Monday, September 12, 2005

In defence of British TV drama writing

In response to John Birt's recent criticisms, Tony Marchant in Media Guardian (free registration required) argues that British TV drama is as good as American, but does not get sufficient support from broadcasters and schedulers.
Shameless and the others were admirable examples of what may be a new evolution in British TV drama. The writer's voice, only formerly heard with any real force in single drama and serials, is now coming loud and clear in series too. However, such writers are finding themselves beholden to the ratings for their show's continued existence. They may as well be making Rosemary and Thyme. And when broadcasters start applying the same criteria to both kinds of shows, then we lose remarkable work such as Buried (which was as good as Oz) and Outlaws. What starts to look like a really exciting development in TV drama - the authored series - is treated shoddily, moved around in the schedules and finally abandoned. What's wrong with having an outstanding and original returning drama with an audience of 2-3 million? If we are happy to live with such modest figures for challenging one-offs and serials, why can the same faith not be kept for series with the same sensibility? Bad series with good ratings get recommissioned, good ones with modest viewing figures don't. Remember North Square?

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