Saturday, December 09, 2006

Second State

The Stage has an interesting piece about the uncertain future of BBC conspiracy thriller The State Within.

Call me a crazed fool, but having watched the nail-shredding climax on Thursday night, I was under the impression that it was over. In fact, I distinctly remember trembling with excitement as the tangled web of lies and deceit was uncovered, the true puppet-masters revealed, and the last line of the final scene leaving it on a perfectly poised knife edge.

Of course what the article is actually talking about is the proposed second series. To which my somewhat simple reply is, Huh? It’s over. The story has been told. What do we need, someone to stand by the side of the television and say “Move along now, nothing more to see!”?

Apparently there are now doubts about whether this second series will now go ahead. When the first episode was broadcast six weeks back, an audience of 5.2 million tuned in to watch. By the second week the drama had dropped out of BBC1’s Top 30 programmes list with less than 3 million viewers.

Maybe it was too complicated for audiences nowadays to follow. Perhaps the fact that it was only screened once a week on Thursday nights, whereas a number of other dramas, such as Spooks, have the next episode already cued up on BBC3 immediately after the broadcast, played a contributing factor.

Whether the audience was big or small, the fact of the matter is that The State Within was spectacularly good drama. The real question is does it really need a second story to shoehorn the existing characters into?

A good number of the best television dramas have a beginning, middle and end, and don’t outstay their welcome. Isn’t this where the old showbiz adage Always leave them wanting more comes into effect?

Would they have been such powerful pieces of drama if Troy Kennedy Martin had been inclined to leave Edge of Darkness open for a sequel or Dennis Potter returned Philip Marlow to the hospital with a relapse for a second go around of The Singing Detective? What about Andere Boot, or More Angels in America from Tony Kushner? While Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was followed three years later by Smiley’s People, both were adaptations of Le Carré novels, so it doesn't really count.

On the back of its success in 2003, Paul Abbott’s State of Play was quickly recommissioned, but three years down the line the sequel is still a no show. Maybe Abbott is taking his own sweet time to develop a new story that is as superior as the original.

And of course there is the small matter of reuniting John Simm, Bill Nighy, James McAvoy and Kelly Macdonald, all of whom are very much in demand at the moment. If it does happen, I hope Abbott does it justice. With his track record, I suspect he will.


At 12:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I was wondering whether to prioritise The State Within higher on my list but I will now.

It was a bit unlucky with the lead-in and competing drama on ITV with the ratings. The Innocence Project gave it nothing in terms of viewers and it was up against a much less demanding drama about sex with a good inheritance from The Bill.

At 4:34 pm, Blogger Bang2Write said...


But it should stand alone like all truly good dramas - making them, you know, ONE OFFS.


Think how much cooler it would have been if THE LAKES hadn't had that second series!!!

Yes, THE STATE WITHIN 2 must die on the recommissioning table.

PS. Like Robin I blame THE INNOCENCE PROJECT for THE STATE WITHIN'S bad viewing figures. Dire! Dire! Dire!!!


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