“THE things we’ve risked,” said Robson Green.
It appears no drama series is safe from ITV cost cuts after the decision to axe Wire In The Blood.
Still a successful show watched in the UK by around five million viewers and screened in 33 other countries.
The dark drama was originally based on the novels by Stockport-based author Val McDermid.
It starred Robson Green as clinical psychologist Tony Hill and Simone Lahbib as Det Insp Alex Fielding.
With Hermione Norris appearing in earlier series as Det Insp Carol Jordan.
Wire was made by Coastal Productions, led by Sandra Jobling and Robson.
As was the recently deservedly acclaimed Place of Execution.
Both examples of top quality television.
Coastal is the only independent production company based in Newcastle making primetime drama.
“Naturally we at Coastal are very disappointed,” said Sandra in a statement.
“We are especially sad for the creative talent in the north east who have contributed to Wire’s longevity.
“However, Coastal continues to work closely with ITV and other broadcasters on developing new projects.”
Hopefully, the company will bounce back with a new long-running drama series and other projects.
Television can be a very ruthless business and you have to move on.
But ITV’s treatment of the north east is cause for great concern.
Tyne Tees was long ago forced to give up any capacity to produce drama – or much else.
A series of cuts have stripped the once proud and vibrant regional company of its original TV studios.
Reducing it to little more than an office on an industrial estate.
Where even the regional news faces eventual death by a thousand cuts.
Much like the lighthouses at the mouth of the Tyne, Coastal is a shining beacon for television in the north east.
Producing drama of the highest quality, viewed and appreciated around the world.
So what does this decision say about ITV executives 300 miles away in London?
And about the future of a network which once reflected the diverse nature of all the regions?
Of course it has to deal with the current advertising recession.
Having already reduced The Bill to one episode a week and effectively axed Heartbeat and The Royal.
But if a series as successful as Wire can be dropped, the producers of other high profile ITV1 dramas may well fear the worst.
As might those anxious about the future long term direction of ITV.
Robson spoke about Coastal at the press launch last September for the sixth – and now final – series of Wire.
It was formed 12 years ago and has created employment for many people in the region, something Robson is justly proud of.
He said: “A little small independent in Newcastle – I just wish sometimes people would go, ‘Well done. That is an amazing achievement.’
“I mean, me and Sandra have been so outside our comfort zone, you would not believe.
“Every time – a little independent in Newcastle – coming up with the goods, in what is a dwindling budget industry.
“Sometimes it is a worry. The things we’ve risked and stuff like that.”
He also told us about the multi-million pound finances involved in making a major TV drama series.
Real, serious money involving the jobs and futures of real people, with families and mortgages.
A heavy responsibility on anyone’s shoulders.
“You have an ingoing and an outgoing – and if you’ve got this outgoing, with no ingoing, you have problems.
“It’s just basic maths – you have that every year. You always take that risk.
“Sadly, a lot of independents have gone under and a lot of dramas are suffering at the moment, for one reason or another.”
I met up again with Robson just before Christmas on the day he was hoping to hear news from ITV executives about the future of Wire.
Fellow actor Mark Benton was also there to talk about Clash of the Santas.
“It’s done brilliantly,” said Robson of Wire, reflecting healthy ratings for the last series, scheduled by ITV on a Friday night.
No-one in the room expected anything else but a positive decision giving a seventh series the go-ahead.
At one stage, Mark turned to Robson and said: “You know they’re going to re-commission it. They couldn’t not. It’s good.”
Not, it seems, good enough for ITV bosses.
Anyone who loves TV and is concerned about all of the UK being reflected on screen should read the words of Tom Harvey.
He’s chief executive of Newcastle-based Northern Film and Media.
“This is a very sad day for north east network TV, an absolute tragedy,” he said.
“Coastal Productions have done a fantastic job of securing primetime drama for the north east.
“They have provided much needed jobs for local crew and ensured that north east locations have appeared in front of national audiences.
“Culturally, it is vital the north east is represented on national screens.
“Without our people, our stories and our locations on network TV the north east becomes invisible.”
Robson Green Blogs
Robson Green TV Features