Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sounds Like Sense

As said by the head of CBS

“What we've come to learn is, it is all about the writer,” says Nina Tassler, President, CBS Entertainment. “We're aggressively developing projects year round. We tell writers, 'Bring us your passion projects; bring us the project that excites you.' So, if they bring us something that's serialized, if they bring something that is closed-ended, if they bring something that is unorthodox and unusual, it doesn't matter. If we at the network respond to the quality of the storytelling, and it's a great opportunity for us, we're going to move forward on it. We don't preclude development of any one form over another. The point is: it's about the writer's vision. How does he or she best feel the story is serviced.”

And now the reality as far as the UK is concerned.

There are around 7 people who control everything you see on your TV screens. They also have a massive influence on what is even being developed, never mind made.

And that is the problem. In the US they develop like crazy. The networks maybe make thirty or forty pilots a year, to see what sticks. Because sometimes you just don't know what you really have until cast and crew and director get something on film and you can see the chemistry and potential.

Here, yeah, a bit of development, but very little makes it past script stage. As a rule 'if it's made it's shown' If it sucks, man are we in shit because we have nothing but repeats to replace it and if we stick on a repeat in primetime against the other networks we're going to get creamed'

So the gang of seven give the nod to job keeping projects . The ones that'll get a pretty respectable audience. Not great but not job losing.

Who can blame them really. No one wants to be known as The Guy Who Sank ITV, for example. Though I think the former head of Network Centre definitely launched a few torpedoes.

But the result is bland insipid programming. Yes there are exceptions and yes I've often heard it said that there is plenty of crap on US TV.


At least not after the ratings come through.

Okay, I know the reality is that there simply isn't enough money here to throw stuff at the wall and keep what sticks. So what's the answer? Apart from sack the lot and get people in there who understand the audience they so hope to attract. The ABC1's rather than your Granny and Grandad.

I don't mean bring in the sandal tapping Guardian reader or the Hot Shot Ad man. But something in between. Someone who understands that entertaining drama consists of good stories well told.
That schedules shouldn't be swamped by 'issue' based drama.
That Sarah Lancashire and Caroline Quentin don't have to be in everything.
That putting 'Heart' in the title doesn't necessarily give it any.
That if you want to attract a big audience you have to take a risk.
That having your head up your arse and calling 5 million viewers a success simply isn't good enough.

That making someone who can actually write an arbitter of what might be considered a good story well told?

Yeah fat chance!


Good Dog said...


Blimey does ITV make drama?

Obviously apart from the kind of nostalgia for a lost Albion that have to we watched with a tartan rug over your lap while drinking Ovaltine. Or shows adapted from crime novelists oeuvres? (Although remaking Miss Marple, modernising it thematically, and then filming it like it was a pantomime, shows a level of idiocy so far off the charts...). And the stable of actors offered everything in sight because they had a golden handcuffs deal was a BIG mistake.

The only thing I think I’ve watched on the channel is Foyle’s War. When I interviewed Anthony Horowitz for a magazine, he said not only was it becoming too expensive, but that blighter Prescott and his mob were knocking down all the decent locations.

Sure, we don’t have the budgets like... well, Deadwood at $5 million per episode. But what you lack in money you make up for in imagination.

I also think the real problem with a lot of UK drama is the pacing. That is what the UK could learn from the US. Everything here seems so bloody slow. An ardent fan of ER, I caught a couple of minutes of Casualty/Holby City (whichever one it was) and it seemed like an eternity. And nothing happened.

Obviously everyone doesn’t have to wiz about like they’re hopped up on monkey glands, but put some life into it. It’s not just good writers, but good directors.

There really is a problem with British drama and something has to be done about it.

A few years back, I was at Channel 4 for a preview screening of the first episode of No Angels. It was the Monday after Channel 4 had screened Angels in America and The South Bank Show had broadcast either part one or two of a look at the state of British drama.

The screening was running late. I found myself at the bar with Tony Garnett. We started discussing the differences between US and UK drama and TSBS programme. He wasn’t optimistic about the state of things. Actually, TSBS had called and asked him to appear on the show. Apparently his rely to the assistant/producer was “fuck off!”

Still, they could always go the BBC route. Bring back “old favourites” on a Saturday night, which dramatically are compromised from the get go, because the episodes try to tell a story for adults and children. Or, do another literary adaptation. Oh look, Jane Eyre. Again.

English Dave said...

Good dog, I was recently at a meeting with World [not Tony Garnet though] and the subtext was 'What can we get past those bastards'

It's Trojan Horse drama. It has different levels of appeal. Firstly to the 'But will it play in Peoria' crowd. AKA The Magnificent Seven. Or, in my opinion the Seven Dwarves.
No offence to the vertically challenged.

Good Dog said...

Don't offend the vertically challenged. There's always the chance they'll nut you in the nuts.

It's a bastard that material has to get in under the wire through slight of hand. But we deserve home-grown drama with balls.

Dom Carver said...

And less cop shows.

Piers said...

Nothing wrong with cop shows per se.

Anonymous said...

Why not a fish out of water comedy about an English family that moves to California.

Write it up, send me my check in the mail when it's a success.

wcdixon said...

Jutratest beats me here also...curses!

Boy Canuck tv and UK tv seem to suffer from a lot of the same problems.

English Dave said...

It has crossed my mind. But as I still need to enter the country now and again most of the good bits would have to be cut!