Echo Beach sent mixed messages throughout the series. Was it really supposed to be a drama to be taken seriously, or was it intended to be an amusing spinoff from the real comedy? The answer is that it veers between both and unfortunately, the cast were of the belief that it was the former. The show should have been definitively pitched either as a serious drama (in which case it should have run to an hour, and MW should have aired afterwards) or as second fiddle to MW (in which case it should have been ten times' more preposterous).
This is a view echoed all over the place on Echo Beach-related sites. On Echo Beach's IDMB page, reviewer oelbr1 writes:
In some aspects, it tries to hard to be taken seriously to really be considered a parody; some scenes were actually acted out well, and the characters appeared to be quite clearly defined, with the potential to develop into, as one of the writers on Moving Wallpaper put it, into "real, breathing people".
In others, the nature of the show was less clear. Some terrible attempts at West Country accents and an overdose on beautiful looking people hanging around in skimpy clothing, teamed with the poor quality of acting (*ahem* Martine McCutchon, Jason Donovan) and mediocre plot lines left you confused, wondering, "So, is this a parody or not?"
Over at the Digital Spy forums, user BB-mega-addict comments:
I'm quite surprised that someone like Tony Jordan has made such a big mistake with a series. They are trying to make the show a parody of a soap as well as make it an interesting drams and it just isn't working. They should have decided whether they wanted a drama or a parody.
If the fans - or at least the regular viewers - are confused and think things should be clearer, then Echo Beach has a problem. One could claim it is like Shakespeare's "problem" plays, neither comedy nor tragedy. But let's face it, Mark and Susan Penwarden are hardly Angelo and Isabella.
To succeed in its current form, Echo Beach needs to find some kind of niche, and possibly one that isn't there yet. It is somewhat remeniscent of Eldorado, but that had a massive cast and a much longer run - and even when it finally built up a respectable viewership it was axed. There are also shades of the very early days of Neighbours and Home & Away, but those shows chose to evolve away from their original, more adult-led melodrama. And to some extent it is actually crippled by Moving Wallpaper, because as long as that hold the position of comedy mock-reality drama with all The Office, Alan Partridge and Absolute Power nuances and references, Echo Beach is left somewhat high and dry.
Then another problem is the cast. Whether they've signed up for a second series or not, the poor reviews are going to make many of them think twice. Even many of the lesser-known younger cast are already involved in other, high profile projects.
But it was a brave and important move to make this experimental dual-show. Given it can take several series for audiences to warm to a show, it seems wasteful to axe it as a knee jerk reaction. But given the size of the overhaul it would need in a second series to evolve past a kind of a quirky 30-minute sidecar to Moving Wallpaper, one can understand why ITV may feel it's easier to start again from scratch.