Maggie Brown speaks with Jane Hewland
MediaGuardian.co.uk (Tuesday 11th April 2006)
Final Whistle for Dream Team
Dream Team, Sky One's long-running drama about Harchester football club, has been cancelled after 10 years by the channel's new director of programmes, Richard Woolfe.
Jane Hewland, the programme's creator and executive producer, said today the 10th series of the Sunday night drama now in production would be the last.
Ms Hewland, who makes Dream Team through her independent production company, Hewland International, added that she had probably made a mistake by killing off a lot of characters at the beginning of the current series, which had led to a collapse in ratings.
But she said that a bigger problem was the plunge in Sky One's ratings as multichannel competition intensified and she pointed to tensions within BSkyB between its sports division and entertainment and news networks.
Mr Woolfe, who joined Sky earlier this year after running Living TV, has been charged with reviving Sky One's fortunes.
He is expected to try to do this through commissioning eye-catching factual formats, as he did at Living TV with shows such as Most Haunted, and a better choice of American acquisitions.
Ms Hewland said Mr Woolfe's decision to cancel Dream Team came as a relief because of the strain of producing the low-budget show - which she described as the "Kwik Save of drama".
"I am so relieved. For the last four years it has been a bit of a nightmare doing it, it feels like a kind of liberation," she said.
Ms Hewland added that over the course of the decade Dream Team had been in production, "I have dodged so many bullets from incoming controllers, ranging from David Bergg to James Baker. I wish them every luck."
The drama series, which is ordered as 32 hour-long episodes each year, has been produced on a shoestring budget of around £150,000 an hour, at least half that of mainstream terrestrial productions.
Ms Hewland said it had been a terrible strain and the low budgets had finished it off.
"We've been the Kwik Save of drama. Not a good place to be. For that you can't attract decent writers, so I ended up doing an awful lot of writing and changes myself."
By making Dream Team through her own company, Ms Hewland, 57, does not have the pressure of outside shareholders, having resisted merger approaches.
"There is basically just me, I have bugger all overheads, I am back where I started from 13 years ago. That is scary but liberating," she said.
Dream Team, which was inspired partly by one of Sky Sports' founding executives, David Hill, was originally devised as a drama for boys and men.
Unlike Footballers' Wives, the drama always made a point of focusing on the football and not just off-the-pitch relationships - although this side does feature.
The production is shot on location at Millwall football club and mixes footage of real footballers with the cast.
Ms Hewland has a new drama idea in development for Channel 4, and has no intention of retiring.
A Sky One spokesman confirmed that Dream Team would come to an end after its 10th series next year.
He said the channel would be looking to commission a new drama series to air from autumn 2007. Production on the 10th and last series begins in July and will air on Sky One in the autumn.
"The trailblazing series, which will complete over 400 episodes of originated drama for Sky One ... has won numerous industry awards and continues to entertain fans every Sunday. Dream Team will continue to lead the way with distinctive and edgy storylines in its testimonial year," the broadcaster said in a statement.
This article at least in a way attempts to put it straight following inaccurate (and frankly, lazy) reporting that “low ratings” were the sole reason for Sky’s decision. Jane herself also told harchester.net at this time “To those who wrote begging me not to cancel the show or to let someone else take it over - it wasn't our decision. Sky don't want to broadcast it any more. They want to use the money to develop a different drama series.” – Andrew (DTdh Manager)