Exclusive interview: Merlin executive producers Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy
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This is not just a mere technical adjustment. It’s a symbol of a show that’s going from strength to strength. This time last year, we thought that series four was going to be only ten episodes and American TV was planning a lavish new show called Camelot . It felt like, perhaps, Merlin was preparing to wind down. But then the viewing figures for the 2010 season turned out to be the best yet, and improved throughout the run. Suddenly, series four was back up to 13 episodes, it was to be shot on 35 mill and a massive new green screen was created in the show’s Cardiff studios to create even more grandiose effects. Camelot was cancelled. Series four started airing and is performing even better than series three, and the producers are now talking about a possible sixth series (if not more). The future looks bright in 35 mill.
Better than all that, the fourth series is turning out to be one of the best yet from what we’ve seen so far. And you can catch up with the first half when the Merlin Series Four Part One DVD (opens in new tab) is released on Monday. We know this, because executive producer and co-creator Johnny Capps points it out at every opportunity when SFX chats to him and co-creator and exec producer Julian Murphy.
“It’s out on Monday,” he reminds us for the umpteenth time.
“What is?” we reply cheekily.
“ Merlin .”
“Never heard of it.”
“You should give it a go,” says Capps. “It’s pretty good. I hear.”
He has every right to be proud of the show’s current success. He admits to being, “absolutely thrilled,” at the reception to series four. “Each year you still feel nervous about the reaction of the audience, about whether the viewing figures will be the same. And the series is a little bit darker this year, and we’re going out in a later slot. So those things obviously caused us a bit of concern. We’re also going up against The X-Factor every week, which, you know, even though everybody is saying it’s not as good as it was, it’s still one of the most successful television franchises ever that we’re up against.
“So, it’s a really tough slot, so obviously we’re thrilled that it’s doing so well. In fact, it’s doing the best of any series so far. We’re getting six to seven million people watching it and our AIs are 89, 90,” he adds, referring to the Audience Index which gauges how much people enjoyed a show, as opposed to just how many were watching. “So it’s well up with the highest AIs that the BBC gets for its drama.” That’s just ever-so-slightly ahead of the AIs Doctor Who was getting this year (which doesn’t prove anything, before we get hundreds of posts in the comments section for annoyed Who fans, it’s just a handy comparison for people who don’t follow know of such things).
Read on for more about the shooting of series four…