Were BBC3 Forced To Axe The Fades?

When news that BBC3 had commissioned a fifth series of Being Human reached our internet browsers a few months back, we were as pleased as the next drama-loving TV website. There were some people who predicted that the new series (which will not contain any of the original cast) is doomed to be rubbish and ruin everything that has come before, but most fans were delighted. Yet amid all the whooping, realisation that the return of Toby Whithouse’s orgy of the supernatural could spell the end for The Fades dawned on BBC3 viewers and sure enough, the show which debuted last autumn was duly canned a couple of weeks later.

In a similar way to other BBC departments (Newsnight will no longer be travelling to political party conferences and Gary Linekar et al will present Euro 2012 coverage from Salford) the BBC3 drama team were handed a reduced budget this year and they simply chose the established show over the popular newcomer. But the whole situation has left us wondering a couple of things; whether they made the right choice, whether they should have had to make a choice at all and whether that choice was imposed upon them by the BBC institution..

If a choice was essential, then we must assume that the Beeb plumped for Being Human over its younger counterpart simply due to its larger fanbase. This is understandable to an extent, but it does not take into consideration that fact that most fans like both shows and a great deal of them admit that they enjoyed Jack Thorne’s new series about dead spirits more than the fourth helping of the werewolf-vampire-ghost mash-up. Perhaps BBC3 have a sentimental attachment to Being Human, after all, the show helped solidify the channel’s niche when it debuted in the noughties, as well as opening the door to a new type of youth drama.

Whether Being Human was any good this year is obviously a rather subjective point, but if budgets really are that tight, they could have carried the show on for one more series (which has been confirmed for six – and not the usual eight – episodes) and brought it to a close at the end of the fifth season, leaving The Fades to take up the torch for supernatural drama. That would have been a brave decision, but many think it would have been a well-calculated risk. Not only has The Fades been acclaimed by fans and critics alike, but it has done well across the pond and on the continent, with foreign journalist at last month’s Series Mania TV Festival in Paris referencing it often. Maybe this popularity outside the UK will put pressure on the Beeb to reconsider in due course, but whether the lightning will still be in the bottle a couple of years down the line is another matter entirely.

This brings us on to the other point; should the BBC3 even have to choose between these two shows? In the aftermath of ‘the axing’, fans of The Fades flooded the internet protesting that while their favourite show has been canned, derivative reality series such as Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum and Don’t Tell The Bride continue to be produced by the ton, yet for TV bosses on a budget, such fly-on-the-wall TV is perfect. Not only do these shows pull in viewers consistently, but they can be knocked out rather rapidly and on a relatively tiny budget.

With BBC3 coming in for criticism from established TV personalities in recent years, perhaps bosses also felt ill-equipped to defend The Fades? John Humphreys of Radio 4’s Today Programme has previously argued that BBC Three and Four should be shut down in the face of budget cuts to Radio 4 and John Sweeney and Jeremy Paxman have also criticised the channel for its content. Furthermore, there have been claims that the channel does not produce as much new content as it claims to and as such, it’s possible that bosses started off negotiations to keep both shows from a very weak position. It seems nonsensical to put so much effort into a show that would only run for one series, so it seems probable that BBC3’s hands were tied when the commisioner came swinging his axe. Either way, the show will be sadly missed…

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