‘Red Rock’ goes into hiatus as TV3 hits pause on Garda drama

Next batch of episodes won’t air until 2018 and soap’s future beyond that is in doubt

The original line-up of gardaí on TV3’s ‘Red Rock’ when it launched in January 2015.

The original line-up of gardaí on TV3’s ‘Red Rock’ when it launched in January 2015.

 

TV3 has put its Garda-themed soap opera Red Rock into a production hiatus.

The makers are currently completing the next batch of 23 episodes, which now won’t be shown until 2018, and the drama will then cease filming for the time being.

The production is obliged to shortly vacate its set at the old Player Wills cigarette factory site in Dublin, as its lease is coming to an end and the site has been earmarked for redevelopment.

Cast and crew were informed of the move by producers today.

TV3 indicated it was exploring potential new sites for filming the drama, including the possibility of building a set adjacent to its premises at Ballymount in Dublin. However, it is unable to confirm at this stage that more episodes will be made.

TV3 director of programming Bill Malone said a decision about its future would be taken in early 2018.

Although Red Rock is “a great show” that “ticks a lot of boxes for TV3”, its return depends upon the ratings performance of the filmed episodes, TV3’s broader schedule needs and the need for the group to “cut its cloth” to suit the current television market.

“There are a lot of factors that determine why a show is or isn’t recommissioned,” Mr Malone said.

New season

Red Rock will stay off air over the next few months, having originally been scheduled to return to screens in September as part of TV3’s new season of programming, which it launches next Wednesday.

The broadcaster has invested €11 million to date in Red Rock, which is made by Element Pictures, run by Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe, and Angel Station, a company run by former EastEnders producer John Yorke.

Created by Peter McKenna, it is Ireland’s most successful television export thanks to deals with Amazon Prime and the BBC, where it airs in a summer lunchtime slot and has won audiences of more than a million.

Audience ratings in the Irish market are modest, especially when compared with RTÉ’s Fair City, and have shown little sign of momentum, but the soap often reaches more than 200,000 people a week and has performed well on-demand.

While these factors largely point in favour of a resurrection at a new filming location, TV3 Group has undergone major changes since the soap was first developed, changing its relationship with the programme.

Red Rock first aired in January 2015, at a time when TV3 had lost UK soap operas Coronation Street and Emmerdale to its then rival UTV Ireland.

But in late 2016, those soaps returned to TV3 following parent company Virgin Media Ireland’s acquisition of UTV Ireland. TV3 has also since sought to develop a wider drama slate, commissioning a new six-part series for 2018 called Darklands and a second series of Smalltown.

The broadcaster last autumn switched the format of Red Rock from two 22-minute episodes a week to a single 44-minute episode, which including ad breaks filled an hour-long slot on the channel on Monday nights.

The show then took an unexpected “mid-season break” last November, while its future was debated. This meant it was noticeably still Christmas in the fictional Dublin suburb in the episodes that aired this spring.

TV3 has been aware since the start of the production that it would eventually have to vacate its current set, where the most commonly used exterior is of the Red Rock Garda station.

Final episode

It is expected that the final episode to be filmed this year before the production shuts down will depict the closure, either temporary or permanent, of the Garda station, although it is understood that the producers do not plan a major, cast-decimating stunt such as the notorious Emmerdale plane crash.

In its three-year history, the Ifta award-winning Red Rock has tackled storylines such as grooming and statutory rape, Garda corruption, gang violence and drug addiction.

Alongside regular moments of comedy and light relief, there have been two births, several murders and even more cliffhangers.

In 2015, former TV3 Group chief executive David McRedmond called the launch of the soap “the most important thing that TV3 has ever done”. It is said to have created employment for about 100 people, although the nature of the industry means this number would not have related to full-time positions.