Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Silly Season

I've just been looking at the BARB top thirty stats for week ended 27th July. If you knock out soaps and the perennial Casualty and Holby, the top rated BBC 1 drama came in at number 24. What do you think it was? Have a guess, no cheating.

It was The Chase with 3.6 million viewers.

What?????????? Shurely shome mishtake? Surely BBC 1 have a drama series that can get higher than number 24 and 3.6 million? Apparently not that week. Waking the Dead and Jeckyll trailed in it's wake. Surprising to me because I like them better but there you go. Heroes on BBC2 blew them all away.

Okay I know it's summer and they are saving their crown jewels for the dark winter months.....I hope, but it's no use complaining about audience fragmentation when they seem to go out of their way to cause it. As banks, power and phone companies are finding out, if you want loyalty buy a cocker spaniel.

The networks are in year round competition now with non-terrestial, and so it is frustrating that they still seem to use the same model as 30 years ago, which was basically summer was for repeats and 2nd rate shows with only the occassional bone thrown to us. They can no longer rely on loyal viewers coming back to them when the nights draw in. We've scanned the schedules found them wanting and headed for cable, dvd, internet and the pub. And there ain't no guarantee we're coming back. They really do need to raise the bar or end up catering to the over sixties exclusively.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about was glue. That is my highly technical term for what makes an audience stick to a show. The thing that makes us want to hang out with these guys week after week. Doesn't matter if it's thriller, comedy, relationship drama, they all need the glue. I don't care how twisty your thriller is. I don't care how funny some of your lines are and I don't care what problems your soap family have. What I do care about is who are the twists happening to? Who is delivering the funny line and who are the members of the family with problems? And curmudgeon that I am, if you don't make me care about them I won't be tuning in.

Only Fools and Horses was a show I never found all that funny really. A good giggle here and there. But I watched it regularly. Because I loved Del . The trier, the ducker and diver, the eternal optimist with a heart of gold.

The Green Green Grass spin-off. Same writer, same style, but not on my watch list. Because Boysie is a bit of an arse with few redeeming features. Not enough glue.

Heroes is on my must watch list, but you know, without the Hiro Nakamura character I think it would be on my dipping in list. For me, he's the glue.

Does anyone remember a single Inspector Morse plot? I doubt it. No doubt they were well thought out and caused the writers several headaches. And we'd kick up a stink if they were rubbish. But we didn't want to see a story per se, that's not what we tuned in for. We wanted to see Morse solve something. Something intriguing yes, but that was just a close second. He was the glue.

For me, Glue equals memorable empathetic characters in situations that let them shine. Crack that and the chances are you're on your way to a hit TV show.


Rob Spalding said...

I think one way they could get some ratings is to start showing decent stuff on a Wednesday.
All year round, Wednesday is a dead day for TV, terrestrial or Sky, nothing is on normally.
I count it as one reason why Heroes is getting such good ratings on BBC2 as as (counting Downloads and Sci-Fi channel) it's now on its thrid showing in the UK. The fact that it's a great show helps, but there is nothing on for it to compete with.

Is there a reason Wednesdays are a dead zone?

LizH said...

Actually, the BBC2 showing of Heroes is opposite the second part of Waking the Dead on BBC1 - with the result that I don't watch either part of WtD (I've seen them before, mostly, but it's a show I study because I'd love to write for it so I'd normally watch the repeats.) Maybe that scheduling accounts for some of WtD's poor showing.

English Dave said...

Rob - I don't have an answer to that one. But mondays and Tuesdays are no great shakes either.

Lizh - is it a repeat? That might be the major reason for it's poor showing.

LizH said...

Waking the Dead is. I think it's also not in its normal timeslot - from memory, it's normally on on Sunday nights; I'm not sure but I think the second part of each story line might normally be on Mondays.