Byker Grove Bonkers Finale: “We came out kicking and screaming”

In its own way, Byker grove was genuinely iconic: it tackled big problems and generated real superstars and memorable TV moments, while still relying on humor and playfulness. To those who work there and to those who grew up watching it, Ferryman was important. By the mid-2000s, however, viewership figures had started to decline and interest in the BBC had waned considerably. “They wanted to stop doing teen shows.” Bloom explains, “They wanted to start the CBBC channel, just for the kids stuff, let’s say six-twelve, and let EastEnders and Hollyoaks pick up teens. they did not want Byker grove more because it was too adolescent; too problem-oriented.

“A lot of it stems from a misreading of audience research,” says Johnson. “They asked thirteen and fourteen year olds if they thought the programs Byker grove and Barn Hill were for them, and of cours they said no. They said they were watching adult programs like Friends, not the BBC for children, but of cours they always watched it, and of course they got something out of the intrigues; they learned something.

The creative team agreed to change course to Ferrymanof the eighteenth series in order to save the series. “We did a silly and fun series,” says Bloom, who was brought in to lead the race, “there was a Full Metal Jacket episode, and a Kill bill episode; it was actually a really good show. Johnson, too, was happy to push the boundaries. “We experimented with storytelling techniques,” he explains, “and I think we did some interesting things. We got a BAFTA nomination for one episode. Everything was breaking down the fourth wall and talking to the camera. We did a flashback episode, we did one where the story was told from three different character perspectives. Alas, it was not enough.

“It wasn’t until we came to sit down to tell the story of the last four episodes that I was told that these were really the last four episodes,” Johnson said. “The BBC decided not to wait until we were done,” Bloom explains. “They had made the financial decision to cancel the show.” The team now had to find a way to end not only Series 18, but the previous thirteen years of storytelling, with no space to prepare for a finale. “It’s the craziest thing, looking back now,” he says. “You went from Ken Loach, Mike Lee, Andrea Arnold, a socially realistic drama a la Shane Meadows, then… BANG. None of you are real. You have to fight for your existence.

the Ferryman team was unlucky – it’s extremely rare to be canceled halfway through UK TV. “It’s always after,” says Russell T. Davies, arguably the UK’s biggest authority on TV fiction and someone who knows a thing or two about the finals. “You do your streak and then you go through that waiting period. If it goes well you assume you’re probably fine, if it goes bad you know you’re probably knocked out, but most of the shows will be in the middle, and that’s very, very difficult. Getting canceled halfway just doesn’t happen.

Back when he was a writer working on soap operas and dramas like Revelations, Springhill, Families and Great, Davies’ finals, by necessity, had to function as both a point and an ellipse. “With a lot of these cheap soap operas, we were pretty carefully designing a finale that could either be a thriller for the next series or a real ending,” he says, “Families [the ITV daytime soap Davies inherited in the early 90s]ended brilliantly with the murder by the stepmother of his stepdaughter, who had slept with the stepfather. At the same time, we had a character, Jackie, who inherited ten million Australian dollars, so we were all ready for Jackie the millionaire in the next series. It could have run and run. Revelations [a late-night soap Davies developed for Granada in 1994] lasted for two years, and the two years ended with a murder that the killer gets away with, which gave us something for the next series. We made sure they hit a high point, but you racked up enough to come back. “


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