Tuesday, May 15, 2007

RADIO TIMES

Okay I usually only buy this to flick through the TV schedules to see who is writing or producing what. I tend to ignore the commentary and fluff pieces, especially the blatent programme marketing. But there is usually something very interesting, and what is more, completely unbiased to be had out of some of the features.

I hadn't even reached the schedule pages of this week's edition when a few things struck me. Firstly Holby Blue didn't figure in the RT Recommends for the week [ but is RT choice on the day, so can I assume they are different people recommending weekly and daily or can I assume that because the weekly recommend is for shows post Holby Blue time slot they are one and the same person?]

I always read the Alison Graham column. Her Bafta thoughts this week are pretty much the same as mine. And she has never been afraid to knock BBC programmes.

And the ''What I'm watching'' section is always interesting. This week Angus Deayton, after listing his viewing choices, says '' Hearing all this might make you think I don't watch British programmes - and you'd be right''

Join the club Angus. Join the club. And he is one of a long line expressing similar views. Maybe, just maybe, someone at the BBC, reading a BBC publication, will actually register this.

You can make TV for the pipe and slipper brigade, that's fine. No problem. It's a genuine market. But it is not the only market. And far from the biggest and most important market. The one that doesn't require snuggle TV.

I watched a BBC ''comedy'' about young contemporary life last night. I missed the opening and didn't catch the title but it was something about male and female flatmates. It had some okay moments but was spoiled by an incessant laughter track that only highlighted the unfunny moments and some hammy, panto like acting that dispelled any belief in the characters. It was a three snigger show at best.

Shows that work come from the gut. The guts of the producers and writers and directors who believe in a project much more deeply than demographics and marketing and focus groups. I can guarantee you that almost any well loved and iconic show you care to name in the last 10 years had to be fought for by those same people.

EDIT

Having now read the Radio Times schedules I have just figured out that the title of the ''comedy'' was Not Going Out written by Andrew Collins, film reviewer of the Radio Times and writer of that thing with the guy from The Fast Show, you know, the one where he is a grass and has to....do something.....I forget. I must buy a Radio Times.

38 comments:

Robin Kelly said...

Grass was rubbish but give Not Going Out another chance. It's for your own good. ;-)

Tim T. said...

Dave:

Here's the ugly truth. British TV (or film) will never be as good as American TV (or film) because if you're a great writer, director or actor, you move to Hollywood.

You guys have the best of what's left.

If your passion is to create great work with the best resources and have it seen by the most people, you have to go to Hollywood. That's where the money and talent are.

Oh, sure, you can think of a few exceptions. But believe me, when someone like Hugh Grant is discovered in England, the first thing that happens is that the American studios fly him out and cast him in our movies.

You're the farm team. Occasionally a star comes along, but no one wants to play on the farm team when the bigs call.

Nothing against those who stay - someone's got to make local TV, and if you're the most talented person left, then you can make a career for yourself.

It's like a small town beauty pageant - the really pretty girls went to the big cities, so the winners are a bit faded, no? They still get to wear the crown - don't get me wrong - but don't expect them to look like the cover girls from Vogue.

English Dave said...

lol Robin. I will. But I have the box set of SPACED whereas I don't think I'll have the box set of Not Going Out.

Love your reviews on your blog btw and avid reader of what is upcoming. Thanks for taking the time.

English Dave said...

Tim, there is great UK TV that beats the crap out of American TV, the problem is that it is so few and far between.

The one advantage the UK has over American TV is that shows are generally given a chance to build. The problem is that nowadays execs seem to pick the wrong shows to begin with.

That happens in America too. It is no Holy Grail for writers. How many times was Family Guy cancelled? Firefly? Arrested Development? Have I already said that? lol

There are two sides to working on TV or film no matter which side of the Atlantic you're on. The creative side and the marketing side.

I'd suggest it is when the creative side wins out that the best entertainment is made.

Which is why I say find passionate people and stick with them.

tim t. said...

