BBC to Launch Period Drama Outside 'Downton Abbey' Sunday Evening Slot
"The Paradise," set in a store, will kick off Tuesday to avoid the hit show and beat ITV's upcoming shopping drama "Mr. Selfridge" with Jeremy Piven to the punch.
LONDON - The BBC is breaking with tradition by launching a new period costume drama on Tuesday instead of Sunday, which is typically the evening for such TV fare in Britain.
BBC1's The Paradise, based on a novel by Emile Zola, is also drawing attention though, because it is set in a store - a fictional store in north-eastern England.
Some in the industry here see that as a shot at commercial broadcaster ITV, which has been planning to launch Mr. Selfridge this fall, a drama about the American shopping center magnate who made a name for himself in London with the famous Selfridges store. That drama, which doesn't have an announced launch date yet, features Jeremy Piven in the title role.
Both series feature shopping themes and deal with class issues in addition to relationship drama and private passions.
The decision to air Paradise on a Tuesday night was driven by the BBC's hope to garner Sunday night-style ratings during the week and avoid one big drama hit that is dominating Sunday. After all, ITV just brought back costume period drama Downton Abbey in the Sunday 9pm time slot.
"There isn't only one place for period dramas, Sunday nights," Danny Cohen, controller of BBC1, told the Observer. "The people who watch them don't leave the country on Monday morning. We want to experiment, evolve."
Asked about ITV1's Sunday lineup with Downton Abbey, he said that was "definitely a factor" in the decision on a week night slot.
Faced with news that some at ITV see the BBC pursuing a spoiler tactic, new BBC director general George Entwistle told the Observer: "A great deal of sensitive scheduling is going on all the time; we both have a lot of very good programs. Sometimes we collide."
One ITV executive said the network was simply focusing on its own show. An ITV spokeswoman declined to comment further.