‘A series begging to be filmed…’
Alison Graham, Radio Times, on Merrily Watkins
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The critically-acclaimed ITV three-part serial, Midwinter of the Spirit, adapted by Stephen Volk, has introduced over eight million viewers to Merrily Watkins, an insecure, troubled woman priest training to be an exorcist.
The excellent Anna Maxwell Martin leads a seriously brilliant cast, including David Threlfall as Merrily’s mentor, Huw Owen, and Ben Bailey Smith as Lol Robinson. Sally Messham is Jane Watkins, Kate Dickie & Simon Trinder bring DCI Annie Howe and DS Francis Bliss to life.
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‘Gripping and at times truly scary.’
MAIL ON SUNDAY
‘Impressively chilling… from the beginning to the shocking end unfailingly potent’
WALL STREET JOURNAL
‘Not just intriguing but also emotionally engaging. Ambitious… distinctly satisfying attempt to create what might be called Middle-England Gothic.’
‘Exceptionally creepy without ever venturing beyond the bounds of the credible. Drama to get the heart properly beating’
‘Just the thing to cheer and chill as the nights close in.’
‘Ideal autumn TV fare. Pleasingly rural setting… well-drawn characters that you could care about.’
SUNDAY HERALD, SCOTLAND
‘A superior and artfully-unnerving adult drama. Anna Maxwell Martin is breathlessly brilliant.’
‘Sharp, convincing scares… builds nicely… deserves a follow-up.’
‘Midwinter of the Spirit has been excellent…. it should return – there are 12 more Phil Rickman novels to choose from.’
Benji Wilson, DAILY TELEGRAPH SATURDAY REVIEW.
So what went wrong…?
The three-part Midwinter of the Spirit was originally made for the quality-drama channel, ITV Encore. However, it was suddenly and unexpectedly plucked out of the Encore schedule to replace the far more expensive, all-star six-parter, Unforgotten, in a peak-hour slot on ITV One.
Now… could this have been because they’d recognised its obvious merits… or because the more expendable Midwinter would now go up against Episode 3 of what would be the year’s most successful (10 million viewers) BBC drama, Doctor Foster, saving the costly Unforgotten from the embarrassing possibility of, er, being rapidly forgotten?
It was no great surprise to anybody when, with the huge Foster viewing figures already well established, most viewers chose to record Midwinter instead, apparently setting what looked like a new high for UK recording of a particular drama. Unfortunately, a recording counts for nothing in the ratings – especially on ITV, where it means viewers are able to skip the ads.
So the critically-acclaimed Midwinter was, as expected, proclaimed a flop by ITV executives, who told the media that it ‘hadn’t worked’, while the rescued Unforgotten (‘Hard to love’ – Daily Telegraph, ‘dodgy dialogue… painful looping slowness’ – Guardian, ‘unsatisfactory… played a series of shabby tricks’ – Daily Mail) has gone on to a second series.
Welcome to the pragmatic world of peak-hour television.