HolbyBlue

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HolbyBlue
HolbyBlue titles.png
A still from the opening title sequence of HolbyBlue
Genre Drama
Created by Tony Jordan
Written by
Directed by
  • Martin Hutchings
  • Bryn Higgins
  • Barnaby Southcombe
  • Sarah O'Gorman
  • Toby Haynes
  • Jim Loach
  • Menhaj Huda
Starring
Composer(s) Mark Hinton-Stewart
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 20 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • Tony Jordan
  • Karen Wilson
Producer(s) Claire Phillips
Editor(s)
  • Jeremy Strachan
  • Jim Hampton
  • Scott Flyge
  • David Barrett
  • Xavier Russell
  • John Gow
Cinematography
  • Ian Liggett
  • John Daly
  • Stephan Pehrsson
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor BBC
Release
Original network BBC One
Original release 8 May 2007 (2007-05-08) – 5 June 2008 (2008-06-05)
Chronology
Related shows
External links
Website
Production website

Holby Blue (originally styled HolbyBlue[1]) is a British police drama series that aired on BBC One from 2007 to 2008. Produced by the BBC, Red Planet Pictures and Kudos for BBC One, it is a spin-off of the BBC One medical drama Holby City, itself a spin-off of the long-running series Casualty.

The first series was eight episodes long, and broadcast between 8 May and 26 June 2007. A second series of twelve episodes broadcast from 20 March to 5 June 2008. The BBC announced in August 2008 that due to poor ratings, they had dropped the show and it would not be returning for a third series.

Synopsis[edit]

In the first series of Holby Blue, DI John Keenan learns that his estranged wife Kate is dating a new man, and begins a relationship with CPS worker Rachel Barker.[2] Kate is hired as a receptionist at Holby South,[3] but jeopardises her position by hitting Rachel.[4] John and his new partner, DS Luke French, attempt to convict drugs baron Neculai Stenga,[2][3] but discover that Stenga has an informant within their team.[5] Unaware that the informant is DCI Harry Hutchinson,[6] John accuses PC Billy Jackson.[7] Although Billy is cleared by witness testimony he briefly quits the force,[8] returning in the following episode.[4] New recruit PC Lucy Slater is stabbed on duty,[5] but recovers and unwittingly begins dating a drug dealer. Her partner, PC Robert Clifton, discovers her boyfriend's criminal reputation and forces him to break up with her.[8] Luke and his wife Mandy fail their second attempt at IVF, and argue over his divided priorities between her and his terminally ill mother.[5] Luke agrees to place his mother in a care home,[8] but is heartbroken when she dies following a fall.[4] PC Kelly Cooper experiences financial difficulties and considers stealing money she finds on duty.[5] Inspector Jenny Black's marriage ends when her husband Alex discovers she has been having an affair.[7] PC Neil Parker is offered a promotion to CID, but is dismayed to learn it is a political, rather than merit-based appointment.[8] John discovers Harry is the mole,[4] and confronts him in the series finale. Harry double-crosses Stenga, who takes Kate and the Keenan children hostage. They are rescued by John and Luke, who are shot in the process but survive. Stenga is also shot, but dies, and Harry is arrested. John reconciles with Kate and Luke discovers that Mandy is pregnant.[9]

Series 2 had a few long-running crime storylines: Episode 1 featured Jac Naylor from Holby City, who had been arrested for murder, although it turned out she was innocent. Three episodes were spent investigating the case of Sean Burrows, a youth worker who had beaten his wife and son. The most major villain was John's father, who John visited in prison and later appeared at the end of the series suspected of abusing prostitutes.

Cast and characters[edit]

Zöe Lucker (pictured) stars as Kate Keenan.

The first series of Holby Blue featured thirteen main roles. Tim Pigott-Smith appeared as Detective Chief Inspector Harry Hutchinson, and Cal Macaninch starred as Detective Inspector John Keenan. Zöe Lucker played John's wife, Kate, Richard Harrington played his partner, Detective Sergeant Luke French, and Sara Powell played his girlfriend, Crown Prosecutor Rachel Barker. Kacey Ainsworth appeared as Inspector Jenny Black, and David Sterne and James Hillier played Sergeants Edward "Mac" MacFadden and Christian Young respectively. Kieran O'Brien, Chloe Howman, Jimmy Akingbola, Joe Jacobs and Elaine Glover featured as Constables Robert Clifton, Kelly Cooper, Neil Parker, William "Billy" Jackson and Lucy Slater.[10] Each of the main cast except Piggot-Smith returned for series two, which also starred Oliver Milburn as Harry's replacement, DCI Scott Vaughan,[11] and James Thornton as PC Jake Loughton.[12]

