Don’t tell precocious BBC drama topper Ben Stephenson you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Stephenson has brought an overriding sense of renewed confidence to the U.K. pubcaster’s drama department.
Often he is helped in these endeavors by overseas coin provided by such U.S. partners as HBO and Starz, collaborators on “Parade’s End” and the soon-to-bow 15th century saga “The White Queen” respectively. But he rejects the notion of making a decision in order to please a potential overseas partner.
“The very best and most successful dramas that have played internationally have been very clearly made for the domestic British audience,” insists Stephenson.
Of late, Stephenson’s drama department is palpably producing triumphs, proving how effectively British shows can travel, especially in English-speaking territories. “Sherlock” sold to more than 180 countries, while “Call the Midwife” and “Ripper Street” resonated on both sides of the Atlantic.
At the high-end of his drama portfolio, Stephenson has lured such writers as Tom Stoppard back to the box. The English playwright adapted the ferociously complex “Parade’s End” for the BBC. Now Stephenson is hoping to persuade other celebrated British scribes such as Alan Bennett to return to TV.
Despite his obvious achievements, some critics opine it is such U.S. shows as Breaking Bad and Scandinavian drama like “Borgen” that ultimately push the envelope with their rich characterizations and dense storylines. Stephenson refutes the charge.
“When I go to America, a huge number of people say they’re envious of our TV,” he says. “In the international marketplace, our drama occupies a unique and important role.”