Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I've had some interesting sounding projects sent my way for reading, so thanks guys I'm really looking forward to it. Because in every case so far, even if it is just a title, I can tell it has an appealing concept.

And that is sooooooooooooo important. Because concept sells. Of course story and character are vital. But concept gets you read. And when you are starting out, getting read is the most important thing. Perhaps not so much when you are established, especially not in TV.

Here are two recent TV shows. Both 9pm one hour series. True Dare Kiss and Time of Your Life. Both written by established writers.

To me True Dare Kiss doesn't have much of a concept. It is a relationship drama pure and simple. It also managed just 2.8 mill viewers last episode. That may have nothing to do with the quality of the show and everything to do with the fact it has no 'attractor'' to make it required viewing. The ''attractor'' doesn't have to be concept. It can be a ''difference'' factor. Like ''This Life'' Not a huge concept but a show of its time. It was different from the standard fare yet hit a collective nerve for the time and place we were all at. That is down to good writing. Real writing. Because a writer should be ahead of the pack. Reflecting universal truths that resonate on a much deeper level than the obvious story.

Time of Your Life does have a strong concept. A woman wakes up after 18 years in a coma. But it got 4 mill viewers. Better than True Dare Kiss obviously but still the lowest figure for the series, and it was the final ep! My theory on that is that it is a strongish concept, but more for a movie or a one or two parter. Six hours is a heck of a stretch for the way that story was told and I think that's what the audience thought.

So concept isn't just about the idea. The concept has to fit the medium. In mainstream movies concept is king. Wedding Crashers, Forty Year Old Virgin, Liar Liar, etc etc. They do what they say on the tin. They are specifically designed to get the prospective audience saying 'hey that looks interesting' from a twenty second trailer. Interested enough to get off their arse on a wet Thursday night and shell out hard earned pesos.

It's been a while since I've seen anything on TV that gave me that reaction. And more and more in a competitive viewing world that is what I think TV has to do. In fact you are probably pretty sick of me saying that.

I rile against relationship dramas not because I have anything against them but because that seems to be the limit of the execs ambitions. John Yorke was at a seminar recently, with Debbie Horsefield [True Dare Kiss writer] sitting beside him. Someone from the floor asked what he was looking for drama wise. Yorkie beamed and said 'The next Debbie Horsefield' Okay given the normal luvviedom endemic in TV you can take that with a pinch of salt, but given the ratings figures that is maybe a statement that will come back to haunt him. No offence to Debbie Horsefield. A pro writer will tend to write what they think has a chance of being commissioned. If it seems relationship dramas are what the execs want then that is what they will write. To be perfectly honest I don't know of one pro writer who hasn't complained about the state of UK drama. The soap mentality seems to be riding roughshod over just about everything.

On the other hand, I had a twenty something year old dev exec recently tell me she was looking for emotionally truthful, contemporary, four quadrant drama with a USP. I just nodded. What else can you do? Other than say ''ummmmmm isn't everyone but do you actually know what that is and how difficult it is to find, and even if I had it what are the chances of anyone other than you and I thinking it has a chance of getting made in the current climate ?''

Oh and while I remember those of you who now know who I am? I'd appreciate some discretion. It's a small world and I want to be able to pour bile as I see fit! Thankyou.


potdoll said...

Yo Lishle,

Would you class Cold Feet and Hearts and Bones as relationship dramas?



English Dave said...

In my opinion there are different kinds of relationship dramas potty. And long time no post you minx!

Cold Feet, like This Life, was a show of it's time. It struck the right balance between comedy, drama and zeitgeist.

Hearts and Bones I can't comment on. It was short lived and I missed it but indirectly know the writer and love his stuff.

As I said I have nothing against relationship dramas, but they shouldn't be self-indulgent twaddle. If they don't really say something about the human condition then piss or get off the potty. lol

potdoll said...

Right, okay.

I loved Hearts and Bones, I thought it was a little gem.

I think I am a fan of relationship dramas but I don't enjoy those that are 'surfacey.' I want something to grab my heart, twist it until I can't bear it, and then kiss it better.

Glad you missed me ;)

English Dave said...

''I think I am a fan of relationship dramas but I don't enjoy those that are 'surfacey.' I want something to grab my heart, twist it until I can't bear it, and then kiss it better.''

I agree potty. And that's what I call real drama. Something that's been sadly lacking recently.

Jaded and Cynical said...

I'm not at all sick of you hammering home the point, ED, because it's so obviously true.

Viewers have very little time to spare and more choices than ever.

The game has changed. Broadcasters can't just throw soapy shit at the screen any more and expect half the country to tune in.

We're at a stage now where it's appointment TV or nothing.

Appointment TV requires that strong concept that you've described, plus razor-sharp execution. And the UK channels aren't even close to delivering that.

English Dave said...

Can't argue with any of that Jaded.