In addition to the sudden and depressing realisation that we will never get to fully explore the lives of our favourite Whitechapel residents and learn of their collective future and fate, the news that the BBC has axed Ripper Street paints an altogether more unsettling portrait of the television industry and indeed the cultural appetite of its audience as a whole.
I want to take issue with the British Broadcasting Corporation themselves and the following quotes are extracts from the BBC’s own website which explicitly state their mission, vision and values:
To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.
To be the most creative organisation in the world.
Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.
Audiences are at the heart of everything we do.
We take pride in delivering quality and value for money.
Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation.
We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best.
We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together.”
I would argue that the BBC are not only failing as an organisation in their endeavour to uphold the admirable objective to “inform, educate and entertain” but also guilty of not really understanding their licence fee paying public or at least not acknowledging the hopes and dreams of it audience in terms of what we expect from prime time entertainment.
We want to be challenged with adult dramas that deal with stimulating plots and provocative themes and issues. Ripper Street not only manages - or should I say managed? - these things on a weekly basis, but given its social and historical context, also most certainly adheres to the BBC’s remit to “inform, educate and entertain”.
Furthermore, the BBC’s website also states its six public purposes which include “stimulating creativity and cultural excellence”. I find it most difficult to relate today’s decision to cancel Ripper Street to any of their aforementioned aims and objectives. Indeed, the BBC is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from its more commercial and unsavoury rivals.
In order to justify the licence fee, the BBC needs to stand out from its other terrestrial television competitors rather than emulate them in their planning and commissioning of their much heralded promotion of “Original British Drama”.
Additionally, the BBC’s decision to axe Ripper Street also highlights the cultural bankruptcy of the commissioning panels and powers that be, an epidemic that is spreading throughout our television schedules at an alarming rate and embracing the mind numbing and increasing trends and appetites for reality television.
We have been refining the art of storytelling as a human race since we were cavemen. Stories that have made us laugh and stories that have made us cry. These stories have transcended the spoken word and prospered throughout literature, theatre, film and television. If reality TV continues to plague our screens and our popular culture, I fear what will happen to our art - what is says about its artists and about their audience. Indeed, what will become of the next generation of actors, writers and directors?
This petition isn’t just about Ripper Street, it’s about the many half-witted dullards who make up the high viewing figures for reality trash and encourage the television industry to create more of the same. It is about taking a stance against reality TV and saying that art matters and it is something to be valued within society. It is a demand from their customers that the BBC invest in quality drama and its artists.
Tell them that we demand a third series, or at the very least, an opportunity for the writers, directors and actors to complete the legacy of Ripper Street and bring closure to our beloved characters by way of a one-off special.
Ironically, one of the BBC’s stated values reads as follows “We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together”. There may be some truth in that!
The are more stories to be told.
More tears to shed and more laughs to share.
And we demand to see them on BBC1.