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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Wherefore art thou, Maddy?

Hello! Is it me you're looking for?

Well look no further, for I am here once again to thrill you with my every utterance about the tellybox. Two weeks in a row, it's practically a record!

Since I made my big comeback last week with a bit of a call back to the very first show I ever talked about on here, I thought that this week I'd continue the nostalgia (trading on past glories) theme, and talk about the show whose post has proven to be more popular than any other in the history of the blog. I speak, of course, of Wolfblood.

(As Wolfblood is ostensibly a childrens show, this will be one of those all too infrequent posts where I refrain from any and all swearing and sexual innuendo. It'll be tough, but in the immortal words of Robert Webb, just grit your teeth, it'll be over soon.)

It's always been hard, I would imagine, to be a TV showrunner with a hit on your hands, suddenly being faced with the loss of your lead character.

 M.A.S.H. lost one half of their main duo after 3 seasons, Stargate: SGI saw a massively popular character walk away after 5; of course he came back, but then others started leaving, and we all know what happened next; and of course the almighty juggernaut that was Cheers had to wave goodbye to it's female lead while at the height of it's popularity. I'm sure some long sleepless nights were had by all in each of those situations.

The writers and producers knuckled down though, and in all 3 of the cases I mentioned, they came up with solutions and their shows not only kept going, but thrived for many more extremely successful seasons. And in each case, the answer was simple; life goes on. People come and people go, but hospitals, super secret military wormhole bases and, er...pubs, keep on going. It's sad for a while, and you miss your mates, but the new guy is cool enough, I guess, so...

These days though, it's going to be harder. These days, you have internet fandom to deal with. These days, you have 'Shippers'. Which means when a character leaves, especially one that is part of a very popular 'ship', you're going to have blowback. You're going to have people who will loudly proclaim that they will never watch again because their favourite characters will now never get married and live happily ever after. Fans have always had these opinions of course, but now, they're organised. And woe betide any showruner who doesn't pay attention.

This year, Wolfblood (jewel in the crown of CBBC's current roster) has been hit with this exact problem. Aimee Kelly; lead character Maddy in the show; is nowhere to be seen.

Where you done gone to, Maddy lass?
(I've done no research whatsoever as to the reasons for her departure. Frankly, that's her business. My interest is in how it affects the show I love.)

So how are they to proceed? Well, life goes on. Maddy and her parents have left, but her fellow Wolfblood (and potential love interest, despite my fervent protestations) Rhydian, played by Bobby Lockwood, recent winner of some Saturday night light entertainment yawn fest or other, and human friends Tom and Shannon (Kedar William-Stirling and Louisa Connelly-Burnham) still have to deal with threats of exposure from their schoolmates; pack Alpha Jana still has to deal with being a teenage girl trying to control a pack of wild wolfbloods, as well as her own powers; and the wider world of curious scientists and opportunistic big business is an ever present, if not always obvious, threat.

Will Tom and Shannon make sure the Wolfblood secret is safe?

Or will these lads learn the truth?
Or maybe this lot?

Or might trouble come from a new direction?
Yeah, they've plenty to be getting on with.

At time of writing, 6 episodes of season 3 have aired, which puts us at roughly the halfway mark of the season. And it has to be said, they've done themselves proud; in large part because they haven't pandered to the vocal minority on the internet who would have you believe that without 'Maddian' (which a commenter on my last wolfblood entry helpfully tells me is the going term) the show can't go on. Well sorry, Maddian fans, but it can. And what's more; don't stone me now; it's even better.

The Season 3 Line Up
The 3rd season is darker; more intense; more intricately plotted. In short, it's more mature. Don't get me wrong, I'm no hater of Aimee Kelly, Maddy, or even, though it pains me to say it, the Maddian concept; well, maybe that last one, but that's just because I want so desperately to see one blooming platonic male/female lead duo on my tellybox. In fact I think the record clearly shows that I had nothing but praise for Kelly, and for the show when she was leading the cast. But in the wake of her departure, life has, yes, gone on without her, and the end result isa superior show.

Could they have made these tonal shifts if the show was still Maddy-centric? Of course. Would they have? That, I don't know. I can hazard a guess though, and based on the fact that much of the new direction has actually spun out of her departure, and the increased prominence of newly promoted lead, Jana... I'd have to say it's unlikely.


Ah yes, Jana. Played by Leona Vaughan, she was introduced in season 2 as, well, someone to get the gang into scrapes now that Rhydian; whose hot headedness had been the main cause of such things in season 1; had calmed down a bit, and she very quickly became a firm favourite. In my house anyway; I can't vouch for anyone else. She must have struck a chord somewhere, because this year, with Kelly gone, Vaughan is right up there, front and centre in the titles, as lead female. Does her introduction, in hindsight, hint that the writers had an inkling Kelly was on her way out? Were they seeding her replacement a year in advance? Who knows? Well, they do, presumably, and it's very possible all the 'proper' fans do too, if it's been talked about in interviews and stuff. I don't read them, so I wouldn't know. Much more fun just to wildly speculate.

So with Lockwood, William-Stirling and Connelly-Burnham not missing a step, Vaughan effortlessly stepping up and killing it with her pivotal arc, the show is in very good shape for the future. And with creator Debbie Moon, and her team of writers of course, having proven that they can weather even the most potentially catastrophic of cast upheavals, it's a future that has the potential to be a very long and interesting one indeed.

Bit of a long one that, wasn't it? It's not my fault, it's the Gods of Making Stuff Up As You Go Along's fault. Blame them.

Join me again next whenever, when I shall be writing about any one of a hundred shows. Will you have heard of the one I choose? Will I like it? Will you care? The answers to these and no other questions, will be right here. 

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