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British TV programes, why so poor?


Oh Danny Boy
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I don't understand it, why? For almost the past five years British TV seems to be lacking originality, i fail to see any creativity on our screens. Reality TV has really killed creativity on our screens, thanks to the extra revenue it brings in through phone lines the concept has been jumped upon, ravaged, and bred to produce as many bastard sons as possible. Each one is as defective as the last, when will they ever put it out of its misery?

Ant and Dec's Saturday night takeaway, the diet coke of television presenters have another series, the same concept, the same format, nothing has changed from the previous series, accept they are even less funnier than before. But this is not me ranting about Ant and Dec but more of how the producers and executives responsible for such programs treats its audience as idiots. We must not be able to comprehend or understand change, we must be shown the same formats otherwise our little brains might not be able to keep up, in the case of X Factor their format in its original state is too complicated for its simple audience, that's why a good portion of every episode of every series must be used to guide us simpletons through the complexities of its formula.

I actually remember a time when soaps were half decent and hamming it up didn't always pass off as acting, the inability of those well paid execs at the BBC and ITV to come up with anything new to fill our screens with every evening has led them to stretch the soaps over five days a week. Now they are boring, tedious, repetitive, and generally awful.

British TV has forgotten how to be funny, we had the likes of 'Blackadder', 'Father Ted', 'The fast show', 'Black Books', 'Spaced', and 'Bottom'. What has happened? Today we suffer the likes of 'My Family' and 'My Family' rip offs, politically correct 'comedies' such as 'All about me', and God awful attempts at being funny by shoving the same joke down our throats for the millionth time when it wasn't funny the first time, such as Catherine Tate show and Little Britain.

I look at American TV and see the likes of House, Grey's anatomy, The O.C, Rome, Deadwood, My name is Earl, Scrubs, and Ugly Betty, and i am envious. Surely British TV has the ability to make such programs? The switch to digital couldn't come sooner enough, with 30+ channels being available to everyone surely the likes of the BBC and ITV would have to change their ideas, more competition for audience and advertisement revenue will surely be a good thing for the average viewer.

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I think money has become a huge factor now. It's easier to commission a reality TV show that you can make for a few 100,000 than invest in a new comedy. Lowest common denominator entertainment. When we do find something funny it's milked to death (little britain etc).

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Prime-time British comedy is utter shit shocker! It is in Ameirca, too. As is nearly everything else on TV, it doesn't matter what country you're from. America has The Wire, it had The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Deadwood - well, these are all HBO - but there's really nothing of note on network channels. Heroes, Lost, Ugly Betty, 24? Yeah, shove it.

I understand we're going through something of a dry spell, but citing X-Factor and Ant and Dex and then saying US TV is great is a bit depressing. Watching TV over there is horrible.

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For every good US show that's great and we get to see over here, there are hours and hours and hours of really awful stuff that you really would never want to watch. The UK does produce some brilliant TV amongst its trash, if we were as big as the US or had anywhere as much money to throw at projects there wouldnt be much difference.

Rome is HBO BBC and some Italian network so you cant use that.

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Saturday Night Takeaway is suffering the same fate Noel's House Party did: it relies on surprises and upping the ante, and now it's just getting tired and repetitve. The novelty has gone.

People have always complained about the state of British TV, claiming it isn't what it used to be. But you go back to the 80s and a lot of it was utter crap at worst, forgettable at best, barring the real classics, of course. There's always going to be a certain amount of crap on at any one time, add to that the face we dont really like change and TV companies are always wanting to make more programmes cheaper.

This is probably why I pick and choose my telly, get it via UKNova or similar, and watch it at my leisure. I don't want to play the TV game anymore, being assaulted with brands, ads, idents and all that claptrap. That's the real bane of TV these days.

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The move to 100% digital is not likely to effect the quality of output one iota. The writers, directors and actors that can make a good show aren't suddenly going to be working on these smaller digital channels because the money, and audiences, just isn't there. The culture of terrestrial will take many, many years to change.

