Note: Patsy Kensit BAFTA // Holby City Hospital entrance // Holby City Hospital entrance
Holby City has featured a number of famous guest stars. Emma Samms, Antonio Fargas, Ronald Pickup and Leslie Phillips made appearances within the show's first few series, and Anita Dobson, Peter Bowles and Susannah York all appeared in the fiftieth episode. Other notable guest stars include Paul Blackthorne, Suzanne Shaw, Geoffrey Hutchings, Richard Todd, Johnny Briggs, Terence Rigby, Michael Obiora, and Lionel Jeffries. Richard Briers appeared as patient George Woodman in the Christmas episode "Elliot's Wonderful Life", Eric Sykes played Roger Ludlow, a patient with Alzheimer's disease and Phill Jupitus starred as morbidly obese patient Andy Thompson. Kieron Dyer was in four episodes as an injury prone footballer, Denise Welch had a recurring role as risk manager Pam McGrath, mother of nurse Keri, Clarke Peters appeared for five episodes in 2009 as the father of nurse Donna Jackson, and Graeme Garden had a recurring role from 2003 to 2007 as cardiothoracic consultant Edward Loftwood. Cascade Brown played Sophie Hindmarsh in 2004, Antonio Fargas appeared in 2003 as Victor Garrison, a patient with Parkinson's disease, Sheridan Smith appeared for six episodes in 2001 as teenage stalker Miranda Locke, and David Soul made two appearances as Professor Alan Fletcher. The BBC's William Gallagher wrote in a November 2001 column that Soul's guest-appearance had begun a trend for American actors appearing in UK shows. In 2012, Ron Moody guest starred as patient Vincent Mancini, a war veteran.
In 2003, the BBC reached an agreement with the actors' union Equity to cease offering walk-on drama series roles to members of the public as prizes. When an untrained person won such a role in Holby City in a competition, Equity complained to the broadcaster that such prizes were "demeaning" to actors, depriving them of paid employment. The competition winner was allowed to visit the Holby City set, but did not appear on-screen as a result of the policy change.
Adaptations and other appearances
Reflecting Holby City's origins as a spin-off from Casualty and the closely related premises of the two programmes, the BBC has screened occasional crossover mini-dramas entitled Casualty@Holby City, featuring a number of characters from each of the two casts. Prior to the commissioning of Casualty@Holby City, the two shows had occasionally crossed-over storylines and cast members before; for instance developing a romance between Holby City's Ben Saunders (David Paisley) and Casualty's Tony Vincent (Lee Warburton). The first full crossover was spearheaded by Casualty's executive producer Mervyn Watson, and Holby City's McHale. Logistical difficulties arose from the fact the two series are usually produced 120 miles apart, and work on both shows had to be halted for two weeks to release a number of cast members to appear in the special. A second crossover was commissioned in 2005 as part of the BBC's DoNation season, aiming to raise public awareness of organ donation and help viewers make an informed decision about whether to sign up to the Organ Donor Register. An interactive episode of Casualty@Holby City was one of the headlining shows of the season, allowing viewers to vote by phone to determine the outcome of a fictional organ donation. The third Casualty@Holby City crossover aired in October 2005. The four-part storyline tackled the issue of youth violence, following the events of a turbulent A&E demonstration at an inner-city school. Based on the success of the 2004 Casualty@Holby City Christmas special, another crossover was ordered for Christmas 2005. Rather than dividing the episodes between the two series' crews as had previously been standard, this crossover operated as an entirely separate production, with Kyle producing and Paul Harrison directing.
In February 2010, another crossover occurred when Casualty's Charlie Fairhead (Derek Thompson) was operated on by Holby City's Elliot Hope after suffering a heart attack. The storyline was, however, broadcast as regular Casualty and Holby City episodes, rather than under the Casualty@Holby City title. Casualty's series producer Oliver Kent commented that, while it is "fantastic" to be able to produce crossover episodes, they are logistically difficult, and it is unlikely that another Casualty@Holby City episode will be produced in the "foreseeable future". In September 2010, Holby City's nurse Donna Jackson (Jaye Jacobs) appeared in Casualty, and Kent hopes that characters from the two shows will begin to crossover two or three times a year.
On 27 April 2006, the BBC announced the commissioning of Holby Blue, a police procedural spin-off from Holby City created by Tony Jordan. Jordan contemplated that "soap snobs" may hold the series in disdain for using the Holby brand, but concluded: "After much thought, I remembered who I was as a writer, the joy I take from surprising an audience, by subverting expectation – and HolbyBlue was born." Holby City was moved to Thursdays for the duration of HolbyBlue's first series, with the spin-off broadcast on Tuesday nights at 8 pm. A two-part crossover episode with Holby City was developed for the beginning of the show's second series, broadcast in 2008. The episodes were written by McHale and Jordan, and saw Holby City registrar Jac Naylor accused of murder. Yorke compared the crossover to the American CSI franchise, in that: "You really believe it's a world." While the second series attracted 5.6 million viewers with its opening episode, by the end of May 2008 viewership had fallen to 2.5 million. In August 2008, the BBC announced that due to declining ratings, Holby Blue would not be recommissioned for a third series.
