How can the BBC appeal to older viewers? Make more programmes like Normal People

 

Normal People

It’s pointless trying to divide up and second-guess audiences. Just create high-quality television and let us choose for ourselves

Should the BBC be making more programmes specifically targeted at older viewers? Responding to a letter accusing the corporation of taking older viewers for granted, the audience services department (on behalf of senior management) said that, in their opinion, the over-50s actually had varied tastes, so were encouraged to enjoy shows made for a “general audience”.

That wasn’t good enough for DCMS chair Julian Knight, who declared that many people feel “the BBC has left them behind”, while, in contrast, writer Charlie Higson has said that the BBC was “forever tying itself in knots about the ageing demographic of its viewers” and stereotyping them by programming gardening shows and documentaries about tanks. It’s also notable that BBC Three is getting an extra £40 million for its terrestrial reboot, with a schedule “aimed at audiences 16-34”, while BBC Four becomes a repeats channel.

But is the viewing audience really that simply – or starkly – divided? I think it’s eminently more sensible to make programming for that so-called “general audience” rather than fretting about demographic targets or second-guessing audience preferences in such an offhand, even patronising, way.

One of the big hits of lockdown, BBC Three’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, might seem a prime example of “yoof” telly, as a coming-of-age drama centring on two teenagers navigating love, sex, family and education. Yet only 5m of the record 16.2m viewers in its first week were from that 16-34 group; the other two-thirds were older viewers.

And that makes perfect sense. You don’t need to be a teenager right now to be able to understand adolescent experience; we’ve all gone through it. Nor do you need to match the characters’ age in order to appreciate a sensitively crafted, beautifully performed piece of drama. If anything, it might be a more powerful watch with an added wistful nostalgia. Certainly, Rooney’s readership wasn’t confined to young adulthood, even as many labelled her a “millennial” voice.

The same applies to other lockdown favourites, like The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. By November 2020, over 62m households had tuned in to watch the exploits of chess prodigy Beth Harmon, not just those of a similarly tender age. And of the 9m-plus consolidated viewers who enjoyed ITV’s Quiz, about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’s “Coughing Major”, 1.5m were aged 16-34, even though this was based on a scandal that took place before many of them were born.

It just goes to show that you can’t pigeon-hole viewers – and it’s foolish to try. What we really want is quality entertainment, and if it touches on a universal experience or emotion, then of course it will appeal to people of all ages. The best television doesn’t divide us; it unites us. And never have we needed that more than in this past difficult year, with many separated from loved ones or living in isolation. Continue reading

Daisy Edgar-Jones & Paul Mescal Shared Where They Think Marianne & Connell Are Now

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal share their thoughts on where their Normal People characters could be today.

It’s safe to say the beginning of lockdown 2020 wouldn’t have been the same without BBC Three’s Normal People. Millions fell in love with Marianne and Connell, as their on-again-off-again romance unfolded on screen. The ending left viewers heartbroken, with Connell heading to New York and Marianne staying in Ireland, and the couple deciding to part ways.

In an interview with Radio Times, the actors who played Marianne and Connell, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, shared their thoughts on where their characters could have ended up.

Edgar-Jones said she had questioned whether Marianne may have found herself in an unlikely situation. “I don’t know, I wonder if Marianne is doing something really out of character like she’s working in Ibiza,” she told the publication. The actor went on to suggest maybe she “gets a job somewhere” and perhaps she “hangs out with Lorraine (Connell’s mum) a bit.”

Mescal also thought his character Connell would be abroad. “I remember we talked about that a huge amount when we were filming. I think Connell is in New York, and as much as he should go, I don’t think he’s well equipped for that territory,” he said.

Despite all the speculation as to where each character may have ended up, Sally Rooney, the author of the original novel, may have already shared all there is to know about their future already. In an essay she wrote for The White ReviewRooney seems to explain what happened to Marianne and Connell after we said goodbye to them last year. While they aren’t together, it does seem like they still have feelings for each other.

Although the series may have come to an end, director Lenny Abrahamson keeps us hopeful as he shared with Radio Times that he’d like to revisit the characters for a future show in 10 years time.

“If my knees are up to it, I would still love to do that,” he says. “I mean, it feels like they’re so real and there’s so much richness that sits there having told that story.” Fingers crossed we get that reunion.

Source: Daisy Edgar-Jones & Paul Mescal Shared Where They Think Marianne & Connell Are Now

Conversations with Friends director says it’s Normal People’s “cousin” and addresses Connell and Marianne cameo idea

By Patrick Cremona | Radio Times

After playing a huge part in the success of Normal People last year, director Lenny Abrahamson is now turning his attention to another Sally Rooney adaptation for BBC Three, Conversations with Friends.

The series is based on Rooney’s debut novel and explores the relationships between four central characters, including college student Frances and the married author, Nick, with whom she begins an affair.

Normal People

In many ways it is completely distinct from Normal People, but Abrahamson has revealed that there are some clear similarities between the two shows. Continue reading

Why we love everything about the millennial romance ‘Normal People’

In light of a New Year’s resolution to rediscover the love for reading I had as a pre-teen, I decided to start looking for accessible reads to tackle in 2021.

By Rhea Swain

In light of a New Year’s resolution to rediscover the love for reading I had as a pre-teen, I decided to start looking for accessible reads to tackle in 2021. I had watched the BBC Three and Hulu series “Normal People” when it came out in the spring of 2020 and found the raw realism of the romance refreshing.

A few weeks ago, I read the book, which was first published in 2018 by Irish novelist Sally Rooney. Surprisingly, there is little distinction between the heart-wrenching love story on paper and on-screen.

Rooney is a 29-year-old author and screenwriter, who has earned both critical and commercial success since her debut novel “Conversations with Friends” in 2017. Rooney has been hailed as “the first great millennial novelist” for her ability to make readers think deeply and feel intensely about their fragile humanity and relationships. Continue reading