One Night: Late Night Puzzle

Billy Matthews as Alfie.

It began filming in east London last summer just before riots broke out in Britain’s cities.

A four-part BBC1 drama with something important to say about misconceptions, stereotypes, jumping to conclusions, gang culture, the consequences of our actions and the way we live today.

Screened this week, One Night was acclaimed by many who saw it as one of the best television dramas of 2012 to date, set to live long in the memory.

Including a stunning performance by young actor Billy Matthews as 13-year-old birthday boy Alfie – his first ever TV role.

So why did the schedulers relegate the haunting drama series from 9pm primetime to a 10:35pm graveyard slot?

It was a question asked by both TV critics and in countless online comments by viewers who believed One Night deserved better.

As writer Paul Smith explained: “A lot of our lives we build a completely false mental landscape.

“Sounds a bit grand. But that’s what it’s been about. How much of our vision, our experience, of our lives is partial.”

My story is in today’s Sunday Express with a fuller version below for those who want to read more.

Also check out the links at the bottom of the blog, including one to a report on my One Night location visit last July.


Douglas Hodge as Ted.

A decision to relegate a £2m BBC1 drama to a late night graveyard slot has sparked anger among its cast and production team.

One Night was announced as “a gripping event drama set over one blistering hot summer night when nerves are frayed and tensions ride high”.

But both viewers and critics were left puzzled by the decision to schedule the four episodes across four nights at 10.35pm instead of the usual 9pm primetime slot.

Cast and crew members, who filmed One Night in east London over 11 weeks last summer, were said to be bemused and angry. Actor Neil Stuke, who plays company boss Kenny, described the BBC move as “nonsensical”.

Silk star Stuke added: “This is a huge mistake for the BBC. It’s a PR disaster but, more importantly, a piece of very relevant, beautifully written, tenderly crafted thought provoking drama has been lost to millions by a decision made by a scheduler.”

One Night was one of five new dramas announced by BBC1 controller Danny Cohen last year in his first raft of drama commissions.

It featured a stressed 50-year-old kitchen salesman called Ted (Douglas Hodge) who is involved in a row with a group of young girls after they refuse to pick up a crisp packet dropped outside his home.

Told from four different perspectives and co-starring Jessica Hynes and Georgina Campbell, it explored the tragic consequences that can result from confrontations and fear of crime in Britain’s cities.

The series, set on the fictional east London estate of Lakemead, also highlighted gang culture and the pressures it puts on young people, as well as challenging our perceptions of others.

Georgina Campbell as Rochelle.

In the first episode on Monday viewers saw a 13-year-old boy called Alfie (Billy Matthews) being questioned by police after handing in a gun used in a fatal council estate shooting where tensions were already high after the earlier stabbing of a young boy, killed by a gang – with others planning a revenge attack.

The Guardian’s review of the opening hour explained, “All – except why the BBC scheduled the series for the post-news graveyard slot of 10.35 – will probably be revealed over the next three episodes.”

The Telegraph said: “The best British dramatic offering of the evening, which the Beeb had dumped in an unpropitiously late slot. They seemed to have put One Night there because it’s ‘edgy’.”

While The Arts Desk was also puzzled as to why One Night had been “inexplicably buried in the late-night slot”.

Stuke said: “It was brave of Danny Cohen to commission this and we all joined in with the excitement of being involved in this project only to have the rug pulled from under us.

“Are licence fee payers really unable to ‘enjoy’ important drama? Perhaps not flashy or gimmicky but, touching and pertinent especially after the riots. Can we really not handle this? Clearly not, according to the schedulers.”

Posting on Twitter earlier, Silk star Stuke wrote: “The BBC have tried to sink it but One Night is getting great reviews.

“The BBC pulled it from its 9pm slot because it thought you lot would find it too controversial.

“It is a disgrace and everyone should complain to the BBC for treating the licence fee payers as if we have a low intelligence.”

Jessica Hynes as Carol.

A BBC spokesperson denied the drama had been moved from a 9pm slot because of its subject matter:

“We wanted to strip One Night over consecutive evenings on BBC1 but with so many new programmes launching at 9pm and the forthcoming summer of live events – from the Olympics to the Diamond Jubilee – we took the decision to play it out at 10.35pm.

“We’re delighted by the response from viewers.”

Asked about the late night scheduling, writer Paul Smith told thecustard tv blog: “It’s a difficult one this. The message came back that because of the stand alone nature of the episodes they were worried that it might not build an audience in quite the same way perhaps as a serial would do. So that was their main worry.

“Obviously I would have loved it to have been on at nine but people thought a long time about it and that’s where we ended up – and at the end of the day I’m hugely glad they commissioned it because I’ve not seen a lot like it.”

Producer Ewan Marshall said during filming that he was delighted the issues involved would reach a wide audience.

“It seems we have a growing fear of young people and the breakdown of social mores. Fear of kids has grown enormously. 

“People are far more scared of other people than they used to be – you have a lot more people living cheek by jowl who have different cultures, different norms.”

The audience in Wales had to wait until 11.15pm to see the first episode on Monday while in Scotland the drama has been screened as late as 11.35pm.

Last Friday’s concluding episode was again shown at 10.35pm following a New Tricks repeat at 9pm – One Night having made way for Question Time on Thursday evening.


One Night’s title music was Daedalus by Errollyn Wallen.

UK readers can still (Sunday April 1) catch up with the series via the BBC site below.

All four episodes are also being repeated overnight on BBC1 between Monday (April 2) and Thursday next week.

