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‘Binge-watching is improving TV drama’, Little Women writer says

The modern trend for binge-watching has been the subject of much hand-ringing, from concerns about diminishing attention spans to what it means for ordinary television.

But the unstoppable rise of the box set could in fact be improving drama, according to screenwriter Heidi Thomas, Thomas, the writer behind Call the Midwife and the BBC’s upcoming drama Little Women, suggested the tendency of viewers to binge watch their favourite programmes has caused programme-makers to up their game.

Saying the delight viewers take in rushing through a box set is inspiring to writers, she said it made scripts tighter, with an even more careful eye for errors and an aim to sprinkle the script with “treats” for the most eagle-eyed.

Thomas, whose latest project sees her work with the BBC again for a three-part period adaptation of Little Women which begins on Boxing Day, said she said she “loved” the variety of options available now to watch television without adverts.

“The rise of the box set generation is really interesting,” she said, of writing for television in 2017. “You do need to think about binge watching.

“It means that not only can you not afford continuity errors – that’s the sort of thing you have to be punctilious about – but it’s also about rewarding viewers, knowing that they might watch three episodes in one day and then finish the series within a week.

Beth March (ANNES ELWY), Meg March (WILLA FITZGERALD)

Credit:
Patrick Redmond/BBC

“Certainly I watched The Crown like that. “It’s the idea that you can put little rewards in for your audience: drop a little motif in and then pick it up later.

“That sort of finessing of a script, I think, was lost on audiences when you would watch [an episode] once a week. “If you missed it, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to catch up again.

“So I think people are receiving drama in a different way.” She added: “I just love the idea that there are multiple platforms open to the viewer that aren’t interrupted by advertising.

“One of the reasons I love that is as a writer I’m character driven and when drama has to be structured around ad breaks it creates a different dramatic animals.

“I just love the whole thing…Netflix, Hulu, everything.”

Little Women, made by Playground Entertainment, will be broadcast in three one-hour parts on consecutive nights between December 26 and 28, and available on iPlayer immediately.

Thomas did not given away any secret motifs she had added for the most attentive viewers, but said she had focused on drawing out the characters of each of the four girls, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, equally.

Amy March (KATHRYN NEWTON), Meg March (WILLA FITZGERALD), Marmee March (EMILY WATSON), Jo March (MAYA HAWKE), Beth March (ANNES ELWY)

Credit:
Patrick Redmond/BBC

The March sisters’ house was built to scale for filming, which was largely done in Ireland, making it seem smaller than many previous adaptations, with scenes showing the sometimes tough life of young women expected to work hard at home during the American Civil War.

“There’s a temptation to prettify Little Women but it just wasn’t like that,” she told the Broadcasting Press Guild, adding it would draw out elements of the Louisa May Alcott novel including Marmee as a single mother, Meg as a tipsy teenager with strange boys at a dance, and Laurie kissing Jo against her will.

“It’s not hard to make it relevant when it’s always been relevant,” she added.

“It’s about girls making choices that will define their lives.” Sophie Gardiner, head of drama at Playground Entertainment, said they had intended the adaption to be “fresh, contemporary and utterly respectful of the story”, while “excavating the reasons for doing it now”.

The March sisters will be played by Maya Hawke, as Jo, Willa Fitzgerald, as Meg, Annes Elwy as  Beth, and Kathryn Newton as youngest sister Amy.

Kathryn Newton plays Amy March 

Credit:
Patrick Redmond/BBC

Dame Angela Lansbury will play the wealthy and cantankerous Aunt March, while Michael Gambon takes the role of benevolent neighbour Mr. Laurence and Emily Watson plays Marmee.

Although Thomas it had always been designed for a Christmas broadcast, Thomas said she had resisted the urge to make it “very tinselly”, settling for fire.

“At Christmas, people need a hug,” she said of television endings. “Especially on Christmas Day.” Gardiner added: “It really matters. A Christmas show has to have a meaning for the family watching it.

“It goes to very sad, dark places but it’s infused with family and love and kindness. It’s being able to hold all of that in one compelling story.”

Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/10/binge-watching-improving-tv-drama-little-women-writer-says/

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