Lenny Henry rues fate of black TV dramas after Three Little Birds axed

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Lenny Henry says “many achromatic dramas” are being axed aft 1 series, pinch his Windrush ITV play Three Little Birds becoming nan latest victim.

Henry said he would move Three Little Birds into a book alternatively arsenic he had stories planned retired for nan characters for a 2nd series.

A decade connected from his rallying Bafta speech, which called for much diverseness successful nan imaginative industries, he told nan Guardian he was concerned astir a inclination for caller shows being fixed “just 1 shot”, arsenic TV faced cuts caused by a downturn successful advertizing and commissioning.

He said: “These days, it seems that galore achromatic dramas only get 1 series, location are galore examples of this – and sadly, Three Little Birds is conscionable 1 much successful that aforesaid category.”

Henry added it was now difficult to get TV dramas distant unless location were large names attached and warned nan manufacture needed much finance successful diverse, lesser-known talent to make them “the stars of tomorrow”.

He said he was “very sad” that West Midlands-based Three Little Birds – which was a testament to his parents’ procreation and their experience of immigration successful nan 1950s – would not return, peculiarly as, “we had nan astir divers and inclusive squad moving connected nan show”.

“We were only conscionable getting to cognize Rochelle Neil, Saffron Coomber, Yazmin Belo and Javone Prince and their stellar performances arsenic Leah, Chantrelle, Hosanna and Aston: nan assemblage guidance was astonishing and I had immoderate really bully storylines planned for their characters.”

He thanked “everyone astatine ITV for commissioning Three Little Birds successful nan first place” and said he was, “very proud of our accomplishment – we’ve won awards and put retired existent stories that speak to a batch of people”.

“But nan reality is these days, nan TV marketplace is very tricky to navigate unless location are large names attached to a project. A show will often get conscionable 1 changeable and if it doesn’t meet broadcaster expectations – that’s it – it’s apt cancelled aft 1 series. We sadly don’t springiness shows nan opportunity to turn pinch nan audience, for illustration we did 10/15 years ago, which astir apt is down to really we devour things.

“I would really for illustration to spot immoderate longer-term finance successful lesser-known and divers talent, successful bid to make them nan stars of tomorrow. These things return time.”

Henry added: “I scheme to return nan characters from Three Little Birds and create their further adventures successful a book. Meanwhile, moving forward, I’ll conscionable person to transportation TV projects starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Judi Dench. Wish maine luck!”

An ITV spokesperson responded: “It was a very difficult determination arsenic we really wanted to committee different bid of Three Little Birds, but unluckily nan assemblage didn’t travel to nan play successful nan numbers that we’d hoped for.

“Everyone who watched nan bid really loved it, and for that logic we’re really disappointed we can’t make different bid happen.”

They said ITV had “loved working” pinch Henry, nan producers Tiger Aspect/Banijay and nan actors “and dream to activity pinch them connected different committee soon”.

The news comes contempt Three Little Birds being successful nan apical 50 most-watched shows erstwhile it premiered successful October 2023, pinch almost 3 cardinal viewers, according to tv ratings agency Barb.

It was nan only divers play successful nan apical 50 and conscionable 192,000 viewers down nan Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio’s ITV crime thriller Payback – which is besides not returning.

ITV is nether unit to present ratings successful a reliable marketplace but it is understood Three Little Birds, for illustration different ITV black-led play Riches (which is besides not returning owed to lower-than-hoped ratings), did good successful nan US connected streaming services BritBox and Amazon respectively.

The fame of achromatic play was shown by Top Boy winning this year’s Best Drama Series Bafta, having been axed by Channel 4 but revived by Netflix.

There are fears that pinch TV accumulation cuts leaving astir 70% of freelancers retired of work, diverseness will suffer.

The Film & TV Charity’s ceo, Marcus Ryder, told nan Culture, Media and Sport committee past period that “there is simply a existent fear” among divers TV workers “they will disproportionately consciousness nan brunt” of cuts.

Source theguardian