Audrey Kupferberg: Hope For Home Fires’ Future Fizzles Out!

May 19, 2017

HOME FIRES is an ITV series about British villagers who fight World War II in Cheshire—with an emphasis on the woman’s role in fighting war on the home front.  Season two recently completed airing on American PBS stations.  The episodes of seasons one and two reportedly drew good ratings here and abroad.  And why not?  The scripts favor strong characters—particularly strong female characters—and there is plenty of action and emotional turmoil which escalates from episode to episode. 

The actors include a number of outstanding British performers who have a healthy appeal in both the British and American markets for the kinds of programming that PBS offers.  They include Samantha Bond, Francesca Annis, Claire Rushbrook, and Fenella Woolgar.  If you don’t know their names, you certainly will know their faces if you follow this type of British TV.  The characters not only have the Nazis with whom to contend.  They struggle with loss of loved ones in battle, and they deal with the harsh loss of reputation through errors in societal behavior.  In what is for me the most frightening plot thread, one woman deals with an abusive husband who is monstrous in the way he treats her behind the closed door of their home.  The town doctor has cancer, and the factory owner unknowingly has fallen prey to corrupt forces that allow flawed parachutes to be manufactured.  There are honest folks and there are rotten scoundrels.  There are outsiders to the “norms” of society, such as a conscientious  objector and several lesbians, who are trying to lead lives of “normalcy.”

So much is going on in this village!  The fates of so many are speeding along towards happiness or woeful oblivion.  But the final episode of season two left audiences with more than just the shock that any drama about war can leave.  The episode ended in a cliff hanger so great that many viewers fell off the cliff and were lucky to get up again with only minor bruises!  You see, this turns out to be the final episode, period.  Apparently, season three already had been planned out.  In fact, that is obvious; it explains the fact that the final moments of the series have a lot more to do with what will happen next than they do with plot resolution. 

What went wrong?  Why did such a good series come to an ending so unexpectedly?  The answer appears to lie with the million-pounds-plus-per-episode price tag of each episode.  Seemingly, that is why ITV bowed out.  According to the show’s creator Simon Block, no other production source could be found by the executive producers.  Even Netflix and Amazon, who seem to be hungry for programming, passed.   A petition to keep the series going went ‘round and still is active at savehomefires.com.  It was signed by more than 38,000 people as of last month.

After exhausting the possible sources to produce a season three, here is the current solution to the problem, according to an interview with Block with Paste Magazine.  There will be a three-book series which essentially will cover all the action and emotion of the never-to-be-filmed season three.  It will be a four-part e-book serial, with one part arriving as soon as this July.  A complete novel in paperback and e-book subsequently will be published this coming fall.  This will be followed up by another book in the spring of 2018.   Amazon.com already lists the first of the book projects.  

This is a limp solution better than nothing at all, but what a compromise.  As excited as I am to know that I will be able to get resolution to the cliffhangers at the end of season two by reading books, I feel disappointed to know that an intelligent and thought-provoking series such as HOME FIRES – an unusual series that highlights how women have stepped up to fight the many challenges of war on the domestic front-- cannot find funding.  It’s a shame.   

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former Director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and has co-authored several entertainment biographies with her husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.

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