Eldorado was ‘huge disaster’ that humiliated BBC

LAST UPDATED: 2 Aug, 2012 @ 17:31
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Eldorado was ‘huge disaster’ that humiliated BBC

THERE might well be talk of a comeback for failed BBC soap Eldorado.

But a trip back down memory lane proves the ‘sunshine soap’ was destined to go wrong right from the start.

The first time the BBC had ever contracted an independent company to produce a series outside of the UK, it is incredible that they chose the ‘Costa del Crime’ as the testing ground.

Based out of Coin, producers John Dark and James Todesco were given the job of pulling together the biggest soap opera launch for a decade.

A former producer of James Bond films, Dark hoped that Eldorado would soon take on EastEnders.

Yet, after a few episodes it was hamstrung with an enormous amount of problems and ratings were sinking fast.

“The BBC was caught with its pants down,” contends Alhaurin-based Robert Zdrill, who worked as a video editor on the series. “There was lots of mischief going on and it turned out to be a huge disaster.”

The problems were enormous. Poorly-built sets, actors who couldn’t act and poor production left the drama with three million less than its target 10m viewers. It was eventually axed after one year in March 1993.

“To be fair it was rushed through onto the schedules too early,” says Zdrill, who has since produced music videos for the likes of Simple Minds.

“The top brass wanted it ready for Expo 92 and there was no way it was going to be ready in time.”

In particular, he cites the poor lighting, the set made of breezeblocks which ruined the sound and the ‘abysmal acting’.

“On the first night at the launch party, you could practically hear a pin drop it had gone so badly,” he recalls. “It spelt the end of my career and a lot of others too.”

23 COMMENTS

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  1. I have to say this is an extremely one-sided article. The show’s problems were always far better publicised than its strengths. Yes, it was rushed into production – six months early. It was also decided to air it three times a week rather than the originally planned twice weekly. It was also completely original – on a scale which has never been attempted again. No wonder there were teething problems.

    Who actually remembers what “Eastenders” was like at the start, or “Coronation Street”? The difference here was that the BBC was in the firing line, an easy target for the popular press who were going to shoot “Eldorado” down in flames, regardless of what it was like.

    What’s far more important is how “Eldorado” addressed those problems. It was a completely different show 6 months later. It ultimately became a quality drama, recieving ratings any TV show would die for these days. It was one of the top 5 most watched shows on UK television before it was pulled. A “huge disaster”? I don’t think so.

  2. Thanks, luskentyre, for contributing a bit of balance to the original, as you say, “one-sided article”. To begin with it makes it sound as if the production company was Spanish, while Dark/Todesco were the junior partners, certainly in creative terms, to the well-established British independent producer Cinema Verity. You are right that transmission was brought forward, but by four rather than six months, which added to the production problems. Although I would not quite call it a “quality drama”, by the end of its run it could certainly hold its head up amongst the other soaps. To cancel the programme after its first year, when both ratings and critical approval had risen, instead of as originally intended allowing the substantial set-up costs to be amortised over three years, was incredibly short-sighted and attributable to BBC internal politics rather than rational decision-making. Bringing it back now, however, would be simply crazy!

  3. My first home is on the UK. I disliked Eldorado from the start but after a while it grew on me and my family. The sound was appalling reminiscent of the marbly apartment sounds we’re all familiar with but totally unsuitable for a TV audience, and Dolby etc. It was beginning to get much better and it was a real surprise when it was axed. We did go around the film set after the series had closed
    When you look at the dross that is on the box these days it deserves another go especially with the increased number of expats and the amount of money the Beeb can throw if it wishes

  4. This is like ‘Question Time’!

    They eventually acoustically treated those small filming apartments, but that was after the first six months. I guess they will use the new sound stages next door and the set for exteriors next time.

    The above article and comments sound’s like a teaser for Granada’s ‘The Road to Eldorado’!

    ps….Even David Cameron was talking about Eldorado last night!

