Afterlife (TV series)

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Afterlife logo.JPG
Genre Mystery
Supernatural drama
Created by Stephen Volk
Starring Lesley Sharp
Andrew Lincoln
Kate Duchêne
Anna Wilson-Jones
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 14
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Clerkenwell Films
Original channel ITV, STV, UTV
Original release 24 September 2005 –
11 November 2006[1]

Afterlife (stylised as afterlife) is a British television drama series, produced by independent production company Clerkenwell Films for the ITV network. The series follows the activities of a psychic medium who appears to have the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead.

First broadcast in 2005, the show ran for two series, and after the end of the second series ITV decided not to renew it.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The main characters of the series are the psychic, Alison Mundy (played by Lesley Sharp) and the academic who becomes involved with her due to his skeptical interest in the paranormal, Dr Robert Bridge (Andrew Lincoln). Set in Bristol, each of the six one-hour episodes of the first series sees Alison become involved in the appearance of a spirit and attempting to discover why it has come back to haunt the living. Robert becomes involved in the first episode, when Alison first moves to Bristol and her activities inadvertently result in the suicide of one of his students.

Following this, Robert decides to study Alison for a book. Alison's interest in Robert stems from her ability to see the spirit of his young son, whom Robert cannot see. Throughout the series a recurring theme is Alison's attempt to have Robert fully come to terms with the death of his son so that the boy's spirit can be eased and he can fully move on. In the first series it is learnt that Alison was seriously injured in a train crash several years before. The other survivors of the train crash seek her out to contact their own lost loved ones in the final episode of the first series, almost causing Alison's own death. Later, in the second series, it is established that Alison had these powers since she was little, the first 'ghost' she saw was her grandfather.

During the second series, Robert is diagnosed with cancer. He dies in the series finale, after having spent much of the series helping Alison to overcome mental problems brought about by the ghost of her mother. He also reconciles her with her father.

Production details and availability in UK[edit]

The programme was created by experienced television scriptwriter Stephen Volk, much of whose previous work had involved the paranormal, most famously the 1992 Screen One play Ghostwatch for BBC One. Volk also wrote five of the six episodes of the first series, the exception being the fifth episode which was scripted by Charlie Fletcher. The producer was Murray Ferguson, and the directors were Maurice Phillips (episodes 1 & 2), Charles Beeson (episodes 3 & 6) and Martyn Friend (episodes 4 & 5).

The second series was directed by Charles Beeson, Martyn Friend and Ashley Pearce. The episodes were written by Stephen Volk, Mark Greig, Guy Burt and Mike Cullen. The music for both series was composed by Edmund Butt.

Volk had originally conceived the series during the mid-1990s according to SFX magazine, when "ITV was fleetingly interested in producing a homegrown supernatural series because of The X-Files' success [in the UK]."[3] The series remained unmade until Clerkenwell Films became interested, as did Lesley Sharp, the actress being very keen to star in the series. "She absolutely loved it and actually pestered ITV relentlessly, asking 'When are you gonna commission this series?' Eventually they did,"[3] Volk told SFX.

Following the success of the first series, a second run was commissioned, beginning on 16 September 2006 on ITV in the UK.[4] The first run has been released on DVD in the UK, including audio commentaries from the cast and crew. The first series began a repeat run on ITV in the UK on Sunday evenings from 9pm from 23 July, although this was quickly abandoned and the repeats moved across to the digital television channel ITV3.

Critical Reception[edit]

Previewing the first episode as one of "Today's Choices" for its day of transmission in the Radio Times listings magazine, television critic Alison Graham praised Afterlife as "[A] highly-promising mystery series... a taut and snappy spine-tingler, even if it does use some old-hat shocker techniques such as creaking floorboards, darkness, inexplicable noises and unexpected taps on the shoulder."[5] Reviewing the same episode for The Guardian newspaper two days after its broadcast, critic Rupert Smith was also impressed: "What looked like being a deeply depressing hour was instantly enlivened by the appearance of Lesley Sharp, who has become in recent years television's favourite Everywoman... At last I can put my hand on my heart and give an unqualified cheer to a new primetime British drama series. Afterlife was scary without being over-gruesome, it kept a straight face while gleefully narrating a plot of pure old-fashioned hokum and it starred actors who are constantly, entirely watchable... Afterlife took the best bits of The X-Files, Jonathan Creek and, yes, Most Haunted, and turned them into terrific television."[6]

The response remained positive through to the end of the series, with all subsequent episodes also being included in "Today's Choices" in the Radio Times. Previewing the sixth episode, Alison Graham was again positive, describing the series as a whole as having been "[A] consistently high-quality supernatural drama."[7]

Afterlife was also a success for ITV in terms of viewing figures. The first episode gathered an overnight average rating of 5.7 million, 25% of the total television audience for the time, winning its timeslot with nearly two million more viewers than the nearest competition on at the same time.[8] The second episode improved to 6.2 million viewers, 29% of the available audience and again two million higher than its nearest competition on BBC One.[9] Episode three gathered 5.4 million and a 25% share, which was identical to that gained by the BBC One competition (an edition of the semi-regular Test the Nation interactive quiz series).[10] Viewing figures remained strong through to the final episode of the first series, which concluded the run by again winning its slot by two million viewers, with 5.8 million and a 28% audience share.[11]

In April 2007 Afterlife received three nominations for the Monte Carlo Television Festival 2007. Lesley Sharp has been nominated as best actress, Andrew Lincoln as best actor and Murray Ferguson as best producer.[12]

Despite continued critical acclaim, a drop in ratings led ITV to pass on recommissioning the show for a third series.

