Friday, May 09, 2008

Ramsey Street casts a long shadow

Seems BBC1 is having a few problems replacing Neighbours. The Australian soap was a daytime fixture on the channel for decades, screening five days a week after the lunchtime news with each episode repeated later that same afternoon. But rival channel Five gazumped the terrestrial rights, forcing the BBC to look elsewhere for shows to plug the gap. Quiz show The Weakest Link got shifted from BBC2 to BBC1, filling the later afternoon slot, while long-running continuing medical drama series Doctors came forward half an hour.

But that still left a hole in the schedule, temporarily filled by the imported Dick Van Dyke procedural Diagnosis Murder. The BBC bought 130 episodes of a new Aussie soap, Out of the Blue, to replace Neighbours. That launched last week with 1.2 million viewers, but close to half those deserted within a week. Now the BBC has announced Out of the Blue is getting shunted over to BBC2 where the remaining 100+ episodes will be burnt off over the summer. What's replacing it? Back to Diagnosis Murder as a stopgap, until another solution can be found.

The disappearance of Neighbours from the schedules took months to play out, and all sorts of options were contemplated. According to news media reports, the daytime schedulers looked at giving BBC Scotland's homegrown soap River City a run across the whole of Britain. [At present the twice-weekly show's only broadcast to terrestrial viewers in Scotland, though it can be seen nationally via cable, satellite, digital and online at the iPlayer.] High school precinct drama Waterloo Road was mooted as another possible candidate.

In truth, there's not nearly enough Waterloo Road to fill the gap, even if you sliced the 40 episodes of 60 minutes each in half. River City's got more than 500 episodes in the bank and there were rumours of test screenings in parts of England to see how well the show translated to a non-Scots audience, but nothing's been announced yet. For now, daytime viewers can expect to see a lot of Dick Van Dyke.

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