Ever since Aussie soap Neighbours jumped ship to Five, BBC1’s pre-Six O’Clock News slot has been occupied by quiz show The Weakest Link. As Matt reported back in April, Liam Keelan, the BBC’s controller of daytime, resisted the temptation to plough more money into soap opera, except for the short-lived Out of the Blue, commissioned by the BBC but produced and shot in Australia and, of course, the ongoing success of Doctors.
The reasoning was that the money saved could be put into shorter run, original dramas. This approach has already borne fruit in the likes of several runs under the Afternoon Play umbrella. More recently, too, we’ve seen Moving On, at whose launch Keelan had been speaking and which has since been recommissioned, with a doubling of the order from five episodes in the last run to ten in the second series.
This autumn, we’ll see Land Girls, an episodic drama stripped across five days starring Nahaniel Parker, Christine Bottomley and Summer Strallen, showing as part of a season of programmes commemorating the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.
What’s interesting about this latest drama is the time slot it has been given. Previous daytime dramas, including Moving On, were given a time slot of 2.15pm or thereabouts, whereas Land Girls will air in the early evening at 5.15pm, the spot usually occupied by The Weakest Link.
Whether the subject matter will be enough to keep children watching once the CBBC on BBC1 strand as ended, or to divert soap fans used to their Neighours/Home and Away double bill on Five, remains to be seen. But in a world where ITV’s drama efforts in the time slot consist of murder mystery repeats, any attempts to engage the audience with original drama must be applauded. And at least it’s better than another repeat of The Weakest Link.