The Paradise, the biggest BBC drama ever filmed in the North East, has been axed following a fall in viewing figures for its recent second series, The Journal can reveal.
The BBC has confirmed there will be no third series for the multi-million-pound costume drama which for the past two years has been filmed on a specially-built set at the Lambton Estate in County Durham.
Written by Lark Rise To Candleford creator Bill Gallagher and based on a a 19th Century French novel by Emile Zola, The Paradise starred Game of Thrones actor Emun Elliott as Moray, the owner of a glamorous department store, and rising star Joanna Vanderham as ambitious shop assistant and love interest Denise.
The stylish-looking drama was a success on its autumn 2012 debut when it aired even before filming was complete, beating ITV’s rival department store-set series Mr Selfridge to the screen.
The eight-part mid-week drama, which also starred TV regular Sarah Lancashire as the store’s head of ladieswear, bagged average audiences of six million and was quickly re-commissioned. But despite a recharged love affair between Moray and Denise and a number of new characters including Cutting It actor Ben Daniels, last autumn’s second series saw a dip in viewing figures when it aired in its new Sunday evening slot, usually a popular one for costume dramas.
Despite some reports that just over four million tuned in to weekly episodes, a BBC spokesman said it had a “consolidated series average audience” of 5.4m, or a 19% share in the 8pm slot.
A spokesman added: “We are incredibly proud to have made two successful series of period drama The Paradise for BBC1.
“However in order to make room new dramas to come through, The Paradise won’t be returning.”
The news will come as a blow to fans and to local extras who had found several months’ work for the second year running at the Lambton Estate where filming took place throughout the summer.
At the time producer Simon Lewis said they drew from a pool of 100 local extras and when asked about a third series, he said: “You never know until it’s aired and they look at the viewing figures. You can make tentative plans but that’s all they can ever be.”
The cast too had been hopeful of a further series. The decision also means an end for the elaborate set created on the Lambton Estate which had been picked after a country-wide location search.
Before filming could take place there, a big-scale revamp including major structural repairs of the run-down Lambton Castle was necessary so it could double as the smart interior of The Paradise store and a Victorian-style street of shops and houses was then built on to it for outdoor scenes.