Outlander show ‘too intense’ for British TV

TV historian and author Neil Oliver and Diana Gabaldon, writer of Outlander. Picture: Rob Mcdougall
TV historian and author Neil Oliver and Diana Gabaldon, writer of Outlander. Picture: Rob Mcdougall
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OUTLANDER author Diana Gabaldon believes the hit series based on her multi-million selling books may be too extreme to ever be shown on mainstream television in the UK.

The American writer has told The Scotsman that the makers of the show were unable to find a broadcaster willing to screen an uncut version of the programme.

Dubbed Scotland’s answer to Game of Thrones, Outlander’s first series regularly featured graphic scenes of sex, torture, rape and violence.

Ms Gabaldon, who has been in Scotland to help make an episode of the third season, said she had heard from “various sources” involved in the show that its content was “too intense” for British television.

She spoke of her dismay after being told that the only way the show could have gone on air in the UK was if significant cuts had been made and dismissed suggestions that the cost of screening Outlander had been too prohibitive.

She said the team working the show, which has only been available on Amazon’s streaming service, had refused to compromise on either its content or the length of each episode.

Ms Gabaldon also told The Scotsman that she was “surprised and astonished” that Outlander had been snubbed in the recent Bafta Scotland Awards.

She suggested that there could have been prejudice against the lavish production in the judging process.

At the time the nominations were revealed, Jude MacLaverty, Bafta Scotland’s director confirmed Outlander had been put forward for the awards but had not been nominated during a “fair and transparent process.”

Ms Gabaldon was speaking to The Scotsman ahead of an appearance at Stirling Castle with the historian and author Neil Oliver.

Outlander is the biggest single inward investment in Scotland’s film and television industry and is widely credited with boosting the value of productions shot in Scotland last year to a record £45 million.

A warehouse in Cumbernauld has been converted into a vast studio complex where the show has based, while the cast and crew have gone on location around the country for the filming of the first two series.

However Outlander’s UK-based fans were left furious at being unable to see the show in the UK after it was launched in the United States last and was snapped up by broadcasters around the world.

Many British fans were forced to watch the show illegally until it was available via Amazon Prime at the end of March. It went on to become the streaming service’s most popular show.

Ms Gabaldon, whose appearance was part of the annual Book Week Scotland celebration, has spent several weeks in Scotland after being asked to write the script for an episode for the forthcoming season.

She told The Scotsman it was “very disappointing” the show had still not been aired by a British broadcaster.

“I would love for people to be able to see it on mainstream television. People have been asking me about it for a long time.

“What I’ve heard from various sources is that it wasn’t that they couldn’t find a channel that wanted to show it, but that they couldn’t find a channel that would show it either uncut or at its normal running length.

“In other words that they thought it was too long and perhaps had material that they thought was too intense. Money wasn’t the issue.”

Asked by an Outlander fan about the continued absence of the show during her appearance at Stirling Castle, the writer added: “Alas, it is not up to me. It would long since have been on British television had I had anything to say about it.

“In actual fact the people who make the show were very desirous of having it on mainstream UK television.

“I was talking to a number of people involved in the production about it when they were trying to find a buyer.

“The bottom line was that while there were channels that were willing to buy the show there were no channels that were willing to show it at its uncut length nor willing to show it with some of the more intense scenes.

“They were not willing to make either compromise and I agree with them on that.”

Many Outlander fans took to social media to express outrage that the show had been completely snubbed in the Scottish Bafta nominations - even though the entire first series was based in Scotland.

Its lead actors Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, who have won a huge global fanbase since they were cast in the show, have both being heavily touted for the Golden Globes.

Outlander star Bill Paterson, who was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the ceremony, said he had been “surprised and amazed” that it did not garner any nominations for this month’s awards.

Ms Gabaldon said: “I have heard all about this.

“Awards programmes of all kinds are...I hesitate to use the word incestuous...they are usually dealing with a fairly small world of known quantities and entities and so forth. Outlander is something way different.

“I’ve never been able to describe the books myself and I don’t think anyone has been able to describe the television show either.

“I was surprised and astonished (that it wasn’t nominated), particularly over the acting, which was just flabbergasting, and the photography, which is absolutely the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

“Either it was prejudice or inadvertence. It was filmed here, it had a Scottish cast and crew, and Scottish locations. It couldn’t have been more Scottish.”