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

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.

Author

  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.