Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Innocence Project

So the BBC are taking the unusual step of pulling this show mid season? Was it really that bad? I have to admit I haven't seen it, for reasons I'll go into later.

On the face of it, it would seem to tick all the boxes. Young people thumbing their noses at the establishment. Miscarriages of justice overturned. Exec produced by the mighty Paul Abbot and made by his prodco 'Tightrope' What's not to like?

Now as I've said, not having seen it I don't know if it was good or bad so I can't comment on quality as an issue. But this show struggled to find and audience from day one. As far as I'm aware the figures have hovered around 3 million from the pilot onwards. So it seems to be a case of if you can't attract a big enough audience from the outset, unless word of mouth prevails pretty damn quickly, you're not going to attract an audience down the line. It seems not enough viewers were attracted in the first place.

Why is that? Okay, here's why I didn't tune in. Some of the reasons might seem a bit subjective, but they are my genuine reasons.

A] The show is based on 'The Innocence Project' running in several US universities where law students attempt to save innocent people from Death Row. That's right. DEATH ROW. As far as drama is concerned we are talking huge jeopardy and ticking clocks. As far as the UK is concerned it's nice when an innocent man gets released. But it ain't exactly heartstopping drama.

B] I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to care about the guy in prison. I don't know him. So unless we have a lot of him in prison and lots of interviews with our heroes then it's unlikely I'd get to know much about about him. So does the show concentrate on the investigative side? Don't know, Did't watch it. Didn't care enough about the goal.

C] I didn't like any of the trailers. A bunch of smug overacting newbies trying to make everything sound so terribly important.

D] I pitched almost exactly the same idea about 5 years ago except it was a human rights lawer trying to free Brits under sentence of death in various countries around the world. I was told it would be too expensive. See what you get for being cheap?

Okay so the last reason was schadenfreude, but the other three are really why I think it didn't attract substantial enough viewers. Because contrary to what seems to be the belief of some execs, the audience are not dumb.

A lot of them may not consciously think of reasons. But they can see a trailer and almost instantly decide yes or no. Probably because subconciously they've gone through similar thought processes [ though probably not the same reasons] as I did. They just don't have to think about the reasons. Why should they? That's our job.

Let's hope someone at the BBC is going through similar thought processes rather than pulling The Innocence Project only to replace it with more of the same.


Good Dog said...

Because it was on before The State Within I'd catch bits of the last five or ten minutes.

It seemed 'worthy', and wordy. It took a while to figure out that I had seen trailers for it already. Because what I caught was mainly bods talking, there didn't see much of an urgency, dramatically.

I may be doing it a huge disservice but it was a bit like having a drama about bomb-disposal experts... on their days off.

DebbieD said...


I watched it and I think your reason C is the most on point. When you compare it with the recently-repeated This Life - bunch of young, bright, maverick lawyers - The Innocence Project was just 'off key'. The script was too lazy and smug, the acting too showy and most importantly.. the style was trying too hard to be clever dick American. You know the thing, where one character makes a comment and another interupts with..'So you mean... he was convicted because...' 'Yeah, that's right because...' 'And so his wife must have known ...' 'You bet...' 'Right. Now I get it.' Yuk. I love watching American shows, but made by f*****g Americans. We don't do cool, we do sarky. As in Miles, Anna et al.

Basically it was all a bit cringey and showy-offy!!

English Dave said...

GD - like it. lol

Debbie - This Life stands up amazingly well and actually was must see TV. I remember my neighbour at the time, a rough as hell lorry driver asking me to tape it for him one night as his video had broken down.

He and his missus never missed an episode.

DebbieD said...


That's why I get so frustrated with commissioners who are fixated on demographics. I remember my dad (and his best mate for that matter) used to watch This Life and loved it, along with Seinfeld and Larry Sanders. He's 72 and would never dream of tuning in to Last of the Summer Wine! He's not trendy or odd - but produce intelligent, innovative and interesting stuff and good viewing figures - whether quantative or qualiative - will follow.

English Dave said...

Amen to that Debbie. If you build it they will come.

I've just been reminded by this of an incident I had when Patrick Spence took over BBC NI - [responsible for The Innocence Project]

The H.O.D of development at NI loved one of my projects. She flew to London especially to talk about it. This was about a couple of weeks before Patrick Spence took over. She saild dhe would get it to Patrick ASAP as soon as he got his feet under the table.

She phoned about 2 months later, rather embarrassed. Apparently Spence had told her that he only wanted to work with 'A' list writers like Paul Abbot and Tony Jordon for his first couple of years in the job.

Tells you all toy need to know about 'save your arse' commissioning.

I remember think at the time 'well good luck with that Spencey, but what makes you think 'A' listers are going to want to work with you when they can go straight to the horses mouth.'

Could it be in his desperation to work with an 'A' lister he settled for one 'produced' by rather than 'written' by?

Good Dog said...

Well, if the Beeb are yanking the series from the schedule, they didn't do it this week.

Managed to watch about five minutes before I shouted "feck off you bloody Guardian-reading do-gooders," and swapped channels.

Dan said...

And they trailed next week's episode too.

Bob said...

I watched two episodes and found the characters charmless, the storylines bland and as you say, no sense or urgency.

I only watched it because The Bill wasn't on.

English Dave said...

I believe it is yanked this week with a vague commitment to show the remaining 3 eps 'sometime next year'

Bad form by the BEEB though. Apparently most of those connected with the show only found out it was being pulled after reading it in the papers.