After nearly 40 years, Neighbours has come to an end. The Australian soap relied on funding from UK broadcaster Channel 5 to finance production, and its ultimate cancellation was a result of Channel 5 opting not to renew their partnership with Australia’s Network 10.
When the news that Channel 5 was dropping Neighbours from its schedule broke in February 2022, the broadcaster released a statement explaining that the decision was made with a view towards increasing “investment in original UK drama”. Ben Frow, the controller of Channel 5, echoed that sentiment in a later interview with the Radio Times, suggesting that in cancelling the popular soap it allowed him to “better spend the Neighbours money on UK shows”.
It’s the sort of decision that’s been typical of Frow’s leadership of Channel 5. As director of programming, Frow has cancelled more than 20 series, and made a point of moving away from international imports (like CSI and, in a sense, Neighbours) to make room for new original content. Part of that has been documentaries and factual – Frow has put emphasis on signing up big names like Dan Walker and Michael Palin – but much of that is also about drama production.
Despite Channel 5 having not previously had much history of original drama production, Frow has commissioned over 60 hours of original drama across his tenure at the network. Speaking at a Royal Television Society event earlier this year, Frow explained “we had to have drama because it is very popular. I was surprised at how quickly we ramped it up […] the challenge is that we’ve got to have some stuff that is surprising. Crime does well, thrillers do well, but we’ve got to have the pieces that make people go, ‘Wow’, and take some risks with shows that are so not Channel 5.”
So – while it’s admittedly perhaps a little simplistic to reduce it down to a strictly 1:1 trade-off – whenever you watch a Channel 5 drama going forward, it’s (probably) something that’s been produced instead of funding further episodes of Neighbours. Below is a list of every drama currently announced as in production at Channel 5 – do you think the swap is worth it?
What’s it about? Filmed in Melbourne, Alison’s life is plunged into despair when her new Australian husband vanishes after a morning surf. Did he get caught in a dangerous riptide – or is there more to his disappearance than meets the eye? Riptide is a collaboration between Channel 5, Network 10 and Fremantle Australia, who produced Neighbours together.
Who’s in it? Jo Joyner (No Angels, Stay Close) stars as Alison. She’s joined by Ciarán Griffiths (Shameless, The Flats), David Berry (Outlander), and Benny Turland (Neighbours, Home and Away) amongst others.
When is it on? Riptide is currently expected to air on Channel 5 later in 2022.
What’s it about? An adaptation of TM Logan’s novel of the same name (following Channel 5’s recent success with Logan adaptation The Holiday), The Catch is a psychological thriller about a close-knit fishing family disrupted by the arrival of the eldest daughter’s new boyfriend. Secrets and lies are exposed with every twist and turn; as Ed is faced with the very real possibility of losing everything he’s worked so hard to achieve, can he discover the truth about his daughter’s new boyfriend before it’s too late?
Who’s in it? Jason Watkins (The Crown, Des) stars as Ed, a proud local fisherman. Poppy Gilbert (Stay Close, Chloe) plays his daughter Abbie, and Aneurin Barnard (Peaky Blinders, Time) plays Ryan, Abbie’s rich, handsome, and mysterious new boyfriend.
When is it on? The four-part drama is set to air in winter 2022.
What’s it about? Maxine is Channel 5’s first true-crime drama. The series is set to examine the police investigation into teaching assistant Maxine Carr and her fiancé Ian Huntley, who was imprisoned for the double murder of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. The series will focus on Carr’s tumultuous relationship with Huntley, why she lied for him, and how she became public enemy No.1 amidst the media frenzy around the biggest manhunt ever seen in British history.
Who’s in it? Newcomer Jemma Carlton will play Maxine Carr, while Scott Reid (White House Farm, Line of Duty, not Veep) will play Ian Huntley. The series is directed by Laura Way (The Holiday, Blood) and written by Simon Tyrrell (The Spanish Princess).
When is it on? The three-part drama will air on Channel 5 later in 2022.
The Winter Child
What’s it about? The Winter Child follows Claudia, a lonely single mother and school nurse, longing for connection. Her opportunity to be a hero comes when a young child in her community – Emily Winter – goes missing. Claudia becomes embroiled in the case and fixated on uncovering the truth. However, her fascination quickly begins to turn to obsession, not only with what happened to Emily, but also with the Winter family at the heart of the case.
Who’s in it? Shirley Henderson (Ursula Blake from Doctor Who, and Babu Frik in Star Wars) plays Claudia. She’s joined by Craig Parkinson (Line of Duty), Ian-Lloyd Anderson (Game of Thrones), Lisa Dwyer Hogg (Silent Witness) and Sara Powell (Ghosts). Giula Sandler (White House Farm) is the creator and writer of The Winter Child.
When is it on? The four-part drama will air on Channel 5 later in 2022.
What’s it about? Desperate Measures follows diligent bank clerk and single mother Rowan. Her life spirals when teenage son Finn is coerced into a botched drug deal by a local gang. With Finn’s life on the line and a violent gang leader threated her life, Rowan commits to a dangerous heist at the bank she works in to get back the money Finn lost.
Who’s in it? Amanda Abbington (Sherlock, Wolfe) stars as Rowan, while Warren Brown (The Responder, Trigger Point) plays her ex-partner and career-criminal Patrick. They’re joined by Sunetra Sarker (Ackley Bridge), Jonathan Nyati (Motherland), and Francis Magee (White Lines) amongst others. Anthony Philipson (Our Girl) directs.
When is it on? Again, this four-part drama is scheduled for later in 2022.
All Creatures Great and Small season 3 & 4
What’s it about? A new adaptation of James Herriot’s stories about life as a vet in Yorkshire. Series 3 begins in spring 1939, with war looming.
Who’s in it? Nicolas Ralph (The Most Reluctant Convert) returns as James Herriot, with Samuel West (Dimensions in Time) as Seigfried Farnon and Callum Woodhouse (The Durrells) as Tristan Farnon.
When is it on? All Creatures Great and Small will air on Channel 5 in late 2022. There will be six episodes in Series 3, with a Christmas special to follow as well.
Dalgliesh season 2 and 3
What’s it about? The continuing adventures of Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, based on the novels by PD James. Series 2 will adapt Death Of An Expert Witness, A Certain Justice, and The Murder Room, though it’s not yet been announced which novels series 3 will adapt.
Who’s in it? Bertie Carvel (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Crown) will continue to play Dalgliesh. Helen Edmundson (An Inspector Calls) and Stewart Harcourt (Maigret) will write series 2.
When is it on? Filming is currently underway, with Dalgliesh series 2 set to air on Channel 5 in 2023.
Sebastian Cardwell (deputy director of programmes at Channel 5, and the executive who’s primarily responsible for commissioning drama) has said that the aim is for the network to produce 10 or 11 new dramas a year.
He also explained last year that the plan is for Channel 5 to broaden its genre output. “We can’t just keep doing mystery thrillers,” Cardwell told the Royal Television Society. “There’s nothing worse than dramas becoming homogenised and a bit boring.”