Monday, February 02, 2009

Lessons from HBO

On The Guardian's Organ Grinder blog, Greg Dyke looks at the reasons behind the success of American cable company HBO.
...probably [the] most important ingredient in HBO's success was the willingness to be hands off.

As Ed Burns, one of the creators of The Wire, describes it: "There's nobody blowing the whistle on the sidelines saying: 'Foul, you can't do that'. The creative process is allowed to go on uninterrupted." As a result, the best writers, producers, directors and actors all wanted to work for HBO.
The lessons for British TV are painfully obvious.
When it comes to creative risks, Tom Hooper, the British director of John Adams, sums it up when he says that British television no longer takes the risks it once did. "There is tremendous pressure to come up with more detective stories and hospital dramas."

And as for the willingness of British television executives to let go and allow creatives to get on with their job without interference, I fear that we've moved in the opposite direction since I first came into television. While there are one or two notable exceptions, there are now just too many people working for broadcasters in Britain who think it's not only their job but their innate right to interfere with the end product.

What this means, ironically, is that while HBO has been placing more and more trust in the programme maker and getting spectacular results, British television has gone the other way.
Greg Dyke presents a film about HBO on The Culture Show to be shown on BBC Two tomorrow night (3rd Feb) and then available on BBC iPlayer.

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