Written by TV

Little Dorrit Scheduling

BBC One took an appalling decision this week. They cancelled an episode of Little Dorrit to show a “fast-turnaround” episode of Panorama. Thousands of viewers have rightly complained.
Now I have no problem with current affairs programming taking precedence over drama, soaps or comedy, but there were two major problems this time around.
1. They’re not rescheduling an episode of a serialised drama. That’s right. Because the schedules are already so tightly woven up before Christmas, they can’t squeeze it in. So instead, viewers will have to watch the Sunday omnibus. They’ll either have to watch the whole thing, including Wednesday’s episode, or come in roughly around half way through and hope that they don’t miss anything. I’ve been using Series Link on Sky+ and as I type this on Sunday morning, no new entry for the Sunday omnibus has been put in my planner. I would have missed this altogether. Continuity announcers telling you to watch at approximately 6.45pm on Sunday just aren’t enough.
2. The tabloid nature of the Panorama that replaced it. We got an hour long primetime show on something that frankly isn’t all that important. It’s tabloid fare. A stupid couple effectively kidnap their own child because of something they saw on an episode of Shameless. The story does not warrant the exposure. The reason that the episode was rush-released was because the court case had ended and the people concerned had been found guilty. The only “rush” was to beat the tabloids (and, sadly, broadsheets) who’d next day be printing page after page of nauseating detail.
Do you honestly think that if the night had been jam packed with Eastenders followed by Strictly… followed by Spooks, that one of those shows would have been postponed? Too right they wouldn’t.
The only reason the BBC did this is because unlike the previous attempt at doing something like this – Bleak House, a couple of years ago – the viewing figures haven’t been that great this time around. So suddenly, a ratings hungry BBC will piss off 2.5m loyal viewers, and instead hope to grab 6m viewers for a one-off Panorama.
I sort of expect this kind of behaviour from a commercial channel, but there’s no excuse for the BBC. It’s lowest common denominator scheduling of the worst kind. It was poor editorially, and frankly if there are any apologies being made by the BBC, they shouldn’t be for stupid things that happened on the radio with John Barrowman. They should be apologising to viewers who’ve invested in time in watching a 14 part drama series.
(PS Happily, viewers in Scotland were able to watch the missing epsiode on Friday as originally scheduled. It seems to have been beyond the wit of anyone at the BBC to at least tell my Sky+ this. It could have easily recorded the episode. That still doesn’t help other viewers though).