Sunday, September 05, 2004

Play for yesterday

There's a promising line-up of new drama on TV this autumn, but are we still missing the Play For Today, asks The Observer's Liz Hoggard.
Play for today (originally called The Wednesday Play) ran from 1964-84. The brief was to commission more scripts from new writers, using innovative production techniques. While the political slant was to the left, it offered every type of drama. 'People think it was all kitchen sink,' recalls Russell T Davies. 'But it took on all styles from science fiction to musicals.' Of course there were duds. But writers of the calibre of Ken Loach and Dennis Potter recognised TV was the supreme vehicle to reach a mass audience. 'You never knew what you were going to get,' says Poliakoff. 'And audiences loved that. It wasn't just a chance to see buttocks and bare breasts, which The Wednesday Play became famous for, it was about imaginative worlds that stretched people.'
Unsurprisingly, TV executives defend the current system.
Mal Young, BBC controller of drama series, thinks we're being snobbish. 'I love the fact that you can have State of Play , a very authored vision, on a Sunday night and two nights later you've got Holby City - appealing to quite a similar audience but giving them different things within drama. Everyone said we were never going to pull off plays in the daytime but now we're on to our third series of The Afternoon Play. We've never had a healthier time for writers on TV.'

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