BBC3’s ‘one drama a year’ policy could mark the end of long-running series says leading producer

“That audience like long-running shows. They like things that play out over four or five years," says Will Gould, executive producer of Amazon drama Ripper Street

A leading TV producer has warned that budgeting for one drama a year on BBC3 may pose a threat to the kind of long-running shows that are popular with its audience.

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Following the cancellation of zombie drama In The Flesh last week, a BBC3 statement revealed “there is only budget for one original drama series a year on the channel [so] it won’t be returning,”

Will Gould, executive producer behind Amazon’s Ripper Street, says that having so few dramas on BBC3 could prevent longer stories being allowed to develop, citing In The Flesh as an example of the kind of series that would suffer in the future.

“It’s a shame for dramas like In The Flesh,” said Gould, head of drama at independent production company Tiger Aspect. “Because there is a smaller budget, they can only do one drama a year.

“I think the problem is that for a lot of BBC3 shows, that audience like long-running shows. They like things that play out over four or five years. Look at Being Human or Misfits [on E4]: those are shows that people loved more and more as they went on.

“If they’re only going to do one show a year, does that mean that every couple of years there will be a casualty like In The Flesh?” 

Gould said that while upcoming dramas like Thirteen – written by a former writer on Ripper Street – show that BBC3 is still willing to invest, he worried that only having space for one drama a year would result in a “cull” every few years of what could be much-loved shows.

“I think long-running drama is really important,” he said. “It’s a shame if we don’t get the space to do that. We all grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer or whatever, those great stories over many series.”

BBC3’s proposed move online and budget reduction has led to questions about what kind of shows the channel would be able to fund in the future. In The Flesh’s cancellation has inevitably been caught up in the wider discussions surrounding the channel’s future.

BBC3 controller Damian Kavanagh confronted this problem in a blog post on Tuesday.

“We announced on Friday In The Flesh would not be recommissioned,” he wrote. “The show has been amazing for BBC3 just like Being Human and The Fades before that, but with a falling income and increased costs BBC3 can only make one drama a year and I want the latest and freshest ideas, ideas that will break new talent on and off-screen.

“This is part of what BBC3 does and should do. I’m sure those guys will do amazing things just like James Corden and Ruth Jones and Matt Lucas and David Walliams did before them,” he added.

Gould agreed that BBC3 had to be a place where new talent could thrive.

“I don’t think the move online needs to affect the channel or change it fundamentally, as long as those people running that channel are still committed to finding original voices and doing stuff you can’t do on other channels.

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“That could still be as exciting and important a place as BBC3 was. I have to be slightly optimistic about it, because otherwise it’s too depressing. I hope there is life after the move online.”

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