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

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