Neil Calloway wishes TV producers would quit while they are ahead…
The news was as disappointing as it was depressingly inevitable. The Night Manager – the best
“limited drama” (we used to call them miniseries, but that makes it sound like a cheap daytime melodrama) of last year, is getting a sequel.
I should be excited – I got drawn into The Night Manager when my then girlfriend (she’s now my fiancée) was watching it while I was reading, and ended up enjoying it every bit as much as she did. We even ended up going to a talk by the writer, David Farr, the producer Simon Cornwell, and the director Susanne Bier. I’m the prime target audience for a follow-up, but my heart sank when I saw the news.
Part of the reason The Night Manager worked so well was that it was only six episodes; enough for some character development but not enough for it to get too boring; easy to catch up on if you happen to be out for an episode, possible to binge in a couple of sittings if you’re determined. There’s no ill-advised, failed attempt at ratings grabbing murder plot line in the second series. No clunky character departure when the actor playing them gets an offer to star in a film. They can work better than films when it comes to adaptations, and don’t ultimately disappoint like so many longer TV shows.
That’s not that I don’t like a good, long TV show to get my teeth into, but I like one I don’t have to say “yeah, after the second series it went rubbish” about. Before Kevin Spacey fell from grace the fifth season of House of Cards was a disappointment, probably down to showrunner Beau Willimon leaving the series. The ratings of The Walking Dead are through the floor, and the TV show nobody watches but everyone is talking about this week, Suits, has ratings a quarter of what it was when it started (and they weren’t that high to begin with – the cast need to find another income stream soon). If you’re honest, I bet your favourite TV show doesn’t last longer than five seasons or you make excuses about a storyline, or a whole season when you talk to people about it.
As I said, The Night Manager was superb, and part of the reason it was so good was there was no excess fat; it wasn’t a one-dimensional Bond film but it wasn’t a flabby tired series. A second run of it risks ruining the whole thing. Of course, there is also the stumbling block of there being no follow-up book for another series to be based on, and that the most entertaining character in it – Tom Hollander’s Corky – has been killed off. It can’t be anything other than a disappointment. An unexpected second series never works – the equilibrium found at the end of the first season has to be disturbed again, and that’s usually done in an unnatural, unbelievable way. The short series is always the best.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.