Thu | Oct 18, 2018

The longevity of ‘Royal Palm Estate’ and its possible return - Will there be a comeback?

Published:Monday | September 10, 2018 | 12:58 AMStephanie Lyew
Carol Campbell (on-set) was an amateur when she started in the 1st season of 'Royal Palm Estate' in 1994.
Bernice (played by Macka Diamond) has serious words with Monsieur Gene Parrot (played by Clive Duncan) on Royal Palm Estate.
Executive Producer of The Blackburns of Royal Palm Estate Lennie Little-White, watches as a scene is shot at the Great House.
1
2
3

Royal Palm Estate (along with its spin-off, The Blackburns) is the longest-running television series in Jamaican history, and possibly the Caribbean’s. It was a staple in Jamaican homes on a Sunday night from 1994 until it hit a roadblock in 2015, which resulted in its exit from CVM TV’s usual Sunday night programming.

For many theatre and film aficionados, it was among other memorable series such as Oliver at Large and Lime Tree Lane that paved the way for others and contributed to highlighting Jamaica’s social and cultural landscape.

It is still being aired in a few Caribbean countries, including Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, and across North America. A few of the 800 episodes can be found on YouTube, and popular cast members have been left with the task of answering the question, ‘When will it return?’

Beth Hyde, who played the second wife of Ted Blackburn, Julia, says that even now, persons who recognise her from the series will ask if it is coming back any time soon. “Persons have genuinely expressed that they want to see it again ­ even if it is just reruns. They say that [its absence] spoil up their Sunday night,” said Hyde.

AUTHENTIC JAMAICAN PRODUCTION

She notes that the series was an authentic Jamaican production that viewers at all levels could identify with. She said, “The content is what makes it still so popular despite its absence.”

Speaking of her experience, she explains, “Television was a new experience at first. I had only done stage, and Julia was not the nicest person, so I thought when it aired viewers would not like my character. But even then, persons always had good things to say.” Hyde’s son, Adam, also got into acting and continued the legacy ­ playing a character in the series as well.

TV-SHOW LIFESPAN

The average lifespan of a TV show is about five to seven years (about eight seasons), but Royal Palm Estate survived well past that, lasting for 21 years and more than 30 seasons.
Another reason for the series’ long lifespan is the consistent casting, which along with Hyde, included other popular thespians ­ Michael Nicholson (Stringbean), Bobby Smith (Inspector Madden), and Munair Zacca (Sonny T) all maintained their characters for more than 10 seasons. The experts note that when it comes to television shows, viewers develop a greater appreciation for those that maintain the cast into successive seasons because a connection is made with the characters.

Adding to that point, Nicholson told The Gleaner, “The main ingredient is a group of good actors who believe in the product and trust the director behind the camera ­ realistic characters and a good, well-written Jamaican story is what made Royal Palm Estate so popular. My advice to young directors and actors in the theatre and film industry, is, let us tell our own stories. There are thousands of them out there ­ let’s find them, write them, and make it happen.”

He added, “Royal Palm Estate could have easily surpassed 1,000 episodes, and if given the opportunity tomorrow morning, I would go back on that set.”

The secret to its longevity

The series’ director and media businessman Lennie Little-White says the secret to the series’ longevity was the image it portrayed. “Other productions, whether TV series or movies done by foreigners, portray Jamaican culture and lifestyle and tend to show the ghetto, crime and poverty from their own perception of it.”

Royal Palm Estate was always focused on portraying positive images. Little-White says that even if a character was poor, their clothing was not torn or dirty.

“I was bombarded with negative images of Jamaica and felt ashamed that Jamaica was perceived that way while in school overseas and promised my production would not have that image, which always showed us as ragamuffin ­ dirty, unkempt and without style,” he continued.
 

HOLISTIC VIEWS

He believes that was the secret to making the series last as long as it did ­ presenting a holistic view in which persons could see themselves at the various socio-economic levels, as well as the techniques applied. It is also a production that survived the slow pace of digital transformation locally ­ from using u-matic tape to betacam then digital videos.

Preferring to say that the show is on a hiatus, Little-White shared, “There are plans afoot to remount it, not in its original form, but something of a similar concept. And once it can overcome the hurdles of sponsorship, it will return as part of local programming,” he promised.

stephanie.lyew@gleanerjm.com