One Night BBC

One Night Clips (UK readers only)

One Night DVD

One Night: Douglas Hodge

Billy Matthews

Georgina Campbell

Paul Smith

Douglas Hodge

Jessica Hynes

Neil Stuke

Follow Ian Wylie on Twitter



Filed under News

13 responses to “One Night: Late Night Puzzle

  1. Rosemary

    Firstly, I’m amazed that there are, so far, no comments on this article.
    Secondly, I can’t think of any reason that could justify putting ‘One Night’ in the graveyard slot in which it was shown. To say it’s because it dealt with controversial issues is absolute nonsense. Those self-same issues are dealt with exhaustively, in varying ways, on news programmes, soaps, and other serial dramas, many of which are shown much earlier.

    Personally I suspect that the powers that be have underestimated their audience. Because talent shows, celebrity this-that-and-the-other, costume dramas and ‘reality’ programmes (which, incidentally, bear no resemblance to any reality I know) do, whether we like it or not, attract large audiences, they have assumed that something like ‘One Night’, which required concentration and was thought-provoking, would not. And they weren’t really ‘stand-alone’ episodes, either; what you saw in one made less than full sense unless you saw the others as well – the very definition of a ‘serial’, for me, at least.

    I think ‘One Night’ was one of the best dramas I have seen on television this year. It isn’t just a question of ‘gritty’, ‘edgy’ subject matter, either. You can take such subject matter and still write an inane, superficial and predictable script. It was the quality here that made the difference. The writing was absolutely superb (thank you, Mr Smith!) and the acting outstanding (a special mention to Billy Matthews, who was just excellent).

    TV execs please take note – you still have an audience that isn’t content only with mindless pap. There are still brilliant writers out there (Mr Smith proves it) and there is a huge pool of talented character actors in Britain who deserve a chance to show what they can do with a good script. You can still bring them together and make a wonderful show. ‘One Night’ proves it. Next time you have such a success, please treat it with the respect it deserves.

    Sorry for the length of this post, but I feel very strongly about this. And incidentally, I live in Switzerland and had to sit up until gone midnight to enjoy ‘One Night’!!

  2. Lisa

    Excellent drama with great actors….really should have been screened at 9pm instead of all the rubbish we usually have to endure at that time.

  3. Mandy Kellagher

    I couldn’t agree more with all that Rosemary has to say. I’m sure the BBC has enormous audiences for all the pap but when they do (non-costume) drama properly it even beats “Borgen” and “The Killing” which have been the best things on TV recently.

    “One Night” was completely riveting and should not have been deemed to be controversial. Although the subject matter was challenging it was extremely thought-provoking – it is not hard to imagine it as a true story and what the news coverage would have been. I know how I would have reacted to that coverage but can see how a knowledge of the back-story would have altered my perception of events. If we are ever to achieve the Big Society and mend “Broken Britain” this should be compulsory prime time viewing, not relegated to such an insulting slot.

  4. Deborah Lowe

    One Night proved yet again that British Drama is the best!
    It should have been shown at 9pm in order to give everyone the chance to see it.
    Bad decision BBC.
    Excellent Not to be missed.

  5. Sophie

    ‘One Night’ had me completely gripped. The performances were outstanding, as was the script.

    It had a level of authenticity rarely seen in drama programmes, and highlighted the complex social issues that 21st century Britain faces.

    Special mention to Billy Matthews- he is an insanely good actor, and shone in every scene. What a star.

    Definitely deserves a re-run at a ‘better’ time.

    Can we have more drama series like this please BBC?

  6. Jan

    What a fine drama: the best I have seen on television for a long time. The structure was quite daring but completely successful and the performances
    were first class. Paul Smith is a very talented writer. At last something to temper the nostalgia for the days when we used to get plenty of “proper” drama on the BBC.

    I could hardly watch the scene where the little girl was pointing the gun at the baby. Brilliant.

  7. amy

    Just a quick comment. These episodes were outstanding. I particularly liked Alfie, as I am his age. I think the story line was very well put together. If someone could reply and tell me where abouts this was filmed/directed that would be great.

    • Hi Amy – many thanks for your comment. I have edited it in case some of those reading this have yet to see the ending. One Night was filmed in the Haggerston / Hackney area of east London.

  8. Does anyne know why a Marenghi Fairground Organ lorry was seen parked up in a backstreet during one of the episodes of One Night? The owner tells me he was commissioned to take the lorry there for filmimg, but his no idea why he was asked for that particular vehicle. I’m sure the person responsible for hiring props at the BBC knows. Could you enlighten us please.

  9. Peter M Le Mare

    I have ommitted to record the last episode and have only just realised it. Why does it seem impossible to get this last episode??? I have searched evewry where for this but do not know hwo to contact.

  10. Nicci W.

    Have just viewed the series in full on UKTV in Australia. All I can say is WOW! It was about as searing and rivetting as you can get. The performances of all, but particularly Billy Matthews were absolutley outstanding. Brilliant writing Paul Smith…shining a light on our misconceptions and the daily burden carried by many (often very young) shoulders. It will take me a long time to recover from the outright injustice of it all.

  11. KB

    Sky-plussed this four parter and just watched all 4 episodes…absolutely brilliant drama. Moved to tears and gripped from first 10mins! Credit to all involved…v. impressed to see something well written, well cast and well filmed on bbc again.

  12. Helen

    I sky plussed this months ago, but hadn’t had chance to watch it until today (I’m full of the flu so I’m off work). I’ve watched the four episodes back to back. It was amazing and the only reason I didn’t watch it at the time of screening was because of the late slot it had been given. I would like to know if its possible to buy on DVD as I have several friends who would love this. I think it gives a very real view on the misconceptions we all have about our neighbours; I assumed that the missing father had walked out on his wife and children and only realised he died of a brain tumour when “Carol” mentioned it as part of her stand-up routine. I think its a real shame that something so thought provoking was pushed to the back of BBC’s screening list. Hats off to an amazing writer for pushing the boundaries and to the actors for making me forget my bunged up nose!

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