Kelsey Grammer was just two episodes in on his series “Boss” when Starz excitedly hit the start button for a second season. But when it comes with “Torchwood,” all that can be heard from the premium cable channel is silence.
And fans of the “Doctor Who” spinoff might not be able to expect more than that.
“I don’t know if there will be more,” Executive Producer Julie Gardner recently told Digital Spy. “The things about there being more or not — you look at ‘Torchwood’ and it’s always had such a labyrinthine history.”
“Torchwood” premiered in 2006 on BBC Three, and earned a second season that moved it to BBC Two. For the third season, however, BBC opted to dispense with a full season, and instead do a five-episode miniseries that aired on consecutive nights on BBC One to critical acclaim in 2009.
The series then went dark for a couple of years while BBC looked for an American producing partner. The Fox network was first onboard, but then bailed on the project before Starz stepped in to produce 10 episodes.
Some of the issues facing “Torchwood,” however, could be the rather erratic relationship series creator Russell T. Davies has with Starz. The cable channel did not appear to be happy when Davies signed a deal with Showtime, a rival to Starz that originally worked with Davies in the early 2000s with his “Queer as Folk” series.
While “Torchwood” was still airing its “Miracle Day” season, Starz chief executive Chris Albrecht said he would like to make more “Torchwood,” but that it was up to Davies making it a priority. Albrecht didn’t come out and say it, but implied that Davies’ work on his new Showtime series would be too distracting for him to give “Torchwood” the attention it would need.
But then again, he also implied that “Torchwood” may not necessarily be an “every year” show, something Gardner pointed out.
“For this new season, ‘Torchwood’ has been off the air for two years in the U.K.,” she said. “The weird thing is there are some series where that would really matter. It would be a real problem. I think ‘Torchwood’ is so elastic in some ways and has had such a strange peculiar life.”
While the viewership of “Torchwood” was similar to “Camelot,” which Starz quickly pulled off the air, the fact that Starz is a premium channel changes how it earns a return on each series. Unlike the networks, which depend on numbers of viewers to sell commercials, Starz is only interested in building a subscriber base. Any show that can create buzz for the cable channel, and turn that buzz into subscriptions, could continue on no matter how many people actually watch the show.
Starz has not released any numbers (nor does anyone expect it to) to show how much of an effect “Torchwood” had on its subscriber base. That, along with other factors, will determine whether there is a future for “Torchwood” on Starz.