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Question of the week: would you watch prime-time plays?

Posted on February 27, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Back in the day, series of plays (and their close cousins, the anthology series) were one of the staples of TV. Play for Today, Armchair Theatre, Theatre 625, The Wednesday Play et al were vibrant parts of scheduling and they launched the careers of some of our best writers, including Dennis Potter and Jack Rosenthal. There were even themed play series, such as Espionage, Out of the Unknown and Worlds Beyond, dealing with spies, science-fiction and the supernatural respectively. And who could forget Tales of the Unexpected?

Yet where are they now? Sky Arts and daytime TV, that's where. The popular wisdom is that even with something like The Street, which is essentially a play series (albeit one set in the same location each week), with no recurring stars, there's no way to build up regular viewership in primetime. With so many draws for the attention, each play would have to be individually marketed and still have to appeal on things like the iPlayer as well.

But today I'm questioning received wisdom and asking this question:

Would you watch a primetime series of original plays if you knew the quality of the writing and acting was going to be good, even if the cast and writers were unknowns? Or would it have to be themed or in some other way more narrowly defined?

Answers below or on your own blog, please.

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