The programme also featured several recurring characters, including Velbor Topic as drugs baron Neculai Stenga, and Julie Cox (series one) and Stephanie Langton (series two) as Luke's wife Mandy French. Guest stars included Casualty's Derek Thompson as nurse Charlie Fairhead,[13] Holby City cast members Rosie Marcel, Sharon D. Clarke and Luke Roberts as their characters Jac Naylor, Lola Griffin and Joseph Byrne, Kevin Doyle and Amanda Drew as Sean and Judy Burrows, Kenneth Colley as John's father, John Keenan Senior and Chris Coghill as Roger Cooper.[14]

Series 1[edit]

Series 2[edit]

Production[edit]

Creation[edit]

On 27 April 2006, the BBC announced the commissioning of Holby Blue, a police procedural spin-off from the medical drama Holby City. Holby City, which launched in 1999, is itself a spin-off of the BBC's Saturday night medical drama Casualty, which began in 1986. Holby Blue was created by Life on Mars and Hustle executive Tony Jordan, and produced by the BBC in conjunction with Kudos and Jordan's production company Red Planet Pictures.[15][16] John Yorke, Controller of BBC Drama Production stated: "Whilst revealing a different side to the city of Holby, HolbyBlue still has the warmth and wit of the much loved Casualty and Holby City brands; the characters have to deal with the personal problems that occur in everyday life as well as keeping a cool head as they fight crime on the streets of Holby."[17]

Jordan was approached by the BBC about creating a new police drama in 2006. He was initially conflicted between emulating Dixon of Dock Green, with "a set of flawless characters roaming the streets dispensing justice and words of wisdom", or creating a more modern drama, with characters who would "snort a line of coke, beat up the missus on the way out and shag each other in the locker rooms". He researched the project by spending time with serving police officers, who "portrayed a world of endless, statistic-led red tape." Jordan explained: "I was left with an image not of a modern-day police force, fighting crime on the streets and keeping us all safe, but some kind of unwieldy, top-heavy administrative process, more concerned with public opinion than dispensing justice." The impression of the police force that Jordan took away for Holby Blue was one of officers wanting to do their jobs, as in the days of Dixon of Dock Green, but hindered by modern initiatives.

Jordan felt that the key to a successful police drama was its ability to reflect the society in which it existed, and was aided by Jane Featherstone, head of Kudos, who pointed out that Holby Blue would be the first British police procedural launched since the September 11 attacks. As a result, Jordan created a drama in which his characters would be forced to deal with limited resources and bureaucracy stemming from the war on terror, whilst trying to combat domestic crime. Jordan emulated the American police dramas Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, with "flawed characters, who still managed to be heroes", aiming "to accurately reflect society, to be of its time and [...] to be as sexy as hell." When the BBC suggested that Jordan use the Holby brand, he contemplated that "soap snobs" may hold the series in disdain, but concluded: "After much thought, I remembered who I was as a writer, the joy I take from surprising an audience, by subverting expectation - and HolbyBlue was born."[1]

Development and broadcast[edit]

Filming for Holby Blue began in January 2007.[17] The Guardian reported that the series would air on Wednesdays,[18] with John Plunkett suggesting that the show could be used to solve what he described as "the channel's long-running ratings black hole on Wednesday nights". Plunkett noted that every other weekday evening on BBC One had a high-rating show scheduled, with Holby City on Tuesdays, and the soap opera EastEnders on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. However, he also observed that scheduling Holby Blue in the 8 pm Wednesday timeslot would put it up against the established ITV police drama, The Bill.[15] In the event, the first series was broadcast on Tuesday nights at 8 pm, in the regular timeslot of Holby City, which was moved to Thursdays for the duration of Holby Blue's initial run.[19] The show was originally scheduled to begin on 1 May 2007, but was postponed by a week until 8 May.[20] The first series was released as a two-disc box set on Region 2 DVD in the United Kingdom on 21 April 2008.[21] In Australia, where the show is broadcast on 7Two,[22] it was released on Region 4 DVD on 5 March 2009.[23]

A second series of twelve episodes was commissioned in June 2007 for transmission in 2008, with filming running until March 2008.[24][11] Jordan deemed the series' renewal "a huge boost for both HolbyBlue and Red Planet Pictures", while Yorke stated: "Tony has managed to successfully bring to life a previously unseen side to the city of Holby. It is not only difficult to reinvent a well-trodden genre but to do it under the Holby umbrella makes it a doubly difficult task but he has done it brilliantly. BBC One is the perfect home for well-written, stylish and popular drama and we are proud to once again have HolbyBlue as a key pre-watershed drama in our schedule for next year."[24]

