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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Upstairs Downstairs Axed

As many people will have heard, Upstairs Downstairs has been axed by the BBC after only two series of the 'new' version (link Daily Mail, don't click if you hate it!). The second series apparently opened with 6.5m viewers but lost a couple of million as the series went on. However, using the final episode figures of 4.45m as justification seems mighty underhand - the last episode clashed with the first episode of Titanic on ITV1. Nor was this the only time Upstairs Downstairs was played around with in the schedules - one week it was pushed back to 9:30 to fit in with an extra Coronation Street episode on another channel (yes, the logic irritates me too). The point is, schedulers generally know what they're going to be up against. The key is to keep it consistent and try to respect your viewers by not pitting popular drama against popular drama. And you know what else? Take into account that people are as likely to record programmes and catch up later on iPlayer as they are to watch it live. Viewing figures are no longer what they seem.

Oh, I know Upstairs Downstairs wasn't perfect. I only actually watched the second series (but fully intended going back to watch S1 at some point) and it had its fair share of sensational stories and incredible situations. But, then again, so does Downton Abbey and we don't complain so much about that. There were some characters who were more three-dimensional than others but I don't think there was too much wrong with it that couldn't have been fixed. That, though, is the BBC's problem - they wield the axe so quickly that no one sees it coming. 6.5m viewers are not to be scoffed at and programmes are easily capable of appealing to new audiences as they go on. Drama on 'proper' television these days is so limited that it needs clinging onto when it arrives. Especially when it isn't a detective show. Don't get me wrong, I like Vera Scott & Bailey (yes, both ITV1) but occasionally you want to see something else apart from death and misery.

The BBC will no doubt argue that Upstairs Downstairs was too expensive to make. I notice they still have money to buy in expensive reality television shows and copious amounts of sport. Despite being a tennis fan, I can't help but wish they'd pay more attention (and money) to drama and less to sport. And don't leave a house just at the break-out of WWII and never return to it. That isn't fair on your viewers. You could've at least commissioned one more tie-up episode you stingy sods.

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