Episode list[edit]

Series 1 (2005)[edit]

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate Viewers
1 "More Than Meets the Eye" Stephen Volk Maurice Phillips 24 September 2005 6.00m
Alison investigates the death of a student's mother in a suicide pact, but is confronted by her tutor who refuses to believe that her actions are anything but detrimental.
2 "Lower Than Bones" Stephen Volk Maurice Phillips 1 October 2005 6.50m
Alison assists DI Felix George (Adrian Lester) when a young schoolgirl disappears without trace, but the investigation falls apart when the team struggle to find evidence.
3 "Daniel One & Two" Stephen Volk Charles Beeson 8 October 2005 5.54m
Alison becomes involved with a young Schizophrenic man in an attempt to discover whether he was truly responsible for a brutal assault on his girlfriend.
4 "Misdirection" Charlie Fletcher Martyn Friend 15 October 2005 5.15m
Alison takes a job at a local care home to assist a member of staff to discover if a case of suicide at the home was actually murder in disguise.
5 "Sleeping with the Dead" Stephen Volk Martyn Friend 22 October 2005 6.00m
Alison moves in with a young woman whose flat yields a scary past, and investigates the murder of a previous tenant whose husband smothered her with a pillow.
6 "The 7:59 Club" Stephen Volk Charles Beeson 29 October 2005 5.91m
Alison leads a seance to contact victims of the 7:59 train crash from Manchester in 1999 in an attempt to piece together their last moments shortly before they died.

Series 2 (2006)[edit]

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate Viewers
1 "Roadside Bouquets" Stephen Volk Charles Beeson 16 September 2006 4.43m
Alison's first investigation following her recovery from the traumatic seance is the investigation into the cause of a fatal car crash which claimed a young woman's life.
2 "The Rat Man" Stephen Volk Charles Beeson 23 September 2006 4.42m
Alison and Robert investigate a series of suicides in a prison, but discover that a figure named 'The Rat Man' is the cause for all of the recent deaths.
3 "Lullaby" Mark Greig Charles Beeson 30 September 2006 4.53
Alison tries to convince a young mother that her baby is in danger, but the woman refuses to believe Alison's findings, until she begins to believe that her husband is going mad.
4 "Your Hand in Mine" Mike Cullen Martyn Friend 7 October 2006 4.25m
Alison investigates when a young woman shows symptoms of a contractive skin disease which caused the death of her fiance's first wife.
5 "Mirrorball" Mark Greig Martyn Friend 21 October 2006 4.05m
Alison intervenes when the murderer of a college student comes back to exact revenge on the girl's best friend, but the girl refuses to co-operate with her.
6 "Mind the Bugs Don't Bite" Stephen Volk Martyn Friend 28 October 2006 3.96m
Alison delves into her own past, going right back to her childhood to discover the real reason behind her mother's death, while Robert tries to track down her absent father.
7 "Things Forgotten" Guy Burt Ashley Pearce 4 November 2006 4.08m
Alison investigates when a teenager who has visions of the death of a young boy is conned by a fake psychic, who may be connected to the boy's death.
8 "A Name Written in Water" Stephen Volk Ashley Pearce 11 November 2006 4.62m
Alison launches a frantic search when Robert goes missing, but fears her efforts are too late when she discovers that he has been admitted to intensive care.

Guest stars[edit]

Series 1: Adrian Lester, Saskia Reeves, Mark Benton, Rosemary Leach, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Phyllida Law

Series 2: David Threlfall, Aidan McArdle, Zoe Telford, Liam Cunningham, Julie Graham, Claire Rushbrook, Natalia Tena, Kenneth Cranham, Nora-Jane Noone, Craig Kelly & Ed Westwick

Overseas sales[edit]

In addition to broadcasts in Australia and the United Kingdom, the series has also played in Canada on the BBC Canada cable television network. People+Arts, a cable television station for Latin America, broadcast the show in early 2006. It also aired in New Zealand on TV One in early 2006, and the first series playde in Spain on Cuatro during August 2006. The program premiered in the US in November 2006 on BBC America; however, only the first series was shown. It also aired in Sweden on TV4. Iceland's Stöð 2 broadcast the last episode of Series 2 in January 2007. In Poland Series 1 started airing in June 2007 on TVP1, and RTL Klub broadcast Series 2 beginning July 2007 in Hungary. In Hong Kong, the show played from May 2008. In The Netherlands VARA aired Series 1 in June and July 2008. In France it was broadcast from January 2009. Belgian TV station Canvas aired both series starting December 2008.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Airdates refer to the UK broadcasts on the ITV network, although the series had its world premiere on Australia's Nine Network several weeks earlier, on Tuesday nights at 9:30 PM from 16 August 2005.
  2. ^ Delgado, Tony, "ITV axes 'Afterlife' after two series" Digital Spy, 18 June 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Ghost Watching: Afterlife is about to bring the supernatural to ITV...", SFX, Issue dated March 2005
  4. ^ "SF TV Round-Up...", SFX, Issue dated December 2005
  5. ^ Graham, Alison, "Today's Choices: Afterlife", Radio Times, volume 326, number 4252, issue dated 24–30 September 2005, page 60
  6. ^ Smith, Rupert, "The weekend's TV" The Guardian, Monday 26 September 2005
  7. ^ Graham, Alison, "Today's Choices: Afterlife", Radio Times, volume 327, number 4257, issue dated 29 October – 4 November 2005, page 68
  8. ^ Plunkett, John, "The X Factor gets its biggest audience yet", Monday 26 September 2005
  9. ^ Day, Julia, "ITV talent spoils BBC1's swingtime", Monday 3 October 2005
  10. ^ Deans, Jason, "Viewers stay loyal to drab England", Monday 10 October 2005
  11. ^ Deans, Jason, "The Saturday night revival", Monday 31 October 2005
  12. ^ Volk, Stephen, "Stephen Volk Forum", 6 April 2007

External links[edit]