After debuting its new drama Jekyll & Hyde at 6:30 PM last Sunday, ITV did not budge out of a pre-primetime slot for its sophomore airing, despite several hundred complaints about the show’s violent content. Defying viewer concerns, the period monster series went out again last night as planned, a half hour later at 7PM. Considered “teatime viewing,” the slot falls well ahead of the 9PM watershed that’s designed to protect younger viewers from inappropriate images. UK regulator Ofcom has now opened an investigation over the complaints it’s received, but ITV still isn’t moving. “We have no plans to change our schedule,” I’m told.
Critics and Twitter have been bullish on the show, which does not yet have a U.S. broadcast partner. Created by Charlie Higson, and inspired by the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, Jekyll & Hyde is part mystery, part fantasy, part horror and part sci-fi (see clips below). It follows Robert Jekyll, the grandson of the original doctor, as he seeks to discover the nature of his ‘curse.’ Tom Bateman, Richard E Grant and Natalie Gumede star.
ITV has billed it an action/adventure, but viewers last Sunday were surprised to see scenes that included the murder of Jekyll’s foster parents, a violent bar fight and a half-human, half-dog creature.
After receiving 459 complaints about the premiere, Ofcom says it has “carefully assessed” and is “opening an investigation into whether the program complied with our rules on appropriate scheduling and violent content before the watershed.” Ofcom can’t order ITV to move, but it can ensure the broadcaster complies with code standards, and can levy fines. “We’re absolutely committed to protecting children from unsuitable material on TV and radio,” the regulator says. A further 26 complaints have been lodged so far since last night’s airing.
Ratings so far have been soft, suggesting ITV might do better at another time. Last Sunday, Jekyll & Hyde bowed to an average 3.4M viewers and a 15.7 share. That was well above the slot average, but not good enough to come close to BBC One farming show Countryfile which averaged 7M. Last night, it dropped to an average 2.42M and a 10.5 share.
ITV does run a warning before the show starts, advising the parents of younger children they may find some scenes scary. An ITV spokesman told Deadline today, “ITV always considers carefully the content of its programming, and of course suitability for younger audiences is something we care about and give a great deal of thought to, hence our very specific announcement highlighting the fact that younger viewers may find Jekyll and Hyde scary.”
Before the inital broadcast, Higson told the Guardian that children would be happy with the dark tone. “They love all that stuff,” he said. “You never want to dumb it down. There’s enough fantasy element to it. We don’t do squirting blood, torn-off limbs. [But] kids know what they can deal with. I’ve always maintained it is good to scare children.”
After the first complaints, Higson told BBC Radio, “I’m sorry that anyone got upset by it. It wasn’t my intention to upset people by it. Obviously, it was my intention for it to be scary – it’s a scary show. I was expecting more people to complain that it wasn’t scary enough, rather than people saying, ‘This is a scary show and I found it scary’.”
ITV has Game Of Thrones-esque Beowulf coming early next year and it’s been suggested the network is targeting the same teatime slot. However, ITV tells Deadline it will reveal scheduling details “much nearer the time.”
Here’s a look at Jekyll & Hyde:
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