Audiences in the UK are as much to blame for the current state of our television than any commissioner out there. We have reality TV shows because they get the audiences, are cheaper to make and can be replicated (and many have that '360 degree commissioning' angle which they all love so much now). A quality drama on the other hand takes a lot more cash and time to make. All the major stations are saying they want fewer drama series that run for longer but so far we haven't seen any evidence of this. Most series are written by one person so the whole culture of the way we create shows has to change. Stuff like My Family has adopted the US model and has been a hit but the quality of the show is incredibly poor. The good shows just don't get the audiences. Bodies was a great little medical drama but who watched it? The BBC did eventually shunt it around the scheduling which didn't help but it really didn't get the following it deserved.

Even our quiz shows are dumbed down now and that is because that is what the audience wants. Golden Balls and Deal or No Deal are just games of chance that require no skill or brains to watch or play. Ideal viewing for most it would seem.

I still think we are head and shoulders above the US in terms of the one-off dramas that we make. This year we have had The Mark of Cain and Recovery by Tony Marchant. Two very different but brilliant dramas. Secret Life by Rowan Joffe and David Attwood's Stuart: A Life Backwards. All four of these are of a quality that you'd expect in America.

Our documentary work is also far superior to America (and most of the world) and our children's output although dwindling is still of a very high quality.

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I don't understand it, why? For almost the past five years British TV seems to be lacking originality, i fail to see any creativity on our screens. Reality TV has really killed creativity

...snip....

The switch to digital couldn't come sooner enough, with 30+ channels being available to everyone surely the likes of the BBC and ITV would have to change their ideas, more competition for audience and advertisement revenue will surely be a good thing for the average viewer.

Yeah you're not wong but its the multichannel world that seems to be killing TV not improving it. The viewership gets spread even further so advertising revenue gets spread about more so everywhere has smaller budgets to fill up the air space. In the US they can get multi million dollar advertising revenues for good shows which gives them the ability to invest massively in quality programmes. Over here if you want to make millions its got to come from international sales and generally the stuff that sells well is the lowest common denominator stuff not the edgy risky stuff.

Its strange you single outAnt and Dec as an example of how TV has chnaged when what they do is pretty much exactly what Noel's House Party was all those years ago.

I do think Commissioners have lost their balls though. I doubt Blackadder would get commissioned now. Comedy set in Medieval England anyone? anyone? I doubt even Spaced wopuld get commissioned now.

As an example of how the industry is going. For the last 9 years our department hasn't raised the rate we charge. I doubt many businesses can say that. Its symbolic of the fact that TV is a lot easier and cheaper to make these days that channels don't take the risk on any big budget stuff.

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US TV is embarrassingly superior to our own in a number of areas, sadly.

I don't see this changing any time soon either, what with the chase for ratings and budgets being squeezed.

Still, Spooks is on tonight. Could be good.

There was a prog on C4 the other night called "TV Is Dead?" that, whilst being very obvious and not really revealing anything new, did cover the fact that more and more networks are reliant on big-name US shows. They mentioned Lost being snapped up by Sky, and how channels will just put on continuous repeats of shows like Friends or CSI because that's what people want to see, apparently.

It's come to something when British TV feels only programmes like Lost can get people watching. It was embarrassing seeing the execs (or more typically marketting managers) harping on about how they filmed special trails with the cast of shows and pumped loads of money ino advertising. Maybe if they concentrated on actually making some fucking shows themselves they might not look utter twats as a result. There's no lack of talent here, Spooks is on tonight and that'll get a good watch. Life On Mars, Hustle, the new Doctor Who, it's all going in the right direction.

It's nothing new of course, I'm old enough to remember the 80s when prime-time BBC and ITV was wall-to-wall American shows like Magnum PI, Quincy, The A-Team, Hart To Hart etc. People then thought it was over for UK TV, thankfully they were wrong. I hope it bounces back again.

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We've had some absolutely amazing British comedies over the last decade or so - Phoenix Nights, The Office, Alan Partridge, Spaced, The Thick of It, Peep Show, The Mighty Boosh, Still Game, Darkplace, Ideal, League of Gentlemen, Brass Eye, Royle Family - the list goes on and on. As good if not better than anything from anywhere else in the world. I think people will look back at this time as a golden age of comedy on British TV.

