Holby City fans slam BBC for ax drama to appear ‘further north’
The BBC will remove Holby City next year as it continues its drive to appear further north, sparking a furious backlash among fans.
The long-running medical drama set in a fictional Bristol-based city has been filmed at the company’s London studios in Elstree for the past 22 years.
But the program is now at odds with the BBC’s “Across the UK” plan to move TV shows and staff out of London to kill the idea of so-called “Southern bias”.
With three major soap operas located in the south – the others being Eastenders and Casualty – Holby City was considered the easiest to take down, as Casualty’s Cardiff base helped uphold the Diversity Directive.
Instead, Holby City’s production costs will be used to fund two replacement soaps over the next three years; one located in the north of England and another in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
But the announcement left fans of the soap opera’s dedication enraged, calling the move “short-sighted” and warning that the various actors and storylines were to be lost.
The BBC will remove Holby City next year after 23 years as it continues its drive to appear further north, sparking a furious backlash among fans
Premiere: The show – which airs weekly on BBC One – premiered on January 12, 1999, as a spin-off of the BBC medical drama Casualty, which began in September 1986 [the original cast is pictured]
“I find the BBC is taking down Holby City so they can have a ridiculously misguided soap in the north,” one fan wrote.
They added that the north of England already has three of the country’s biggest soap operas with Hollyoaks, located in Chester, Coronation Street in Manchester and Emmerdale in Yorkshire.
They added: “To argue that this portrayal is part of the decision when you only leave one soap in the south is so hypocritical.”
Tobias Oliver added that Holby City already had great diversity credentials “defending the NHS, a show which had a history of strong roles for LGBT and BAME actors and which could reflect every corner of the UK across difficult scenarios “.
But the announcement left fans of the soap opera’s dedication furious, calling the move “short-sighted” and warning that the various actors and storylines were to be lost.
It comes as a former veteran star of the show has said the cast and crew were “shocked” by the announcement that effectively gave them six months’ notice to lose their jobs.
Hugh Quarshie, who played consultant Ric Griffin for 19 years, said he was “surprised” by the news.
“From what I understand, they only found out about it an hour before it was released to the press – so no one saw it coming,” he said. The Guardian.
Quarshie added that he was not sure the show’s runners considered turning the soap opera into “more like ER rather than doctors,” but suggested they could have moved production to the same studio as Casualty instead of deleting it.
The BBC said in a statement: “We are incredibly proud of Holby City. But it is with great sadness that we announce that after 23 years the series will end on screen in March of next year.
“Sometimes we have to make tough decisions to make room for new opportunities and as part of the BBC’s commitment to create more programs across the UK.
Hugh Quarshie, who played consultant Ric Griffin for 19 years on the soap opera, said he was “baffled” by the news and that the cast and crew “didn’t see it coming.”
It’s cut! The BBC insisted it would make sure the program was ‘on top’ [pictured Ramin Karimloo as Dr Kian Madani]
“We made the difficult decision to end the show in order to reshape the BBC’s drama roster to better reflect, represent and serve all regions of the country.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing team at BBC Studios and all of the cast and crew who have been involved with the show since 1999.
“Holby has been a mainstay with audiences, delighting millions of viewers every week and winning hundreds of awards with a compelling mix of cutting edge medical stories and explosive personal stories.”
The BBC insisted it would make sure the program was broadcast “on a high note”.
They added: “We look forward to working with the team over the next few months to make sure that in the end Holby is doing well.”
Fans quickly expressed their disappointment at the end of the show, with some questioning the reasoning behind the BBC’s decision.
One Twitter user said: “I really think this is a bad decision. What better ‘to reflect, represent and serve all parts of the country than a #NHS hospital drama?
‘Tough decision’: network scheduled for medical drama to end on screen in March of next year [pictured is a cast shot from 1999]
The BBC said in a statement: “We are incredibly proud of Holby City” [pictured are stars Jules Knight and Joe McFadden]
“Who has never been to the hospital, has never been sick?” So many people have lived, been helped or felt heard by the issues covered by the program. ‘
Another said: “Extremely nearsighted from @BBCOne for chopping up which is an insanely popular drama!”
One fan wrote: “Holby City got fired? How are they going to call off a medical drama and say it doesn’t represent the UK? I don’t agree with that.
Another added: “Amazing, I watched Holby from the start, among all the trash and reality shows they could get rid of! Sorry to all the cast and crew. So sad. ‘
The show featured big names in British television throughout its airing, such as Phyllis Logan, Lisa Faulkner, Angela Griffin, Nicola Stephenson and Michael French.
And the likes of Adrian Edmondson, Patsy Kensit, Jane Asher, Sheridan Smith, Phill Jupitus, Johnny Briggs, Suzanne Shaw, and Anita Dobson have also starred in the series over the years.
Star Joe McFadden, who played Raf di Lucca on the program from 2014 to 2017, sent his best wishes to the cast and crew in the wake of the news.
He wrote on Twitter: “Such sad news about the end of #HolbyCity – it has kept so many people at work for so long. My thoughts are with my friends on the cast and on the crew. (Sic) ‘
Cast: The show starred big names in British television, such as Angela Griffin [L] and Lisa Faulkner [R]
Guest star: John Barrowman appeared on the show in 2020
Crossover: Holby City exists in the same canon as Casualty, with the two series intersecting on occasion
George Rainsford – who plays Ethan Hardy on sister show Casualty – tweeted: “I think of our wonderful friends from our sister show #HolbyCity today. Shooting year round on a long-running drama attracts a particular type of person.
‘Dedicated, talented, problem-solving, upbeat, self-deprecating humor. Heartbreaking for everyone involved. (sic) ‘
Former EastEnders actor Nitin Ganatra also praised the show, posting: “Sad to see the end of a monumental and beautiful show like @BBCHolbyCity Great shame.
“I think of all the cast, crew and production crew on the show. See you soon on another plateau without a doubt. #staypositive #holbycity HOLBY CITY – WE LOVE YOU !!! (sic) ‘
His former co-star Davood Ghadami joined Holby’s cast earlier this year as consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Eli Ebrahimi, after his EastEnders character Kush Kazemi was killed; and he praised the show for being “a big family, not a place to work”.
“I’ve only had the privilege of being a part of @BBCHolbyCity for a few months, but it’s already very clear that it’s a big family and not a place to work. He will be sorely missed. Let’s go out with a bang #Holby (sic), ”he wrote.
A devastated fan has already started an online petition to keep the show on air. The supporter, calling himself Mr Holby, wrote: ‘The pandemic has shown how much the public values the NHS, and Holby City is an important representation of the work the NHS does and the issues facing the NHS, its staff and his patients are facing. ‘
At the time of writing, the petition, titled Don’t Scrap Holby City, has garnered over 1,600 signatures.
Holby City has been nominated for more than 100 awards, including six. The series received five BAFTA nominations, winning on one of those occasions.
The show – which airs weekly on BBC One – premiered on January 12, 1999, as a spin-off of the BBC medical drama Casualty, which began in September 1986.
Casualty, which exists in the same world as Holby City, remains on the air. It is the oldest medical drama series in the world.