    130 in…

    “http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01l7sgs/Zoe_Ball_and_Richard_Bacon_Go_for_Gold_02_08_2012/”

  5. History REPEATS itself… BBC has had so many “disasters” since then and up to this year 2012… still pay exorbatant salaries to their “talent” and huge salaries + bonuses to their Execs in spite of failures. Well, only UK Taxpayers’ money..?!! and Taxpayers don’t DO anything about that = OK!

  6. It seems extraordinary that there should be such interest after twenty years in a programme that lasted only 12 months. On the sound question, the present sound stages were part of the studios’ post-Eldorado existence although they would certainly have helped if available at the time. However it is not true that it took six months before the problem was addressed, work had already been started when I joined the production team in mid-August, 1992. The cull of most of the less experienced actors and the decision to drop non-English dialogue followed soon after and the fight back to critical approval and better ratings had begun.

    Despite the loyalty, I really cannot see the BBC reviving the programme. There are more episodes of EastEnders now plus year-round Holby Ciy and Casualty. After 20 years a new Eldorado would have to begin from scratch with new characters and storylines. If the BBC, or any other broadcaster, felt the need of a new soap they might as well start with a completely blank sheet instead of doing all the work involved in starting a brand new programme but still having to live down the reputation, justified or not, of previous disaster. The attempt to revive Crossroads as Crossroads 2000 does not provide a very positive precident.

  7. Stephen, is it really so extraordinary – given that the original decision to axe it was fundamentally flawed? Everyone knows it was wrong, even the person that made it.

    “Eldorado” is more relevant now than it ever was. More people are emigrating now than ever and Europe is a far more familiar place. Given all the issues surrounding Europe it would be extremely topical and the scope for storylines extends far beyond your traditional “soap”.

    The set still stands and if ever we needed some escapism into a less serious and pleasant land, it’s surely now. Resurrecting “Eldorado” is not only feasible, it makes perfect sense. The BBC once had the guts and imagination to portray life outside a drab and depressing London. It can have it again.

  8. I agree with a lot of what you say, luskentyre, but the trouble is that 20 years on there are a whole new lot of executives running the show and executives like to see their own concepts on the screen rather than picking up old ideas, particularly ones with an air of doom hanging over them. I’m not sure about audience appeal either. The great British public seems to be turning more and more against Europe. If there was a referendum tomorrow I suspect there could even be a vote to leave the EU, alas. When times are hard I think folk become more not less parochial.

    But I’d love to be proved wrong. I had a really good time working on Eldorado, despite the frustrations, although a lot of the enjoyment was simply being paid to spend four months in Spain!

  9. Although “Benidorm” (the show) is really a sort of “Carry On” there is no doubting its popularity. The ordinary U.K. punter is pretty well versed in the Spanish costas and can identify with many situations that could be dreamt up around them. Perhaps call it something else, but there is definitely room for an expat lifestyle soap. The B.B.C. is welcome to spend my share of the licence fee on it…

  10. Agreed Benedorm is undoubtedly popular, stephanjo, but you’re not comparing like with like. It focuses on Brits on holiday in Spain, not ex-pats, it is a sit-com not a drama, and it has short runs of episodes rather than being all-year-round. I remain sceptical.

  11. Stephen:”Benidorm” may be split into disparate episodes and series, but the continuous repeats make it feel as though it is always on, like a soap. People (those as daft as me)actually watch those repeats and enjoy them for what they are, a bit of nonsense. The old Eldorado was something like Eastenders in the sun. That is, gloomy and doomy and not much fun. (Apart from the acting). So, bring it back, but cheer it up, the sun is always shining after all!

  12. This last BBC show was crappola. If some UK expats want more “Eldorado” type …, they can send BPS in large sums to the BBC at … Some may go to the payoff of the LAST BBC MD who resigned after 6 months and got a 450,000 GBP payoff.
    Hey – it’s ONLY UK taxpayers’ MONEY!!

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