Earlier this week, Bleeding Cool ran an article headlined "Disappointed With Line Of Duty Finale? You Weren't Paying Attention" looking at the controversial finale to the current series of Jed Mercurio's Line Of Duty on BBC. The show got a fifty-six point share of viewing and with over 12 million viewers, the largest drama audience on any British channel, aside from soap operas, for almost twenty years.
The show, revealing the final and fourth point of "H", as being the dullard and incompetent former Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells, and that rather than a mastermind, he was in the thrall of a variety of aligned organised crime groups, let a large amount of the audience down, who had been used to high-action big reveals, rather than the downbeat ending of photos being placed in boxes.
I thought it was brilliant, spoke to the larger message of Line Of Duty, that evil is banal, corruption is institutionalised, and it more than just one department or four corrupt cops. This is the way the world works – whether police or politics.
But not everyone thought that way. Today on Twitter, the show's creator and writer Jed Mercurio laid out how this was always the plan, and how the response to the show went down offline, in a series of tweets. Then it all kicked off. He wrote;
"No one disputes the Line of Duty finale divided social media opinion but the audience research so far shows a far less extreme picture. We knew a "down" ending would rate less favourably with some viewers, however all 7 episodes varied by under 10% on average viewer score. The research determines the episode ratings based on randomly polling viewers, rather than sites like imdb where scores can be skewed by users strongly motivated to register their immediate anger/adulation. 1000 random viewers submitted scores from 1-10 which have been used to calculate the Appreciation Index (AI) as a score out of 100. The AI for the "down" finale was only 7 points below the next lowest in Season 6 (Ep 1). These figures won't stop the debate, of course, nor should they – that's still all part of the experience of shared TV viewing. Thanks again for watching."
Bleeding Cool has stated before that BBC drama decisions are far more to rely on AI figures, a measure of actual audience appreciation, than viewing figures or online scores. And which is why, when certain online audiences kick-off over shows like Doctor Who, the BBC just looks at the still-relatively-high AI figures from audience research and commissions another series from Chris Chibnall.
After the tweets, Jed Mercurio replied to a number of comments, but one seemed to get his goat, a quote tweet from Peter O' Dwyer, Business Correspondent for the Irish financial newspaper, The Business Post. Peter tweeted;
"when you're explaining you're losing also when you're describing the ending to a decade-long saga as "down" you are probably also losing".
Jed quote tweeted back (censorship ours)
"When it comes to losing, I have to defer to lifelong expert @peterodwyer1. What a f-cking prick."
It does have a certain playground fight aspect to it. I guess Jed reserves the right to only be called a loser by someone of at least one rank higher than him. But I also get the feeling Peter will want that tweet on a T-Shirt. Jed also made some… less passionately minded replies on Twitter as well.
Peter Bailey: Jed, I get the message of endemic corruption. That works for one series of six episodes. But having invested in LoD from the first episode of series one, the ending was a huge letdown. If it leads to a grand denouement with series 7, all well and good. If not, I feel cheated.
Jed Mercurio: Thanks for your view, Peter. We made the choice that showing AC-12 dismantle institutional corruption would be the "cheat". As the audience data show, some viewers share your view but many don't. Thanks for watching.
Katie: Personally i admired the message on reflection, just felt that things like gail vella's murder/jo's storyline seemed rushed and would've preferred more focus on the characters/less plot holes. doesn't mean it isn't an incredible show overall though, for series 7!
Jed Mercurio: Thanks for your view, Katie. It's interesting how many of the people most critical of the finale were wanting more thrills and action. This is the problem with attempting to satisfy all viewers' expectations. It's just not possible, I'm afraid. Thanks very much for watching.
But clearly on the basis of this, shouldn't he write the next Star Wars? After all, Ted Hastings was cut out of The Phantom Menace…