It was supposed to be the blockbuster television hit of last summer, but sadly the BBC’s big-budget period drama The White Queen suffered in the ratings. Shortly after the War of the Roses drama ended the corporation confirmed it would not be recommissioned. They did, however, stress that the series had initially been conceived as a one-off rather than a returning drama.
All that may well change, however, as The White Queen co-producers, the US premium cable network Starz, has decided to continue alone with their dramatisations of Philippa Gregory’s historical novels. The new series will be a screen version of The White Princess, which shall function as a standalone story. It is not yet known what cast members will or will not return.
The drama, which was produced by Company Pictures, the makers of Inspector George Gently, Skins and Shameless, drew strong criticism from viewers and critics, with many pointing out historical inaccuracies in the production (and the fact the English queen had a Swedish accent). US audiences have been more forgiving, however. Though a bit of a failure for the BBC, the series was, to quote Starz Media managing director Carmi Zlotnik, ‘phenomenal’ for the US channel. The White Queen also succeeded in bringing more female audiences to the channel, which was one of their aims, according to Zlotnik.
Though a co-production, Starz decided to air a longer-cut than the one shown to British audiences on BBC One. The American version included extended and more explicit scenes of sexual activity (US version pictured below). There was also more emphasis on the nudity of the leading actors Rebecca Furgerson and Max Irons. As well as added sex, the US cut also featured more explicit reference to character names and titles so as to guide American audiences through the complexities of British history. The extended US cut has yet to be seen in the UK, and the Blu-ray and DVD, released last year, currently only make the BBC edit of the show available to viewers.
This decision taken by Starz is reminiscent of the choice HBO sister-channel Cinemax recently made when the BBC axed their co-produced action drama Hunted. Instead of retiring the series, Cinemax decided to continue without the BBC and are working with production company Kudos Film & Television to produce a follow-up.
It is currently not yet known when The White Princess will air on Starz. It is also not apparent who will broadcast the show in the UK if the BBC do not come on board or buy the series as an import.
The White Queen is a Company Pictures production for the BBC in association with Starz. It is available in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD. Images: Starz.