The second series featured a crossover with Holby City.[25] Yorke said of the crossover: "Loads of questions are asked in the Holby City episode that are answered in the HolbyBlue episode. That is exciting. It is something the Americans have done for years with shows like CSI and I really like it. You really believe it’s a world."[26] The crossover episodes were co-written by Holby City creator Tony McHale, and HolbyBlue creator Tony Jordan.[25]

Cancellation[edit]

In August 2008, the BBC announced that due to declining ratings, Holby Blue would not be recommissioned for a third series.[27] While the second series attracted 5.6 million viewers with its opening episode, by the end of May 2008 viewership had fallen to 2.5 million.[28] Producer Claire Phillips stated: "We are extremely proud of the 20 hours of Holby Blue that we produced but following discussions with the BBC, the decision has been made not to make a third series. Red Planet Pictures' focus is now on developing shows which will live up to those high standards set out on Holby Blue."[16]

Episodes[edit]

Series Episodes Originally aired
Premiere Finale
1 8 8 May 2007 26 June 2007
2 12 20 March 2008 5 June 2008

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The Observer's Rachel Cooke reviewed the first episode negatively, criticizing the acting and unoriginal characterisation. Cooke predicted that Holby Blue would be a ratings success, but found the series' lack of originality inexcusable given that the BBC is funded by the television licence fee.[13] The Times' Andrew Billen commented that John Keenan was "such a cliché that his new deputy Luke French told him that he was a cliché while admitting that, as a graduate recruit, he was a cliché himself". Billen wrote that the most that could be said for the show was that it had a healthy pace, and occasionally well-written dialogue.[29] Times critic David Chater also commented on the unoriginality of the characterisation, but praised the "high energy level" and casting. He found it "watchable enough", and suggested that it would prove strong competition to The Bill.[30] Andre Pettie of The Daily Telegraph disliked the pacing, observing that the script moved so fast it was hard to judge the quality of the series, concluding that it was overall unsatisfactory.[31] In contrast, The Guardian's Nancy Banks-Smith reviewed the episode positively, calling it "fast and funny and punctuated with poignancy",[32] and Jod Mitchell of The Daily Telegraph praised the intelligent writing and fast direction, writing that despite its familiarity, the series injected "pace and verve" into the BBC One schedule.[33]

The Guardian's Gareth McLean observed that the opening episode contrasted the typical "cosiness" of Holby City and Casualty, and described Holby Blue as "somewhere between the excellent City Central and the appalling Mersey Beat".[34] McLean later deemed Keenan "two-dimensional", but still found him to be an improvement on the series' female characters, who he felt were extremely under-written.[35] In February 2008, McLean described Holby Blue as "far from perfect",[36] but went on to review the sixth episode of series two positively, commenting that the previously disappointing programme had finally improved, with "a compelling and tense episode that both pleases series regulars and delivers a powerful hour of stand-alone drama." McLean felt that the episode tackled the issue of domestic violence intelligently, and praised "sterling performances" by Macaninch, Lucker, Colley and Drew.[37]

The crossover episode in which Holby City's Jac Naylor is interrogated by the Holby Blue police officers attracted mixed reviews. Helen Rumbelow of The Times reviewed the episode favourably compared to season premiere episodes of House and Grey's Anatomy which aired on the same evening. Rumbleow praised Holby Blue's superior pacing, writing that while it had "clumsy, absurd and predictable" moments, and seemed "amateurish, unsophisticated and old-fashioned" compared to the US dramas, it was still good, with "moments of light and dark in the right place, the characters perfectly introduced and just the right amount of intrigue seeded."[38] In contrast, The Guardian's Sam Wollaston stated that he was still unconvinced by HolbyBlue, deeming it inferior to The Bill.[39] McLean was also unimpressed, writing,

Should the appearance of Holby City's spiky Jac in HolbyBlue, on suspicion of attempted murder, be greeted with interest or indifference? Certainly, the dull cop show needs all the help it can get as, entering its second series, none of the problems of the first have been worked out. The police are still a thoroughly passive bunch who don't so much solve crime as stand around and wait for crimes to be solved by way of coincidence and happenstance. And Jac's plot is so well signposted that you're left not anticipating its resolution but frustrated that it took so long.

