The inaugural episode of BBC Shakespeare was originally set to be a production of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Donald McWhinnie, and starring Penelope Keith and Michael York. The episode was shot (for £250,000), edited and even publicly announced as the opening of the series, before it was suddenly pulled from the schedule and replaced with Romeo & Juliet (which was supposed to air as the second episode). No reasons were given by the BBC for this decision, although initial newspaper reports suggested that the episode had not been abandoned, it had simply been postponed for re-shoots, due to an unspecified actor's "very heavy accent," and concerns that US audiences would not be able to understand the dialogue. However, as time wore on, and no reshoots materialised, the press began to speculate that the show had been cancelled entirely, and would be replaced at a later date by a completely new adaptation, which was in fact what happened. The press also pointed out that the fact that the production was never shown in Britain rubbished any suggestion that the prevailing cause for the abandonment was to do with accents. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that BBC management simply regarded the production as a failure.
Stuart Burge initially thought about shooting the entire episode against a blank tapestry background, with no set whatsoever, but it was felt that audiences may not respond well to this, and the idea was scrapped. Ultimately the production had a style referred to as "stylized realism"; the environments are suggestive of their real life counterparts, the foregrounds are broadly realistic representations, but the backgrounds tended to be more artificial.