Should ITV bosses fear the Reaper’s return to screen?

Guest appearance: the Grim Reaper stands in the background, by the garage, in one of the final scenes from Heartbeat
Guest appearance: the Grim Reaper stands in the background, by the garage, in one of the final scenes from Heartbeat
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METAPHORICALLY speaking, the Grim Reaper is no stranger to the hospital wards of ITV Sunday evening series The Royal. One of the characters usually pops his or her clogs.

But I wonder if, in a few weeks, we will see the Reaper for real, complete with cowl and scythe.

The Royal was a spin-off from long running Sunday evening schedule clogger Heartbeat. Same 1960s North Yorkshire setting. Same use of vaguely relevant 1960s pop songs.

And when Heartbeat was axed last year, who did we see in one of the final scenes but the Grim Reaper, lurking in the background.

This was a bit of black humour from the production team, although ITV bosses were not in the least amused.

Those same bosses will not doubt have pored over every frame of The Royal, to ensure that the Reaper does not make a cameo appearance. If he does show up anyway… well, that really would be spooky.

But even without the Grim Reaper, there is something haunting about The Royal. I was very surprised to see it in the schedules.

Sure enough, the credits revealed that the programme had been made in 2009. It had obviously been on the shelf until ITV finally decided to use it to fill a slot in the summer schedules.

This programme is haunting because it represents the dying echo of what was once a lively tradition of popular programme making at Yorkshire TV’s Kirkstall Lane studios.

Very few memorable programmes emerged, it is true, but there were plenty of decent sitcoms and dramas.

Then ITV pulled the plug. Yollywood – as we clumsily called it – was no more.

But perhaps the Grim Reaper – like the Phantom of the Opera – haunts the abandoned studio corridors...