"Tim, there is great UK TV that beats the crap out of American TV, the problem is that it is so few and far between."

What? The Office? The show that lasted two seasons in Britain before America bought it and turned it into a hit series filled with stars?

I'm not saying that everything in America is great or that we don't make mistakes. I'm just saying that if you're an actor, writer or director and you want to work with the best and make the most doing it, there's only one place to go. All supremely talented people are eventually drawn to to Hollywood.

English Dave said...

Tim, Ricky Gervais decided that The Office was limited to 2 series despite network pressure. Same as Extras.

I think you have to admire that fortitude rather than take the money and run TV.

tim t. said...

Yes, he certainly resisted the siren song of money when he sold the show to NBC. :)

My point is, you can't be surprised by the general lack of quality of television that isn't made in Hollywood, since everyone good enough heads to Hollywood. Or do you think Gervais took that part in "Night At The Museum" for the artistic satisfaction? :)

It would be like me bitching about the level of play of cricket in America. If you're great at something, you go where the overwhelming majority of the people that are great at it work, and where you can be well compensated for it.

English Dave said...

Tim, I know exactly what you are saying, but a couple of things, the BBC sold the show to NBC. And given how poorly writers are recompensed of course RG is going to capatalise by writing The Simpsons and Night At The Museum. But given his history I choose to believe he felt there was a degree of merit in those projects.

And belief is the key.

As for compensation in HW? If that is your major consideration, I earn more than 90% of WGA writers. That's not a boast. I just want to discredit the Mamon factor.

English Dave said...

Meant 'and acting in' night at the museum. ooops

tim t. said...

"As for compensation in HW? If that is your major consideration, I earn more than 90% of WGA writers."

The top 25% of WGA writers make more than 250,000 a year. Either British rates for freelancers are WAAAAAY better than American, or someone's been selling you a line on Hollywood salaries. :)

http://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/who_we_are/annual_reports/market06.pdf

English Dave said...

Tim I couldn't access that page. And I don't really want to get into specifics. But if you look at the MBA for for writers here and in LA you will note that there is little difference. In fact we come out better I think.

If you really want to talk about money rather than passion then yep, I still earn more.

tim t. said...

Sorry, it cut off the address. Too long, I guess. Just google the wgaw 2006 annual report. Or here's the address split into pieces:

http://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles
/who_we_are/annual_reports
/market06.pdf

Top 25% earn more than 250k, top 5% earn more than 685k.

Our hour writers earn 30k a script, which means just to break into the top 25% of American writers, you'd have to do nine freelance hours a year. To get into the top 10%... That's a lot of writing. :)

(Of course, in America, the staff positions are highly paid, which is writers make so much.)

If you're making the equivalent of an American writer who writes double digit numbers of episodes a year, then congrats. That's amazing.

English Dave said...

Not so amazing, Tim. There are a good number of TV writers here who are on 250K [dollars] a year. They have earned it, believe me.

You also have to differentiate between the American system where freelancers are the minority. Here they are by far the majority.

30k dollars per hour script is close to beginner rates here. As it is in HW.

tim t. said...

"30k dollars per hour script is close to beginner rates here. As it is in HW."

Actually, no one makes above minimum for episodic TV scripts in Hollywood. Even exec producers of shows.

Again, congrats. I have a friend who created and ran a show in Europe (Germany, not UK), and his salary was a fraction of what he made doing similar work in America. So, you must be at the pinnacle of UK television freelancers - good for you.

English Dave said...

''Actually, no one makes above minimum for episodic TV scripts in Hollywood. Even exec producers of shows.''

You need a better agent, Tim.

tim t. said...

"You need a better agent, Tim."

Actually, you need a better understanding of how American television works, Dave.

An exec producer of a show can make 50k to six figures an episode - or more. Supervising producers and co-execs are making 20-25k or more an ep. Scripts are seen as nice little bonuses. No one gets more than minimum - that's not where the money is.

Check it out if you have any American contacts, then get back to us. :)

English Dave said...

