Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ultimate Farce

I notice Ultimate Force returned to ITV on Sunday, helping it to it's lowest Sunday audience in two years, as noted in Broadcast. I didn't see it. And I only mention it for a couple of reasons.

I've only seen a couple of episodes of this. The concept seemed like my cup of tea. Nothing wrong with the concept. Concept is great. Took me two episodes to realise it didn't have the courage or the budget of it's convictions. And that Ross Kemp is much better at documentaries.

Watching Ultimate Force and The Unit back to back is like watching Casualty and E.R back to back. You feel you want to fast forward Casualty to make it keep up. Okay that was my impression given the limited episodes I saw. It may have changed and if anyone did see the new series maybe they could enlighten me?

It seems to me it's just another example where the money isn't on screen. And by that I mean not only the production values but the writing. pay the writers double and give them more time and that show could be really good.

I guess I'm a little ticked off because of a tale told to me recently. A friend was recently on location with Primeval. He was talking about how fantastic the catering was. 5 types of starters, 4 main courses, grapes, cheeses, you name it. Most of which was chucked away at the end of the day's shooting.
That might sound petty, of course people have to eat, but to me it is indicative of the state of the industry. That day's catering probably cost more than the writer was paid for the episode.

And that's where I feel TV is going wrong. Good writing takes time. Time costs money. Money spent prior to production is always money well spent. But it doesn't seem to me that the vast majority in this industry hold that view. 'Get it on, and get it on fast' seems to be the motto. Forgetting of course that the audience aren't stupid. They don't need stuffing and sprouts to spot a turkey.

Many people in the industry know how to produce a show. Few actually know how to make it entertaining. Or if they do they cow tow to the marketers and bureaucrats and dumb it down to the bland broth that passes for entertainment nowadays. Invalid food for an invalid industry. These people are the MRSA of entertainment. Killing the already sick patient. And it's full of them. The 'hold on to what we've got' mentality is not going to work. A director friend of a friend said that in 5 years, TV execs will be like bald men fighting over a comb.
Unless things change drastically, I think he's probably right.


Anonymous said...

I think it's telling that the people who do the catering/craft service always get a screen credit, whereas I bet a lot of the writers who work on a project don't get one.

Lucy said...

Apparently the average family chuck away £600 a year on food. I grew up mega poor and hate waste. I also think I recycled that little gem from a fish fingers advert.

Jaded and Cynical said...

Good writing takes time. Time costs money.

There's so much chatter and general industry bullshit focused on 'talent' right now - finding it, nurturing it, promoting it, etc. - as if that's the magic element in short supply.

It isn't.

Last month 1200 qualified people chased after 6 entry-level writing jobs at the BBC. I bet every one of them could hack out standard ITV drivel for shows like Primeval and Ultimate Force.

Anyone who's ever had to pound out words for a living knows that, beyond a certain basic level, talent isn't the key variable in the equation. Time is the key variable. And time, as you've pointed out, in a professional context, is just another word for money.

The simple reason why American shows are faster-paced and more densely plotted is that they employ a dozen full-time writers an episode, not the one or two poorly paid and thinly stretched enthusiasts that we rely on in this country.

When it comes to scripts, UK broadcasters are paying crap and getting what they pay for.

RichardB said...

Actually, stuff from catering isn't thrown away...whatever you don't eat is stuffed into sandwiches for tea breaks, then repeated for late break, or even the dreaded YMCA (Yesterdays Muck Cooked Again) - the bottom line is, it will be served to you until you swallow it, and we'ed like you to smile while you lick the plate.
After a while you even start to think you like it.

So, no metaphor there, then.