We've had Life on Mars, which is better than anything I've seen from America, other than perhaps The Wire.

American TV is just different. It's a bigger, richer country, and therefore they are going to make more shows and have a deeper pool of talent. It doesn't really make sense to compare their output to ours, but I find that while the US shows are better at consistency and have a higher average quality level, they have far less character or spark. Too much US TV is just too slick and over-produced for me - it doesn't have enough character or personal vision, it doesn't surprise. It's high quality but safe and formulaic.

I love Curb Your Enthusiasm. That feels like a great British show because it's one man's unique vision.

I love lots of American TV, and the HBO era has brought some amazing quality shows, but great telly is being made in Britain too, just not generally in the glossy, high budget, focused-grouped-to-death style of the big US shows.

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This is just cobblers, there are always people moaning about how UK programmes are so much worse than the US equivalent, and it never really holds water. There are loads of great TV programmes on now; you can't exclude documentaries from our triumphs, especially since we positively embarrass every other english-language TV in the world with our factual output. Ace UK TV programmes: Peep Show, Shameless, Screen Wipe, State of Play, Life on Mars, Doctor Who, The IT Crowd, The Trap, Top Gear, Comics Britannia, Funland, etc. Those are only the programmes I like, there must be dozens more.

American TV has one big advantage – money. That means they can put out shows like Heroes with properly sub-par writing, which attract loads of fans because of the spectacle of it. The same goes for stuff like 24; it's got the production values of a high-budget film, and the UK can't really compete with that. It's embarrassing when we try, and end up with shite like Hustle and Spooks. We can compete on acting, writing, and ideas – things that cost nothing – and regularly do. If you think American TV's so good, why don't you just fucking marry it?

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It really isn't. In fact, at the moment, it's atrocious. The Office and Phoneix Nights were incredible, but since then... nothing.

EDIT: And Peepshow.

So British comedy's shit if you discount three of the best comedy programmes ever?

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We can compete on acting, writing, and ideas – things that cost nothing – and regularly do.

I can honestly think of no british show that has all 3 of those. Alot have good acting and writing but ideas...its always always always period dramas, things in the olden days, detectives or some gimick thing like booze crusing or thai brides or footballers wifes or call girls etc Then when they do try to do something creative or sci-fi etc they do it in a childish manner so that its suitable for kids too (doctor who).

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I can honestly think of no british show that has all 3 of those. Alot have good acting and writing but ideas...its always always always period dramas, things in the olden days, detectives or some gimick thing like booze crusing or thai brides or footballers wifes or call girls etc Then when they do try to do something creative or sci-fi etc they do it in a childish manner so that its suitable for kids too (doctor who).

Life on Mars.

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I can honestly think of no british show that has all 3 of those. Alot have good acting and writing but ideas...its always always always period dramas, things in the olden days, detectives or some gimick thing like booze crusing or thai brides or footballers wifes or call girls etc Then when they do try to do something creative or sci-fi etc they do it in a childish manner so that its suitable for kids too (doctor who).

I repeat my earlier point regarding the Who episodes Human Nature, Blink, oh and chuck The Girl in the Fireplace and The Empty Child in the list too.

All those eps have consistent acting, production and most importantly Ideas. Someone back me up here so I dont come across as a Who mentalist(yes I realise its far far too late for that)

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The major difference is that series over here are written produced, edited and put on air as a 6 parter and if its successful maybe another 6 will be made for the following year. In the States they have the ability to make shows that run for 20 odd weeks. They can make a few episodes and still be making more when the first goes to air so if it bombs it'll just be cut and replaced by repeats and a new idea is thought up for the next year. UK channels can't afford to do this so the great UK TV is there but only in very small quantities. The reason UK channels love the American series is that its easy programming not only do you get quality programmes but you get hours and hours of it. The Office is a good example. Over here we get 14 episodes spread over about 4 years in the States they've prodably had about 80 episodes already. Its just a completely different way of making TV.

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