Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's not me - honest

Okay so I posted about The Secret Millionaire and lo and behold it beats BBC drama 'Mutual Friends' in the 9pm ratings this week.

I don't think that's down to my 10 regular readers perhaps changing their viewing habits because of my review. It's down to the audience watching something that connects with them. It's a piece of hokum. But it's hokum that people actually care about.

I decide which Programme I'm going to watch the same way I decide which movie I'm going to see. A combination of the talent involved and the trailers. Mostly the former. But I can be put off by the trailers and PR crap. I didn't watch Bonekickers because I just didn't connect with the trail highlighting 'A group of maverick archaeologists......' I could tell it wasn't for me from that alone.

Use oxymorons only when they don't sound like they were concocted by someone in sixth form media studies.

Never seen an ep of Mutual Friends. But it lost a million viewers and got butt fucked by a reality show on a minority channel in the prime time slot.

That should tell us something? But what? David Hare's 'My Zinc Bed' on BBC2 didn't exactly set the ratings alight either, despite starring Uma Thurman. Well I guess it tells us nothing. My view is that TV has been dumbed down to the extent that Soap, Reality and Gameshows have become the audiences expectation. Hence part of the reason for the dwindling audiences. Gripping drama has become the exception.

As a teenager I remember watching The Singing Detective, Edge Of Darkness, GBH, Boys from The Blackstuff, Auf Weidershein Pet and on and on. I didn't need or want yoof TV. Network attempts to provide yoof TV generally pissed me off as patronizing twaddle.

Nowadays, unfortunately Network attempts to provide adult drama hit that same spot.


Good Dog said...

I gave Mutual Friends a second chance just in case, and it was even worse than before.

I thought it was quite remarkable that every scummy character at some point deserved to be punched hard in the face. No episode three for me.

You know, I wish I had a copy of the Radio Times from the 1970s or early 1980s to check on what the schedules were like then. I'm sure even the lowest common denominator shows treated the audience as if they had some intelligence.

DavidM said...

I'm enjoying Mutual Friends quite a bit. It's entertaining and even quite affecting.

Obv it's not as high-falutin' as It's a Knockout, The Black & White Minstrel Show, Curry and Chips and other classics from the '70s golden decade, but you take what you can get, I 'spose.

Anonymous said...

Make that 11 readers. I always seem too busy to comment and put my head above the parapet, but I've just a moment to egg you on with slinging mud at the purveyors of what passes for drama in the UK. Here are we wannabe writers dreaming of breaking into the business and you can be counted on to tell it like it is, a whole heap of shit. Bravo!

I, too, gave Mutual Friends the benefit of a second viewing - mostly for professional reasons - but any goodwill has been exhausted. Can't help wondering how much is the fault of the writers and how much of the producers. Presumably the irritating musical score wasn't written into the script. It's like some modern canned laughter track, and the whole Comedy Drama thing, what kind of a bastard child is that?

Good comedies are dramatic, good drama contains levity, but in Mutual Friends any dramatic tension evaporates with the buffoonery which passes for comedy and is just not funny.

Oh, and how come no mention anywhere of the appalling continuity with Keeley Hawes varying hair colour and make-up?

Jaded and Cynical said...

The consensus/ratings seem to indicate that Mutual Friends was crap.

Here's the problem: We all knew it was going to be crap.

I didn't waste a minute of my life on it, just as I didn't waste a single minute on Bonekickers.

The industry is taking itself to a dangerous place when viewers are so disillusioned that they won't even bother to sample new drama.

mark g said...

Won't be watching Mutual Friends because I never have been interested in watching that kind of thirtysomething drama, excepting thirtysomething, which I watched when I was twentysomething, I think because I was secretly hoping that when I got to be thirtysomething I'd have a lifestyle like them. Sap that I was.

Good dog - I was there as a viewer in the 70s and 80s, and believe me, the lowest common denominator shows were pretty ruddy poor. The great ones were great, and the poor ones were as just dumb as the poor ones today. We remember the great ones because they were great, and helpfully erase the dross majority because they made no lasting impression.

Seems to me you can only make the judgement on like for like - Edge of Darkness vs. State of Play? Both excellent. Angels vs. No Angels? No Angels reflects our times as well as Angels, and it's a damn sight funnier without losing the pathos.

As for The Zinc Bed - a good argument against bringing back Play for Today. Predictable, dreary, stagy, not especially insightful. It brought to mind that PfT undercurrent of earnestness that used to me think 'oh well, I ought to watch it' as if drama was supposed to be good for me. Gah.

Good Dog said...

As a similar viewer in that era there obviously was a load of utter dross that I either don't remember or simply didn't watch. But with less channels and less television hours in the day, the averages between good and bad were probably better.

Play for Today no doubt showed material that was more worthy than entertaining - a few years back at the NFT, I fell asleep watching a recently rediscovered Nigel Kneale-scripted drama - but then we had some marvellous single dramas under the Screen One and Screen Two banners like Frankie and Johnnie and After Pilkington. Shame they don't seem to be repeated.

English Dave said...

Talking of that era, wouldn't it be great to hear from a pro who wrote some of those great shows and get some insight into the level of executive interference at script stage back then. I'd guess the level is much higher now, from script editor upwards.

It seems to be more about 'product' and less about vision. Writers are hired guns there to do the executives bidding. I think that is where they are making their biggest mistake.

Honest Ed said...

I've been reading your blog, and enjoying it for a week now. Like yourself, I've written for a lot of series. Much of what you say I totally agree with. It was a pleasant surprise to read someone critical of JY's academy, indeed I would go further about why its such a sinister development, but that's for another time. 2 points I'd like to make just now. First is about this blog - it seems to me there's to kinds of producer. Those who want your take on the world/subject/show. And those who want you to writewhattheywouldiftheycouldbuttheycan't. The balance seems to have shifted to the latter. Second - re you're earlier post about River City. The changes aren't as radical as they might seem. For a long time now, the 2 half hours per week have been broadcast in Scotland in an hour format. The audience is used to watching an hour of River City. I asked and the the cast cull isn't as drastic as you made it sound. Many of the regs are still in the show.

Anyway, much to chip in about now. Does this mean I'm number 13? Bugger.

English Dave said...

Lots of interesting comments.

Good Dog, I know what you're saying. Yes there was utter crap then too, but we didn't feel we were being sold to on every occasion. There was more room for intelligence over marketing.

David M - see above. There was crap. Though I watched 'it's a
knockout' mainly for Stuart Hall.

Terraling - Yep it can seem like a bastard child, totally agree. It depends on how competently it is done and how much we believe the characters.

Jaded - Absolutely right. When crap becomes the expectation the industry is in big trouble.

mark - I didn't watch it either. If single dramas on TV are going to work and attract an audience then that audience has to be led into it , not force fed a David Hare as a starter.

honest Ed - I was repeating what I'd been told re River City by who I consider a reliable source. The cull wasn't just actors but writers and crew. If I'm wrong I apologise.

My point was mainly the changing of a soap to an hour drama with self contained stories. Two different beasts.

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