Channel 5 Pulls Plug On Ross Kemp Dangerous Prisons Series That Was Beset By Budget Problems & An Ecuadorian Coup

EXCLUSIVE: Channel 5 has pulled the plug on Ross Kemp’s doc series in which the former EastEnders star was spending time in the world’s most dangerous prisons, with factors ranging from budget difficulties to an Ecuadorian coup to blame.

Deadline revealed that Ross Kemp: 72 Hours In … had been paused in October. After a period during which the Paramount UK network and producers attempted to revive the show, Channel 5 confirmed to us yesterday that it has now been scotched. “Filming had begun on the series, but due to unforeseen production challenges, we made the practical decision to halt filming and will not be progressing further,” said a spokeswoman.

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The series was announced with fanfare as one of Channel 5’s most premium doc series of all time last summer, with the network saying Kemp, who is well known for his … On Gangs TV franchise, would “spend time in high-security prisons, mixing with gang leaders, serial killers, violent criminals, drug lords and mass murderers to see first-hand what it is like to live among society’s most dangerous people.”

But Deadline understands problems set in relatively quickly. Kemp locked down one episode, in Colombia, but tensions began to rise between the producers at Kemp’s Freshwater Films and Chalkboard TV, and the network, over how much it would cost to shoot the expansive series, and how much time Kemp would require in each country. Getting access to each prison, for example, was a timely and costly process that ate into filming.

The situation was then worsened by a coup in Ecuador that erupted shortly before filming was supposed to recommence, which forced Kemp and the team to pull out regardless of the budget divisions but only sought to deepen the financial mire as filming was further slowed – sending producers back to square one amidst Kemp’s busy schedule. Channel 5 and the producers had further talks about restarting this year but failed to revive the production, we are told.

“Ecuador was a big episode and there was that whole massive issue that erupted literally days before filming,” said a source with knowledge of the production. “Budget issues then made it unrealistic to continue.”

Deadline understands Channel 5, Kemp and the producers are now in conversation over potential future projects to help placate. Last year, Kemp returned to acting for the first time in 15 years in Channel 5 police thriller Blindspot.

“Ross is the debris in this,” said a source. “He went to other side of the world to film an episode in a high security prison that’ll never air.”

Kemp has made his name in recent years presenting shows including Ross Kemp Behind Bars and Ross Kemp & the Armed Police, mostly for ITV, but the Channel 5 prisons project was his second near miss in recent times. Following the OceanGate sub disaster last June, his agent told press that he had planned to to make a show in which he travelled to the wreck of the Titanic in the sub – before rejecting it as “unsafe.”

The prisons show is a rare example of a greenlight announced by a UK network getting canceled. Last year, Deadline revealed Channel 4 had abruptly axed a greenlit reboot of Four Weddings, blindsiding those working on the show as filming was about to start. The cancelation precipitated a tricky financial period for Channel 4, which is still being felt.

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