warns that a streaming service will only resurrect the series if it makes good business sense.
Will Gould, executive producer on Ripper Street and Head of Drama at production company Tiger Aspect, praised the display of commitment towards In The Flesh since news of its cancellation broke on Friday.
“I’ve heard of a few campaigns since Ripper Street, and this is the first one where you think it might work, because of the show being so distinctive and the fan base being so loyal,” he said. “If [creator] Dominic Mitchell wanted to do it, it feels like a story that he hasn’t quite finished telling.”
However, Gould warned that while streaming services like Netflix and Amazon were an option for the cancelled BBC3 drama, it would be up to those companies whether they saw subscriber potential in bringing it back.
“In The Flesh, a distinctive, Bafta-winning series with an incredible loyal following – you’d like to think that it is in with a shot on one of those services,” Gould said.
“Fundamentally though it is a business decision. Those creative credentials are just part of the equation I guess. For them, the question is, ‘Will this show bring more subscribers?’ It’s probably that simple.”
At the time of writing, over 17,000 people have signed an online petition imploring Netflix to pick up the cancelled drama, while an Amazon spokesperson said that the company is “always keen to hear about shows our customers would like to see more of.”
Gould played a key role in securing the deal that earned axed BBC1 period crime drama Ripper Street a third series online. He said that while he didn’t know for sure whether the Ripper Street fan campaign had any direct impact on Amazon’s decision, it did give the creative team hoping to save the drama a much-needed boost.
“We had this unique deal with Amazon to pull off, we had to get the BBC back on board, not to mention the actual process of picking ourselves up off the floor and doing it again – all that was quite hard, and to know that there was this positive swell online for the show was a really useful thing.
“It was a bit like being at your own funeral,” he explained, “in that we got to hear what people really thought about our show, which you don’t necessarily get during the show itself. That was brilliant.”
The first step for Ripper Street – securing Amazon’s interest – was actually relatively simple, but Gould said that it took three months of lawyer negotiations with Amazon, the BBC and the creative team to actually sign the deal.
“We worked with Lookout Point on this show, and had a very tenacious co-producer in Simon Vaughan. The BBC were not going to pick up the third series, so he went out to Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and various other places.
“There was quite a quick response from Amazon, which was, ‘We love the show, you’ve made 16 episodes and we would love another eight.’ The difficult bit was actually doing the deal, because this had never been done before.”
Ripper Street was made by independent production company Tiger Aspect for the BBC. In The Flesh, by contrast, is a BBC in-house production, and Gould suggests that could make a difference, although creator Mitchell himself is a freelance writer.
“I’m sure In The Flesh has slightly got caught up in this whole moving BBC3 to online,” Gould said. “It’s unfortunate timing. There are massive changes happening with BBC in-house, so yes possibly it makes a difference.
He added, however: “I don’t know the ins and outs of in-house production. Dominic is not ‘in-house’, he’s a freelance writer.”
Gould ended by saying that he personally hoped In The Flesh could secure online backing in the same way as Ripper Street had done: “I hope they get there, and I hope they find someone to pick it up.”