In June 2002, cast members from Holby City and Casualty competed against the EastEnders cast for the first Sport Relief fundraiser, in a segment dubbed "Sport in the Square". The teams competed in events such as taxi pulling, melon tossing and a beer keg relay. The competition was televised on BBC One, and the event as a whole raised £10 million. In October 2003, BBC One aired a "Kenyon Confronts" documentary by Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon, investigating hospitals run by the Private Finance Initiative. He discovered many problems within the hospitals, which were dramatised by the Holby City cast in specially commissioned scenes. March 2004 saw the station air the documentary "Making It at Holby", as part of a BBC initiative to develop new acting talent. The documentary followed the casting process of Holby City and Casualty, from the audition stages to the filming of the selected actors' first scenes. Young explained his casting criteria, revealing: "I try to put my head into the head of a viewer and ask: do I want to spend three years in the life of this person?" 17 November 2006 Children in Need charity telethon included a segment featuring the Holby City cast performing a comical version of "Hung Up" by Madonna. 16 November 2007 Children in Need appeal again contained a musical performance from Holby City cast members. Sharon D Clarke, backed by Nadine Lewington, Rakie Ayola and Phoebe Thomas performed a soul version of Aretha Franklin's signature song, "Respect". On 28 June 2008, Holby City stars competed against their Casualty counterparts in a special charity edition of BBC Two game-show The Weakest Link. Holby City and Casualty cast members united on 20 February 2010, performing a dance rendition of "Jai Ho" for Let's Dance for Sport Relief.
Holby City has attracted comparisons to other medical dramas, often unfavourable. In November 2002, John Whiston, then head of drama at Granada Television, accused the BBC of producing "ersatz parodies" of ITV drama, commenting that: "With Holby City cloned out of Casualty, the BBC has even ended up copying itself." Paul Hoggart of The Times has written that the differences between the two shows are "mild", calling Holby City: "Casualty's cute little sister". Kevin Lygo, director of television at Channel 4, referred to Holby City as "sudsy drama", deeming it, Casualty and HolbyBlue "all decent programmes, but strikingly similar in many aspects of their tone and construction." Holby City has also been unfavourably compared with the American medical drama ER. Television producer Paul Abbott has commented that although he watches ER, he does not watch Holby City as: "it looks like you've crammed one hour's drama into 26 episodes." In October 2009, former Holby City writer Peter Jukes wrote a critical piece for Prospect magazine, contrasting the show negatively with the standard of American television dramas. Jukes wrote that Holby City has become a soap opera, rather than a drama, and deemed the episodes he worked on "the most dispiriting experiences in [his] 25 years as a dramatist."
On several occasions, people within the television and entertainment industry have suggested that Holby City is a waste of the television licence fee, with some suggesting that it ought to be cancelled. In August 2002, Paul Bolt, director of the Broadcasting Standards Commission criticised BBC programming as being "humdrum" and "formulaic", saying of Holby City and the police procedural Mersey Beat: "One begins to wonder what really is the point of the BBC bringing this to us. Let's have something a bit different." Then head of BBC drama Jane Tranter responded that Bolt's examples were "highly selective" as well as "hugely patronising to the millions of viewers who enjoy popular dramas like Holby City – week in, week out". Young, who at the time held the position of head of drama serials, told The Guardian: "Popular drama has always been singled out for criticism, but people are increasingly voting with their on-buttons." Also in 2002, David Cox of the New Statesman criticised BBC One's 2001 Christmas schedule, for airing Holby City against a contemporary version of Othello. On this basis, Cox advocated the abolition of the licence fee, explaining: "The BBC was invented in a period when the elite decided what the population should know. If that has gone, then the licence fee should go too." At the 2003 Edinburgh International Television Festival, BSykB chief executive Tony Ball called for stricter restrictions on how the BBC spent licence payers' money, suggesting that Holby City be sold to the channel's commercial rivals, with the proceeds used to develop more original programming. The BBC refused Ball's suggestion, responding in a statement: "This speech clearly reflects BSkyB's view that programmes are merely a commodity to be bought and sold." In June 2004, Charles Allen, chief executive of ITV plc questioned the amount of funding spent on lengthened episodes of Holby City, and in January 2010, Janet Street-Porter of The Independent, opined Holby City had "come to the end of [its] natural life" and should be cancelled.
Holby City was praised by campaigners for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) in October 2003, when an episode which coincided with "Learn To Sign Week" used deaf actors, and featured characters communicating through British Sign Language. RNID chief executive John Low stated: "Too often individuals have to rely on family members or friends to communicate complicated personal information to professionals. This is the reason the RNID is calling on the government to channel funding into the training of British Sign Language interpreters who could then be available to NHS staff treating deaf patients." Stokes commented: "The writer had a great story he wanted to tell – for us, that's what matters first and foremost." A 2008 report into ethnic diversity on television, commissioned by Channel 4, cited Holby City as a positive example of "diverse British programm[ing]". Five years previously in 2003, former BBC host Sir Ludovic Kennedy complained that ethnic minorities were over-represented on television, prompting a BBC spokeswoman to explain that Holby City has more ethnic characters as it is set in an area where minorities account for up to 30% of the population. According to the 2001 census, the population of Bristol – which the city of Holby is loosely based upon – is 88% white and 12% ethnic minorities.