ITV’s axed teatime fantasy drama Jekyll and Hyde was broadcast too early according to broadcasting regulator Ofcom.
The drama, written by Charlie Higson, contained scenes that were “likely to frighten and disturb younger children”, said the watchdog, and therefore the 6:30pm scheduling time was too early for young audiences.
“Ofcom considered that the programme’s content was not so strong that, with appropriate scheduling, it could not be broadcast pre-watershed,” the report stated. “However, in the specific circumstances of this case, we considered that the content would have exceeded the expectations of viewers, and in particular parents and carers, at this time and on this channel.”
The show, the regulator concluded, was in breach of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, because children were not “protected from unsuitable material by appropriate scheduling.”
Ofcom said it had received 504 complaints when the first episode aired in October, prompting it to investigate Jekyll and Hyde.
ITV argued that the series was no different to other “pre watershed fantasy dramas” such as Doctor Who and Star Trek, which had “featured monsters and mild violence in a sci-fi setting for over 50 years”.
However, Ofcom disagreed, arguing that Jekyll and Hyde was different to Doctor Who, because it depicted violence between human rather than fantasy characters.
The show included “relatively realistic and brutal acts of violence (including punches, kicks, a beating with a stick, a shooting, and a stabbing) taking place between human characters.”
Nevertheless, among the scenes that concerned Ofcom were those containing some of its more fantastical elements, including one involving a creature with the body of a dog and the head of a man, which it said was likely to have frightened a younger audience.
“In Ofcom’s view, the realistic grafting of a human head onto an animal’s body was unsettling,” said the report. “This creature’s appearance, combined with its menacing and aggressive behaviour and the ominous tone of the scene as a whole, resulted in material that was very likely to have unsettled and frightened younger viewers.”
Jekyll and Hyde was cancelled by ITV earlier this January following disappointing ratings, with the final episode drawing just 1.8 million viewers.
Creator Higson said it had been “a great adventure while it lasted”, and added he was moving on to other projects.
As well as early complaints about the show’s broadcast time, ITV took the decision to pull one episode from the schedules following the Paris terrorist attacks. The episode was rescheduled, with the series eventually ending in a double bill on 27th December.