Variety Dec 15, 1997

Creativity counts for producer Garnett. (television producer Tony Garnett’s decision to end his hit television program ‘This Life’)(A Week in the Life of U.K. Showbiz)
Author/s: Adam Dawtrey

LONDON Only in Britain would the producer of the year’s hottest drama series decide to ax his own show just as it became a media sensation. But Tony Garnett just didn’t want to make another series of BBC2’s “This Life,” and that was that.

The show, which laid bare the private lives of young lawyers sharing a London house, became a cult hit this summer in its second series after a quiet first run last year.

News of the show’s demise, when it was confirmed last month, was greeted as a minor tragedy – the latest in Brit TV’s great tradition of programs killed off in their prime by their creators. The list includes “Absolutely Fabulous” and stretches all the way back to John Cleese’s “Fawlty Towers.”

Despite the increase in competitive pressures since the arrival of cable and satellite channels, the U.K. still is a culture in which the creative agenda of a program-maker can outweigh other considerations, certainly on influential minority webs BBC2 and Channel 4.

Tony Garnett, chairman of World Prods., is widely regarded as the most creative drama producer working in British television. With his roots in the left-wing social-realist TV plays of the ’60s and ’70s – he partnered with helmer Ken Loach on several of Loach’s most acclaimed films, including “Kes” and “Family Life” – Garnett learned the lessons of a difficult decade in Hollywood.

Blending the pace and the mission to entertain that mark the best American work with his own passionate social commitment, Garnett has turned out a succession of original and subversive twists on mainstream drama genres. “Between the Lines” was an anti-cop cop show, about the police’s internal investigators; “Cardiac Arrest,” a medical drama satirizing the failures of the hospital system; and “This Life” started where legal dramas leave off. Each time, he killed the shows when he felt they had nothing left to say.

In a rare public speech last month, the usually reticent Garnett slammed British network bosses for the “impoverishing narrow” range of “depressingly conformist and correct” drama.

But Garnett still manages to break new ground. Next year, he and fellow drama producer Sophie Balhetchet are shooting two new series – “Crossing the Line” for Channel 4, about a police squad dedicated to catching vampires, and “Cops” for the BBC, a fresh take on the bobby-on-the-beat genre.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cahners Publishing Company in association with The Gale Group and LookSmart.
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