Monday, November 20, 2006

The Five Million Barrier

It seems to me that most UK Dramas fail to break past the 5 million band of ratings. The State Within is now posting just over 3 million, Robin Hood, Spooks and Vincent are all now around 5 and a half. The Beebs latest, The Innocence Project didn't even make it past 3 million.

Is there any rhyme or reason to this when Heartbeat regulary gets 8 million plus? I'm not knocking Heartbeat. Clearly it is a show that must have a wide appeal. Possibly it is ideal digestive biscuit and a cup of tea Sunday night viewing. It hits it's mark.

Doctor Who regulary averaged 7 million plus. Again ideal sit down with family early Saturday evening viewing. It hit it's mark. It also had a huge built in fan base of several generations which wouldn't do it any harm.

Robin Hood started off strongly but has shed a couple of million viewers. Everyone will have an opinion on why that is. And everyone will be right. I think it's a decent enough show, but the barometer for me is 'are my son's mates talking about it at school'. And the answer is no. Maybe it's just not cool enough despite the Robin Hoodie advertising. And maybe to hit the mark in the early Saturday evening slot a show has to be cool.

Or maybe there's just too much soap creeping in to drama. The Bill [slumped to less than 5 million recently] is really a soap with police stories, Casualty and Holby the same but medical stories. They have a loyal but static audience and in my opinion are well past their sell by dates. Shouting, tears and melodrama do not themselves good drama make.

I recently wrote a spec slick action thriller. It got a good response apart from two of the biggest players who gave feedback to the effect that they really enjoyed the script but felt there should have been more character development. So - either they didn't really enjoy the script or they thought I should chuck more character development in there for the hell of it?

It is what it is. That's the way I deliberately wrote it and that's the way it's staying. I've got a meeting with one of those players this week. And if the subject is brought up again that's exactly what I'm going to say.

I don't want to do 'mid-life crisis with testicular cancer' or 'woman realising her marriage is a sham' stretched out to six hours . There is a place for those kinds of dramas, of course, but I don't watch them. I want to do 'appointment TV'. Bold, in your face, escapism. And I'm pretty sure a lot of the viewing public feel the same way. That's the mark we have to hit if we're to break the 5 million barrier.


potdoll said...

I want to watch something like Boys from the Blackstuff, or Queer as Folk. Something that you find yourself quoting from.

English Dave said...

Gizza job! I can do that. Gizza a job!

potdoll said...


Good Dog said...

Looking at the figures, Robin Hood has lost one qaurter of its opening episode audience in five weeks.

Shows like Heartbeat which leave people with a warm fuzzy glow for a lost Albion are the equivalent of comfort food. For an audience that eat through a straw. Everything's all right, now have a good night's sleep and be up early for work tomorrow.

I hate to say it, but Casualty and Holby City should have had a DNR note years ago. And a pillow pressed over their heads to speed up the demise.

Was the spec thriller a one off or series? Yeah, forget having characters defined by their actions. They should stop and worry about their mortgage or how the don't relate to their parents or children anymore. Then have a big touchy-feely moment.

Where are the dramas that have a "Jedburgh's at Gleneagles and he's not playing golf!" moment?

English Dave said...

It was a pilot for a series Good Dog. This morning I got some more feed back from a big player.

I quote

'I did feel the characters perhaps needed greater emotional exploration to really open up the drama'

Ummmmm....... It's an action thriller. It's written as slick and fast paced. Action defines character not long winded speeches and cut aways from story to explore his domestic problems.

I'd love to tell you the last thing this company produced, but I can't. lol

Good Dog said...

Oh, good grief.

The first thing I learnt was action defines character.

Since it is a pilot, and therefore there are further episodes, don't they get that character exploration can come later?

Talked to writers who worked on The Sweeney and their mandate for opening an episode was "Kick. Bollock. Scramble!" Get into the action, get the audience hooked and then work from there.

It would be interesting if Sergio leone was alive today and had to go in and pitch the Dollars trilogy.

English Dave said...

It's about a guy we don't know, who doesn't say much.

Done and done. lol