A much-hyped Asian television drama in two parts has bombed among British television viewers, prompting concern
that UK television producers may be more cautious in future about promoting ethnic films.
Second Generation, starring Parminder Nagra, Om Puri and Anupam Kher, was billed as a South Asian version of King Lear, but recent audience ratings show it failed to impress UK audiences.
Despite favourable reviews in mainstream British media, the £2.5 million Channel 4 production attracted a dismal 1.2 million audience on the first night. It slipped to a paltry 900,000 the following day.
Media analysts in London note that both ratings were around six per cent of total viewing figures, whereas Channel 4 usually averages around 10 per cent.
Asked about the low ratings, Mary Fitzpatrick, editorial manager of Cultural Diversity at Channel 4, said, "We had originally set it at 9 pm. We were worried about [competition from] A Touch of Frost and Waking The Dead, so we moved it to 10 pm. Maybe 10 pm was too late -- the programme went on for an hour-and-a-half. Maybe we just pitched it too late. It is difficult to say.
"I hope people didn't turn on and off just because it was Asian. That is always a concern. But we all felt it was good and important. We are really glad we did it."
Later this autumn, BBC-1 is screening an episode of Canterbury Tales set in the Asian community. BBC-2 is celebrating a week of Asian culture and achievement in a week-long Big Dreams season in late October. Channel 4
has also just commissioned a programme on Asian achievement. Bollywood Princess is due to be screened in November.
London-based Asian media analyst Sunny Hundal says Second Generation was riding on huge expectations that it would somehow help the media industry tap into the growing British Asian consciousness and produce more contemporary programming by encouraging rival television channels to make more use of diverse ethnic talent.
He says the danger now is that "the programme commissioners at commercial channels such as ITV, Five, even Sky One will be more wary of approving more such dramas. It might stop them from trying out new Asian talent on screen
and stick instead to established names on popular dramas and comedies for the sake of tokenism and big ratings."
Photo of Parminder Nagra: Getty Images
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