EXCLUSIVE: Channel 4 has defended the provenance of The Couple Next Door amid concerns from producers that it was penned by the husband of the UK broadcaster’s head of drama.
Two sources told Deadline that The Couple Next Door has been a talking point in the British drama community in recent days after producers joined the dots between Channel 4 drama chief Caroline Hollick and screenwriter David Allison.
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Channel 4 has argued that Hollick recused herself from the commissioning process, but it has not stopped the broadcaster’s suppliers from questioning if nepotism played a part in the Starz co-production making it to screen.
Despite being recused, Channel 4 said The Couple Next Door was “commissioned by” Hollick in a press release announcing the series in March. She was also quoted in the press notice, trumpeting the drama as an “addictive, emotional roller-coaster.” Her relationship with Allison was not declared.
Channel 4 only commissions a handful of high-end dramas each year, meaning there are limited opportunities for producers to win business. One well-established Channel 4 scripted supplier said the broadcaster had failed to fully consider the optics of The Couple Next Door commission.
This feeling has been exacerbated by Channel 4’s fragile relations with the production sector. The company’s financial woes, sparked by the worst ad market slump in 15 years, have resulted in a commissioning slowdown that has impacted all genres.
Starring Eleanor Tomlinson and Sam Heughan, The Couple Next Door originally came to Channel 4 through the broadcaster’s acquisitions team, led by the outgoing Nick Lee. Allison, a writer on Marcella and Bedlam, had already penned a number of the scripts.
Channel 4’s commissioning team took over the project after a majority funding partner pulled out. At this point, Hollick is said to have declared a conflict of interest and stepped away from the drama. Rebecca Holdsworth led the greenlight process.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “Caroline Hollick was not involved with the commissioning or editorial management of The Couple Next Door. She registered a conflict of interest at the early stages of the project’s development and recused herself from any decisions related to it.”
The Couple Next Door premiered on Channel 4 on Monday, launching with an overnight audience of just over 1M people. The second episode was watched by around 800,000.
Based on the Dutch series New Neighbours, the show follows Tomlinson’s Evie and Pete (Harry Potter star Alfred Enoch), who move into an upscale neighborhood. They find friendship in the shape of the couple next door, alpha traffic cop Danny (Heughan) and his wife, glamorous yoga instructor Becka (Jessica De Gouw), but after Danny and Evie share a passionate night together, there is trouble ahead.
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