Okay hands up those who prefer watching American fare like 'Lost' or 'CSI' or 'Battlestar Gallactica' or 'The Sopranos' or 'House' or even cancelled shows like 'Arrested Development' or 'Firefly' or reruns of Frasier and Seinfeld rather than watch home grown fare?
Mmmmmmmmmmmnnn? Most of you. Interesting. That is the dolemma [pun intended] the UK networks face. Because while they are chugging out lowest common denominator user friendly pap the majority of the audience are looking at the goodies on offer on multi channel and voting with their index fingers.
In the rush to give 'Middle England ' something that a half decent share will watch [half decent by today's standards] the networks are losing sight of the fact that TV is a global business. Something the Americans learned some time ago. Big Budget production values both on and off the screen coupled with great storytelling and a cut throat sense of what works and what doesn't is why we even have people high up in the BBC saying they prefer to watch American shows [ no name no pack drill]
And yes, we see the cream not the crap and yes they make mistakes, like cancelling Arrested Development and Firefly! But take a look at say ....the BBC. Not reliant on adverstising and having squillions a year come into it's coffers and yet what's the best they can come up with for a new prime time series? A tired old police procedural format like Holby Blue. And it will chug along with it's five million viewers and some execs and writers and production folk will be in a job for a few years. Big wow.
I know, because I've written for both, that two of the mainstays of UK Drama, Casualty and The Bill sell to about half a dozen countries, max. The reason why they don't sell to more countries while the best American shows are truly global? Because they are too parochial, as in UK exec parochial. They are dull, slow and boring. You'd have to fast forward Casualty on your VCR to make it anything like E.R. The Bill is like NYPD Blue on tranquilisers. But they get solid viewing figures here. And solid viewing figures are the Holy Grail for execs. The rest of the world thinks they are crap but so long as 5 to 8 million Middle Englanders religiously tune in they will keep being made. Because the networks have given up on absolute numbers, instead relying on share to judge a show's worth . 30% share is a success. The fact that 30% of a piss poor pot is actually quite meaningless is neither here nor there to them and their salaries.
That is a little harsh. They have a mandate they have to work to, what with watersheds and diversity issues and budgets that are heavily weighted towards non creative infrastructure. But it can come as no surprise that the best current American shows have succesful movie people behind them, because sucessful movie people know that the key is 'a good story well told' Something that I think gets lost in UK TV when 'on screen on time and on budget' is the watchword of the execs rather than 'is this actually any good?'
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5 years ago