Thanks for dropping by with the provocative posts Tim. And for teaching this aged grandmother to suck eggs.

If you understood the structure of UK TV you'd understand that a freelance writer makes a hell of a lot more than ''supervising producers or co-execs'' per ep because here scripts are not a bonus, they are a living.

I appreciate your points but the UK and USA are chalk and cheese as far as payment structure is concerned which is why I rarely bring money into the equation.

tim t. said...

"If you understood the structure of UK TV you'd understand that a freelance writer makes a hell of a lot more than ''supervising producers or co-execs'' per ep because here scripts are not a bonus, they are a living."

Got it. Of course, multiply those numbers for the Americans times 22 to 25 episodes a year, and you can see why it's such a prime gig. A mid level writer on a show that runs a whole season can clear 500k easily.

"I appreciate your points but the UK and USA are chalk and cheese as far as payment structure is concerned which is why I rarely bring money into the equation."

Except when you're saying you're doing better than 90% of WGA writers. :)

Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing.

English Dave said...

Tim, divide those figures by how many shows never get past pilot or mid-season?

tim t. said...

"Tim, divide those figures by how many shows never get past pilot or mid-season?"

There are no paid staffs on pilots. The people who write and executive produce the pilots make anywhere from low six figures to millions. And most of those people then go on to work on staffs.

Yep, some people work on shows that don't make it a whole year. I never said it was easy. Just better compensated in success. :)

wcdixon said...

Interesting exchange gentlemen...shall we reconvene at a UFC ring and settle it once and for all?

Seriously, understand what Tim is saying...the 'staffers' on US series (who have titles like supervising producer, co-exec producer, exec producer, etc.) make a whack of change per episode (or weekly). The scripts (and subsequent script fees) are generally scale or WGA minimum with future payouts (50% of fee I think?) for repeats or reruns.

Freelancer scripts on episodic in U.S. (and Canada for that matter these days) are few and far between.

Jaded and Cynical said...

I think we get that the models are different. The US uses a room of staff writers, the UK relies on freelancers.

Obviously, given the size of the market, the guys at the top are going to do better in America than here.

What I don't accept - and what an arrogant assertion it is - is that UK television is shite because all the talent has moved to Hollywood.

As someone else posted previously, to take the example of Holby/Blue, a bunch of retarded schoolkids could do better. I tried to watch Eastenders last week and had to give up after two minutes because the dialogue was so stilted and false (Do all Ian Beal's lines start with: 'A businessman like myself understands that...'?).

There is no shortage of any kind of talent on either side of the Atlantic. The problem is a lack of courage and vision at the commissioning level.

Anonymous said...

What Tim neglected to mention was that the figures he quotes from the WGA refer to the top 25% of WORKING WGA members. Most WGA members aren't working.

Big, big difference. So ED is probably right, his earnings would put him in the top 10% of WGA members.

Hell, throw in how weak the dollar is and ten eps of Eastenders would do that.

tim t. said...

"What Tim neglected to mention was that the figures he quotes from the WGA refer to the top 25% of WORKING WGA members. Most WGA members aren't working."

I did link to the chart, so I'm not sure you can exactly accuse me of hiding the truth. :)

Yep, those are the numbers for working writers. Seemed fair to compare a working writer to a working writer.

However, to make you happy, I will make the following statement:

Non-working British writers make exactly the same as their American counterparts.

"What I don't accept - and what an arrogant assertion it is - is that UK television is shite because all the talent has moved to Hollywood."

Cool. Would you mind making a list of all the American writers, actors and directors who had big Hollywood success, and then immediately capitalized on that by moving to the UK to work in their film and television industry?

Jaded and Cynical said...

Tim, there's obviously an element of truth in what you say. Commercially bankable names (talented and otherwise) will tend to gravitate to Hollywood because that's where the money is.

The problem in the UK is that current programming doesn't reflect the talent that's available despite that. It can't. Not unless every writer in the UK has recently suffered a stroke.