— Gareth McLean, The Guardian[40]

Mark Wright of The Stage was a frequent reviewer of Holby Blue. He found the opening episode "boring",[41] deeming it "a cliché-ridden disaster with some duff casting decisions and bizarrely clunky dialogue".[19] Wright criticised the decision to launch the show under the Holby moniker, opining that it is not a true brand as Casualty and Holby City both possess "distinct personalities". He noted that he loathes the former and loves the latter, but concluded that despite differing audience demographics, they are both hospital dramas and it does not follow that their audiences would also enjoy a police procedural.[19] Despite his criticism, Wright was pleased when the programme was recommissioned for a second series, hoping that an increased number of episodes would allow the production team to fix issues with Holby Blue and further develop its format.[19] Following the programme's cancellation, Wright gave Holby Blue a mixed review. He described the first series as "disastrous", writing that it was largely unoriginal and impeded by the Holby brand, but deemed series two "a great improvement, with some excellent and quite engrossing character drama".[42]

Ratings[edit]

The first episode of Holby Blue was watched by 5.46 million viewers, making it the fifteenth most-watched programme on BBC One for the week of broadcast.[43] It attained almost a 25% audience share, and was the second most-watched show of the day in the 8 pm timeslot.[44] Despite frequent advertising by the BBC, viewership was down on the 6 million plus typically attained by Holby City in the same timeslot.[45] The second episode drew 5.16 million viewers, declining to seventeenth in the channel's weekly programme rankings.[46] Its audience share increased to 26% however, and it was the most-viewed programme in its timeslot.[47] The following episode dropped to 4.42 million viewers and twenty-fifth in the weekly rankings.[48] Despite a decreased 23% audience share, it continued to lead in its timeslot.[49] By episode five, viewership had declined 4.1 million and a 21% audience share, but the show remained the most-watched at 8 pm.[50] The same was true of episode six, watched by 4 million viewers with a 20% audience share.[51] Viewership for episodes four to six fell below the channel's top thirty in the weekly rankings.[52] The final two episodes of series one experienced an increase in viewership, to 4.13 and 4.36 million respectively, ranking Holby Blue twenty-sixth then twenty-fourth in the channel ratings for the weeks of broadcast.[53] Following the conclusion of the first series, The Guardian's Leigh Holmwood described Holby Blue as one of only two recent midweek 8 pm dramas, alongside Waterloo Road, to have performed in the ratings, at a time when several other BBC dramas were facing cancellation.[54] However, Wright noted that throughout its first series, Holby Blue underperformed in Holby City's Tuesday timeslot, attaining around 2 million fewer viewers.[19]

When Holby Blue returned for a second series in 2008, characters from the drama appeared in Holby City on Tuesday 18 March, before the new Holby Blue episode premièred on Thursday 20 March. The Holby City episode was watched by 6.89 million viewers, and Holby Blue by a series high of 5.62 million.[55] Both serials lead in the ratings in their timeslot,[56][57] with Holby City ranking sixth in the channel's weekly ratings, and Holby Blue twelfth.[55] The following episode attracted 4.43 million viewers,[58] with Holby Blue slipping from a 23% audience share to 18%, beaten in its timeslot by The Bill on ITV1.[59] Holby Blue ranked thirtieth in the channel's weekly ratings,[58] marking the last time the programme would appear in the top thirty.[60] Ratings then began a near continuous decline. Episode three was watched by 3.8 million viewers, attaining an 18% audience share, again beaten in its timeslot by The Bill.[61] Episodes four and five were watched by 3.5 and 3.4 million respectively, both beaten by The Bill,[62][63] and while episode six saw a slight rise in viewership to 3.6 million, The Bill lengthened its lead against Holby Blue, attaining a 23% audience share to Holby Blue's 16%.[64] By episode eight, Holby Blue had fallen to 3.2 million viewers. It maintained its 16% share, while The Bill's increased to 26%.[65] With its ninth episode, the series fell to 2.9 million viewers, and its audience share decreased to 14%.[66] Episodes ten and eleven were watched by 2.8 and 2.6 million viewers respectively,[67][68] with viewership declining to 2.5 million by the time of the series' cancellation.[28]

Accolades[edit]

Holby Blue was nominated for the "Best Drama" award at the 2007 and 2008 Inside Soap Awards.[69][70] The series was nominated in the "Best New Drama Series" category at the 2007 TV Quick and TV Choice Awards, and Ainsworth and Lucker were both nominated for the "Best Actress" award for their roles as Jenny and Kate respectively.[71] In 2008, Akingbola was nominated for the "Best Male Performance in TV" award at the Screen Nation Awards for his role as Neil.[72]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]