Why do we have to wait so long for all the best TV shows?

From Sherlock to The Fall - the best modern British TV shows seem to rapidly become victims of their own success, says Ben Dowell

Yes, I know the best things come to ye who waits. But when it comes to top class programming on British TV well, things are getting a bit ridiculous. All the good shows seem to be on ice these days. 


From Peep Show to Fresh Meat to The Fall, it seems that if something’s good then you are probably not going to get a chance to watch any new episodes for ages.

We have just enjoyed the second series of Jed Mercuio’s sublime Line of Duty but the gap between series one and two was nearly two years. Because the cast are now in even greater demand it is still unclear what series three’s filming schedule will be – and when we will get to see it.

It’s a similar story for Peep Show, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong’s sublime Channel 4 comedy about those perennial losers Jez and Mark. The production team have said the next series will be the last which would be bad enough. But it would help if there were any sign of this elusive last series actually coming down the pipeline.

C4 says it will not be this year but cannot seem to confirm it for next year beyond it being the “hope”. The problem is the writers are in such demand that they don’t have much time. And if even if they did have the time they are such perfectionists, I am reliably informed, that it would take them six months to write it.

The problem you see is one of quality. Good writing takes time and getting a good ensemble cast together takes patience. But when a show is a hit the writers and the cast tend to get busier. Which means delays.

This could also be known as the Sherlock syndrome. Sherlock is written by brilliant people (Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat) and is fronted by no less a star than Benedict Cumberbatch himself. And this is the major reason we get so little of it.

We got a mere three this year on top of… not much at all. A show which started in the summer of 2010 has aired just nine 90-minute episodes in total. If only we could have had more. Word from the BBC is that there is no way the next series will air this year. Again, the best we can hope for is a 2015 air date.

It is a miracle that The Fall – the brilliant BBC2 drama starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan which aired last summer – are back together for a second series which is likely to air in the autumn. But that will mean more than a year to wait and see whether Anderson’s character manages to catch Dornan’s sultry serial killer.

And what has happened to the second series of The Returned I hear you ask? C4 say its makers are being rather relaxed about getting on with series two.

Miranda Hart wants to bring back Miranda but she is being vague about exactly when. And Mrs Brown’s Boys has also been put on ice because Brendan O’Carroll needs to find time to breathe. The enormous popularity of the show has seen a tour, two Christmas specials and a planned movie. And the poor chap needs time to come up with new material.

Success, you see has a price. And some things, it seems, are just a little bit too good for their own, well, good….