And I wouldn't be too cocky about the situation in the US. Do movies like Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo, She's the Man, and American Pie Band Camp, reflect the greatest comedy-writing talent avavilable to Western civilisation?

tim t. said...

"The problem in the UK is that current programming doesn't reflect the talent that's available despite that."

I've got to say, the "executives don't recognize greatness/stop me from doing great work!" argument always sounds pretty lame every time I hear it. Great work gets made, so clearly there's no conspiracy against it. Great work makes money, so clearly the businessmen would like more of it.

To me, when people say that, what they're really saying is "no one recognizes MY genius, so they're all idiots!"

Present company excepted, of course.

"And I wouldn't be too cocky about the situation in the US. Do movies like Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo, She's the Man, and American Pie Band Camp, reflect the greatest comedy-writing talent avavilable to Western civilisation?"

Yes. Let's judge an industry by those movies, not by things like "The Departed" or "The Sopranos" or "40 Year Old Virgin" or "Wedding Crashers". And I don't know about Deuce, but two of the three on that list were huge money makers - She's the Man probably made 30 or 40 million for Dreamworks, and Band Camp was one of the biggest and most profitable direct to DVD titles ever.

I bet any UK company would trade their right nut for such embarrassing failure. :)

Anonymous said...

Now I know why Americans always pick out the biggest lobsters..

tim t. said...

"Now I know why Americans always pick out the biggest lobsters."

Because we can afford them, so we don't have to try to convince ourselves that the smaller ones are just as good? :)

Anonymous said...

Are you a ventriloquist as well?

tim t. said...

Apparently I just made a dummy talk, so...

Anonymous said...

shock and awe

Anonymous said...

These exchanges are better than watching Holby Blue. Like a game of chess, Dave, wisely, knows when to keep quiet but tim t doesn't seem to be able to keep his mouth shut. Brilliant , brilliant drama.

C P

Phillip Barron said...

Erm, I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of this bitch fight. Who won?

tim t. said...

"shock and awe"

Describe my reaction if you ever say something clever?

English Dave said...

Sorry, I've been away. A script and planning trip with gorgeous blonde.

Wow that heated up didn't it. Obviously it is difficult to compare the American staffing system with the UK freelance system but as far is money is concerned, if I get an 18k fee for an ep of say Foyles War, then throw in my 115% p.p payment and my min for that ep is around 39k [sterling] that's about 78k of your yankee dollars per hour. Not taking into accounr any repeats or residuals. So the money is not too bad. A couple like those, throw in a Casualty or The Bill and a couple of soap eps and you're heading for the 250,000 dollar mark.

The argument as to quality is very subjective. Tim reminds me of a chap calling himself Best Writer Ever who used to frequent the boards. His m.o was to make a provocative statement like
''Here's the ugly truth. British TV (or film) will never be as good as American TV (or film) because if you're a great writer, director or actor, you move to Hollywood.''

and then toss the occasional grendade to stoke the fires. lol

There is clearly a huge amount of talent in America and Los Angeles in particular. It would be strange if there wasn't. There is also a great deal of talent in this country - a perusal of oscar nominations and winners is enough to show that.

I happen to largely prefer American TV to UK, but that is mainly down to the execs decisions as to what gets made here rather than the talent available to make it.

tim t. said...

Dave, thanks again for all the insights into UK TV.

But if you think that executives here in America are somehow superior to UK execs... let that be the last misconception about US TV that I disabuse you of.

Good work is done here in spite of layers of execs and non writing producers that you wouldn't believe.

English Dave said...

Tim, I absolutely agree and in no way am I arguing that execs in America are superior to those in the UK or that major battles aren't fought between creatives and execs.

Perhaps the huge difference is that your producers tend to be creatives, while we have to battle another layer of non creatives before we even reach the execs.

English Dave said...

See how a little diplomacy works? I'm all for debate, that's how we learn. If someone is being a tool for the sake of it, it soon becomes apparent and people will make their own minds up. Hence no censorship on this blog - apart from spammers.