After Dark (TV Series) - Channel 4 Axing

Channel 4 Axing

In August 1991, Channel 4 announced the end of the series, an action which became the subject of an editorial in The Times, and was described by the Mail On Sunday as "something died when After Dark was quietly killed off in the shadows last week":

"Something deeply symbolic happened last week as the important players in British television were travelling to Edinburgh to discuss the crisis in their industry. A small low-budget programme called After Dark was axed by Channel 4... it has the raw, dangerous edge which only truly live television can achieve...Last week After Dark's independent producers... were called in by Channel 4 to be told their contract was not to be renewed. No explanation was given at the time. But the true reason has now emerged. Its slot is to be filled by something called TV Heaven, repeats of popular light entertainment hits of the past such as Please Sir, Upstairs Downstairs, The Prisoner and The Avengers....
"A list of recent participants gives some idea of what After Dark was about:... Jessica Mitford and Derek Nimmo's chauffeur on Servants. Archduke Karl Habsburg and Peregrine Worsthorne on Royalty and Hans Eysenck and Xaviera Hollander on Bodies. At its best After Dark revived the forgotten art of intelligent conversation.... The truth is that Channel 4 became nervous of After Dark. The fact that it went out live, one of the very last programmes to do so, added to its dangers. There were some uncomfortable rows - Teresa Gorman storming off the set, a crack addict losing all self-control, a resident of Cardboard City called Spider howling with rage.... Michael Grade feels he must get the ratings up and the costs down. And the cheapest form of television available is the library shelf."

The Independent newspaper noted: "Grade's programming is confused: he axed the talk show... allegedly to make way for even more innovative programmes, yet replaced it with a series of Seventies repeats. He praised After Dark lavishly in public but, in a letter to Edward Heath, said it 'promised more than it delivered'." The producer wrote later in an article in Lobster magazine:

"Much to everyone’s surprise, the programme survived the novelty of its form and remained a great event for some years, even to the extent that the head of the network, Jeremy Isaacs, selected it as one of his all-time favourite programmes when he left C4 and wrote a book. Not everyone was wholly supportive, however. Although launched by Isaacs, most of the ninety After Dark programmes were made under the reign of Michael Grade, who we were never sure actually watched the show. And Grade, always more of an aspiring Establishment man than his time at C4 suggested, had concerns. Interviewed some years after he axed After Dark for uncertain reasons, Grade said: 'It (After Dark) was an interesting idea and well worth pursuing. I thought it was very badly produced, editorially.'"

An open letter was published, signed by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, Buzz Aldrin, Billy Bragg, Beatrix Campbell, Lord Dacre, Gerald Kaufman, Mary Midgley, Richard Perle, Merlyn Rees, Richard Shepherd, Ralph Steadman, Peter Ustinov, Lord Weidenfeld and many others:

"We have learnt with great concern of Channel 4's decision not to continue with the television discussion programme After Dark. Some of us have worked on and with this production, others have been its on-screen guests, still others have no professional connection with the programme but as viewers have found After Dark uniquely entertaining, instructive and informative. We do not want to see it disappear."

Angela Lambert wrote later in The Independent:

"I am truly sorry to hear that the Saturday small hours talk show After Dark is to be dropped by Channel 4. It was the most original programme on television, and the only one in which the sound of the human voice - angry, boring, repetitive, excitable, but occasionally passionate, revealing and unforgettable - overcame the patina of artifice with which television habitually polishes and tidies up its speakers. Only on After Dark could we have heard the rolling Russian timbre of Tatyana Tolstaya... or seen Clare Short squirm as Tony Howard wondered why, if she was so protective about her private life, she'd talked on radio to Anthony Clare.... Only After Dark had the leisurely pace that made possible the exchange between the Holocaust survivor Rabbi Hugo Gryn and Yasser Arafat's PR voice Karma Nabulsi, whose mutual desire for a world in which their grandchildren could play together was so moving; and allowed Wendy Savage to admit to her own continuing pain at performing abortions. Late as the show was (and being open-ended, it sometimes ran till 3am) it was the most compulsive and dangerous viewing on the air. That'll be why they dropped it."

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