Sad but not-entirely unsurprising news came through yesterday, when Ripper Street star Jerome Flynn revealed that BBC One has decided not to go forward with a third series of the period crime drama. In a radio interview with BBC London 94.9, he said, “We’re all in absolute shock because it’s a wonderful job.”
Series 2 saw the show move from Saturdays to Mondays with its premiere episode garnering around five million viewers, down a million or so from the pilot, but comparable to the average viewership during the 2012 run of eight episodes. Subsequent installments settled down to the timeslot’s 2012 level of a little under four million viewers per week, before losing another 670,000 to the November 17th return of I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! on ITV. This week’s “A Stronger Loving World” was seen by 3.26 million viewers compared to the reality show’s 8.2.
A BBC spokesman confirmed the story, saying, “We are very proud of Ripper Street, which has enjoyed two highly ambitious series on BBC One. However, the second series didn’t bring the audience we hoped, and in order to make room for creative renewal and new ideas it won’t be returning.”
In spite of the BBC’s decision, Flynn also made a pitch for the network to reconsider: “It was up against I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, and that’s been cited as one of the reasons in terms of viewing figures. … we feel like it’s kind of this unfinished work. So we’re hoping it will turn around if anyone from the BBC is listening.
“There’s these wonderful storylines which Richard (Warlow) and Toby (Finlay), the writers, have marked out and it’s one of the most captivating characters I’ve played, and also been part of in terms of the story, so it is suddenly like a marriage being broken.” This lines up with comments made by the cast earlier with regard to a hoped-for Series 3, with Adam noting that “You could go anywhere with it, absolutely anywhere,” and Flynn agreeing that, “That’s what it feels like … After what happens in this series, there’s no going back.”
Response from fans and the media has been vocal and negative, with The Guardian weighing in that the “idea of something so beautifully made being crushed by a celebrity reality show is like a flamethrower melting a snowflake. Ratings may be everything nowadays, even to the BBC, but the price of that silly battle to get more people watching during peak hours will be the annihilation of one quality drama after another, trampled by the clodhoppers of reality TV. It’s such a shame.”
Ironically, this piece also serves as one of the most positive reviews ever published for Ripper Street, Calling it “superior” and “one of the finest period dramas (BBC) has produced in a decade.” The paper’s resident TV writer Julia Raeside noted that the series “went on to examine complex human motivations, to scrutinise the central characters and their lives beyond the police station and to cut through to the guts of what it means to be evil and/or human. And it did this while looking truly stunning. When direction, writing and acting come together in such unison, surely a broadcaster would fight to keep that band together. It seems madness to pull the chain on something so clearly, cohesively brilliant.”
Two episodes remain in the UK run and a BBC America will presumably air a full run of Series 2 at some point in 2014. As always, Adam’s Apple will have further updates on Ripper Street and all of Adam’s projects in the weeks and months to come.