Interview with Joe Ahearne, September 2000 - Part 2 of 4


Interviewer

So what happened after that? The show went out, it got very good viewing figures. Why did you not write any more? It's what everybody wants to know. Why did it end at six episodes?
 


 

Joe

Well, there are so many reasons and I don't think you can point to any one. So, in no particular order, first of all, when I started the series, it was never my intention or, I think, even World's intention that I would write all six and direct all six. I mean, I really started it thinking, well, if I can write and direct the pilot, the first episode and maybe one other, you know, that would be me. I would be completely happy.

But it just happened, the way the development worked out, there were other writers brought in to write various episodes and for whatever reason it didn't work out. I think that because it was such a short run thing, such a particular thing, that it wasn't that their ideas weren't great because they were - I read some of them. People just felt that it didn't gel with the stuff that I'd done.

So, you know, from writing the first couple of episodes I then wrote the fourth one and then I wrote the lastŸ I ended up writing all six and that was never the intention. And then when it went into the directing, again I thought I'd direct maybe the first one or two, and I'm not privy to the decisions about that aspect of it. You know, I'm obviously very grateful that I ended up directing all six.

So that meant that in a production period, which is five monthsŸ I'd finished writing the scripts in about, I think, January 1998, and then it was filmed in between February and June. So there was 5 months of filming where you can't really do anything else. I mean I was re-writing some of the scripts to solve a few problems but there was no way that you could come up with any new ideas or new stories. So when it went out at the end of the year in September, October 98, no development had been done on a second series because, you know, I wasn't available and World, I think, didn't want to put anybody else on it because they thought it was particular to me.

So it wasn't the usual situation where, I think in the case of most series, you're storylining and you're developing ideas for the next series while you're filming the series you are now. So we didn't have that. So there was nothing to propose to the channel or anybody about where it might go next.

So that was one thing. The other thing was, to be fair, partly because, I suppose, I was directing them, I hadn't given any thought to what might happen next. And even now with two years hindsight, I personally think I could get another six episodes out of it if I really sat down and slogged and thought about it. But we'd written the six episodes more as kind of a mini-serial than a series and I'd never thought of it as beingŸ

I think there's a trade-off between stuff that's high concept and low concept. Like, if you do The Bill or Casualty it can go on forever because, you know, you can change the characters but the situation doesn't change, which is at the hospital and people come in and get killed or whatever, or they solve crimes.

But with Ultraviolet it's a high concept thing and you burn that up much more quickly, I think. The same thing happened with other shows, like Between The Lines where it was about police who investigated police - it was internal complaints procedure. And within a couple of series they'd burnt out that concept. There were no more stories they could do with it. And in the third series they had to change the whole thing and bring it out of the police and make them private investigators.

So with a high concept thing I think you burn out the stories much quicker and we'd kind of designedŸ I'd really fought quite hard in Ultraviolet to have the end six episodes as something which had a definite conclusion. You know, at the end of six episodes you find out categorically what the vampires are up to and that's it. So at the end you find out that they want to wipe out humanity and create a nuclear winter. And once you've decided that, I don't think, personally, you can go on for another 3 or 4 seasons exploring that. You know, you've been told.

Whereas things like X Files, they operate much more on the basis, first of all it's not just UFOs, they investigate all sorts of weird stuff. And also they do tease the audience. They pass it out in much smaller bites, you know, and you wait years before you find out what's going on. And when you think you've found out they reverse it or whatever and they have a much different philosophy and strategy of doing it over there. And partly I think that is commercial.

You know, American TV works on a long running basis. They want stuff that runs for 3, 4, 5 years. This was never designed to do that to be fair. I didn't want it to go on and on. I mean certainly someone else could have taken it up but I didn't really want to do that. SoŸ I think that one of confusions is at the end of the last episode there is a kind of a teaser which is like, you know, one of the lead vampires pops up at the end and it's kind of aŸ I'm afraid that that does suggest that there might be more because it's a kind of aŸ what do they call it? Not a cliffhanger ending but it's a teaser.

But I'm afraid again that was done largely just to keep the option open, not to completely close it off. Because I think the point is that nobody knew, nobody knew if it would be successful or not. You don't want to say definitely that there will never be any more. You want to give the possibility. I mean, the second series of This Life ended up with one of the main characters who left at the beginning of the second series turning up in the last moments and I think it had a shot of people applying for other people to enter the house. That's nothing if not a teaser and it's saying maybe there'll be more. But in fact there weren't.

To be continued...
 

 

   


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