Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What the hell has got to happen

...before TV execs get it into their heads that something is rotten in the State of Primark? Land of cut price TV.

Jeckyll lost a million plus viewers on Saturday. Time of Your Life a whopping 2 million plus. I can't comment on the quality because I've watched neither. But I respect the writers hugely. So I'd be interested to hear any comments on either.

But as ratings in general continue to spiral downwards I can't help thinking that a comment made by Zigster in the previous post hits the nail on the head. Much of what is on is bland middle of the road PC inspired pap. And I'd also guess a lot of that is foisted on the writers and not their choice.

You hear some of the old school writers talk wistfully about the heady days of the 70's and 80's when the writer was king. Can you imagine a script editor or producer or network exec telling Dennis Potter or Alan Plater or Troy Kennedy Martin what should and shouldn't be in their scripts? Very changed days my friends I can assure you.

The current and recent regimes seem to be of the opinion that a writer is a disposable asset to be moulded and shaped into their way of thinking. A mercenary to be indoctrinated and pointed in the right direction to fight the battle they are incapable of fighting. It is their issues and agendas that are pushed. There is no question in my mind that creativity is being stifled by those at the top. Save your arse TV might save your arse for a short time. But drama is about taking risks and I see little evidence of that.

It is this one size fits all mentality that is destroying UK TV. Nero was an amatuer compared to these guys.

Writers work on confidence. Confidence gives them voice. Voice is what distinguishes good drama. A bunch of cloned script eds and execs with the mentality that it is their script and you are just the hired gun does not inspire confidence.

Unfortunately given the total guff that has been on screen recently I now can't actually be bothered to watch any UK drama. Jeckyll and Time of Your Life may be excellent for all I know, but until I hear that they are I'm not going to put my self through the horror of another disappointment.


Jaded and Cynical said...

The striking thing about plummeting viewing fgures like those is that lots of people initially gave the show a chance. They were drawn to the concept and wanted it to work. And if they're turning off a week later, it's purely because the execution is shite.

Dom Carver said...

Unfortunatly I think it's a case of the more ratings fall the more control the execs take, in their mind, to stop the ratings falling further. I think the only way to combat that are more writer based production companies, ones that are writer driven and not commission driven. It is no coincidence the best shows (mostly US imports) are writer led.

As for Jekyll; the first episode was a work of pure genius, the second a little complex but still good. I'm really enjoying the series so far.

Danny Stack said...

I think Jekyll is risky as it's quite bold in its style & approach (as you would expect from Mr Moffat). It's certainly nothing like Time of Your Life or Talk to Me, which did nothing for me, and I was very disappointed with Brothers & Sisters.

Good Dog said...

As for Time of Your Life, I forgot it was on. I watched the first episode and liked it but... I just forgot about it.

Jekyll was still interesting, but the tone was uneven in the second episode.

One of the characters was a little bit over the top - not Jekyll - and looks like they have wandered in from something altogether different.

Not going to put me off watching the rest of the run simply because I really want to know where it goes.

Could that be the reason - wanting to know how the story turns out? Last year, when The State Within was broadcast, there were times I didn't have a clue where the story was going. That made me watch it. That made me look forward to each new episode.

Could this decline be because, when it comes to a lot of the current stuff, we already know how it's going to turn out?

English Dave said...

Jaded - I think there is a hope and expectation that is too often dashed.

Dom - I believe more writer control, be that through their own prodcos or not is the way to go. The problem is that even having your own prodco is not necessarily a defence against network interference. They ultimately control what is shown. As any Indy prodco knows when it comes to choosing which projects they want to try to run with.

Danny - I was out the last 2 Saturdays but will at least tape it from now on. Hope and expectation rekindled.

Good Dog - I think one of the problems is a mentality of ''take stock characters X, Y and Z and this time we'll plug them into situation B.''

Everything seems to be very disposable. All hard edges are rounded off. And most of all, the concepts are generally not appointment TV. And that,in my opinion, is what TV has to come up with to win viewers back .

Dave Anderson said...

Very well said, English. The only UK shows I can watch these days are Doctor Who and Spooks. Great writing and great production values. Too much of the British stuff is soapified.

English Dave said...

Quick example. Edge of Darkness by Troy Kennedy Martin. Breathtaking scene where Ron Craven [Bob Peck] is going through his recently murdered daughter's belongings and find her dildo. No words. Just him looking at it and caressing it gently.

A father at one and the same time recognising his loss and that his daughter was a sexual being and distinct personality in her own right. Brilliant writing.

Today? No chance, without a page of dialogue explaining that he is not in fact a paedophile in an incestous relationship.

Eleanor said...

Your blog is compulsive reading.

I've just spent the day catching up on your insights and opinions. Valuable stuff. :)

English Dave said...

Thank you Eleanor. If anyone gets anything helpful from my rantings then that makes it worthwhile. But remember 'They want to put me in to rehab, I say no no no' lol

Eleanor said...

Rehab doesn't work on writers! ;)

Wendy O. said...

Hello! Love the blog!

Sorry for the off-topic comment, but you call yourself a "screenwriter" in the title of your blog. Do you also do feature work, or are you a scriptwriter? (My understanding is that screenwriters are movie writers, and scriptwriters are tv writers.)

I've been reading back and haven't found you talking about it, but I'd love to hear your insights if you do.

Phill Barron said...

I thought they were just different words for the same thing.

English Dave said...

Wendy, if you write scripts you can call yourself whatever you like. The Industry term is ''Those pencil wankers''

But that is a good topic. I will post about writing for the UK film industry. It will be entitled something akin to a chapter in Thackery's Vanity Fair '' How to survive on nothing a year'' lol

I kid. It will be done.