Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Moaning Old Bastard

Perhaps. But then I've been around a while and can see changes taking place over time. One thing I've noticed is the number of people I have meetings with nowadays who look like they've just stopped breast feeding. Now, I'm all for youth, but it seems to me a culture has developed of chasing the yoof market. The powers that be seem to have decided that in order to do this you need yoofs in charge.

Big mistake. Ideas are one thing. Execution is another. In this business, be it production, directing or writing, experience counts for a lot as far as producing quality is concerned. But it seems nowadays there is no 'apprenticeship' Dev Execs with no background of developing anything. Producers who were story editors for a couple of months. And the saddest by-product of all this is a gradual erosion of the respect for writers. And you know what? We've brought it on ourselves.

We've dumbed ourselves down to fit in with the wants and needs of people who have no business in this business. It's all about marketing and ratings and very little to do with quality. It's becoming like the film business. A load of dross with the odd gem which seems to appear more by accident than design.

Not only have we dumbed ourselves down, but we cowtow to the Indies who cowtow to the networks. Here's how it works. The network will issue an edict to producers on 'what they are looking for and what they are not looking for'

The producers then issue the same to writers.

Result? Some 12 year old at a network is dictating not only what gets seen on screen, but what ideas get written in the first place. And we all go along with it because we have to earn a living. Because while Network execs are on hefty salaries, us poor schlepps are freelance. Indy producers need commissions even more so. They have bigger overheads.

Originality is stifled. And even if some brave producer takes something risky and original to the networks, there is little chance of it seeing the light of day. It's a dogfight over an ever decreasing market, getting smaller because of fear of failure.

An example of this is THE FIXER. yep I watched ep 2. Nope it didn't get any better. It was as if someone had said ' find the dumbest person likely to watch this and then write it with them in mind'

The Americans do this type of show soooooooooooooooo much better. To my mind the reason being the showrunner system. The head honcho is usually a vastly experienced WRITER. Someone with dramatic sense and imagination. Of course they have network notes to deal with but they have the nounce and savvy to circumvent them or at least dilute them to do least damage.

In the old days when I were a lad, writers here were held in greater respect. That is one of the reasons why I think historically, drama was better. I think back to GBH, Edge of Darkness. The Singing Detective. I Claudius. Boys From The Black Stuff, and on and on and on. Do any of the shows I've seen in the last few years stick with me as much as those examples? Can't say they do.
And I don't think that's me saying pop music today is just a loud noise, like some curmudgeonly old git. I think it is an indisputable fact. Where are the classic series of tomorrow?

At some point the networks will realise that throwing the same old shit at the screen and hoping it sticks is not going to work. They'll realise that viewers are not stupid and stop the patronising twaddle I see on screen on a regular basis. If something is entertaining it doesn't matter if we actually have to concentrate on it a little. Drama is about truth more than clarity. I hope a lot of good people don't give up and leave the industry before that time comes. Or worse still, a lot of good people don't join the industry in the first place.

12 comments:

Good Dog said...

I stopped paying attention during the second episode of The Fixer and didn't bother with this week's. It's La Femme Nikita for retards.

In the old days when I were a lad, writers here were held in greater respect. That is one of the reasons why I think historically, drama was better. I think back to GBH, Edge of Darkness. The Singing Detective. I Claudius. Boys From The Black Stuff, and on and on and on. Do any of the shows I've seen in the last few years stick with me as much as those examples?

If only there was original drama like this today. State of Play was pretty much the last really excellent one.

Where are there dialogue exchanges comparable to:

"He says his last words were something about 'meeting Moriarty at the Falls'!"

"If there is an Irish component to this, I shall retire."

English Dave said...

"He says his last words were something about 'meeting Moriarty at the Falls'!"

"If there is an Irish component to this, I shall retire."

Those are now nixed by a 12 year old saying 'Who's Moriarty' lol

Good Dog said...

Who's Moriarty?

The snivelling sidekick of Grytpype-Thynne of course.

Oh bugger, that is going to take some explaining... Sapristi nabolis!

Jaded and Cynical said...

Every executive in the business should have that post pinned to their office wall.

If something is entertaining it doesn't matter if we actually have to concentrate on it a little.

How about that as a place to start?

Piers said...

Agreed, it's all about the showrunner system.

So how many writers are cross-training to be producers? That's the way to kick it off...

Anonymous said...

You have to wonder when Rock Rivals falls to an 8% share (on ITV1 at 9 for God's sake) and yet Shed already have their next series lined up, an eight parter for BBC Scotland - Bad Girls on the loose among porridge covered Glens.

What's that old chestnut about keep doing the same thing, keep getting the same result?

Colin Donald said...

Having researched the US online TV market recently, it's clear that many writers and producers see online as the way forward precisely because it gives them a great deal of creative freedom from the commissioners, teen or otherwise. But then they have to find sponsors and another set of constraints emerges...

English Dave said...

''You have to wonder when Rock Rivals falls to an 8% share (on ITV1 at 9 for God's sake) and yet Shed already have their next series lined up, an eight parter for BBC Scotland - ''

Look at how Waterloo Road is somehow a BBC Scotland production, then look no further lol

Simon Moore said...

I think historically, drama was better.

I always wonder how true this is - there was higher concentration of good stuff on account of there being less stuff, maybe - and the loss of regular single plays outside of themed strands like The Street and Folk Tales revisited certainly doesn't help - but I'd rate Abi Morgan's Sex Traffic this decade, and Peter Flannery's Our Friends in the North in teh 90s, as being well worth a place in the pantheon of the greatest British TV drama ever.

Really like the blog, btw. Glad that you're posting again.

Simon (not the one that wrote Traffik)

Andy Conway said...

Colin Donald said...
Having researched the US online TV market recently, it's clear that many writers and producers see online as the way forward precisely because it gives them a great deal of creative freedom from the commissioners, teen or otherwise. But then they have to find sponsors and another set of constraints emerges...

I'd be interested to hear more about your research, Colin. The latest article on my site is about this. We should all be looking at how to become our own broadcasters so we can bypass the horrors of the 12-year old exec. http://www.asax84.dsl.pipex.com/articles/converged.html

Anonymous said...

Interestingly the creator/writer of The Fixer had quite a bit of control...

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