I’m sat, yet again, in front of my computer trawling through reams of American TV series that are available to stream both illegally and legally (although not in the UK!!) via their respective network’s websites. It’s now that I remember something that Stephen Fry recently said about British serial television programmes: essentially they are all a pile of brain-dead shit.
Now don’t get me (or Stephen) wrong here. I think that the UK television industry is responsible for some of the best documentary shows in the world (Everyone saw that Madness on the Highway documentary about the crazy Swedish twins on the motorway right?) and also televises some great stand-up comedy, like Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow.
The point here is that the series – the week-in-week-out series – and the seasonal programmes appear to be aimed at people who don’t seem to care about what they watch. I have the classic Rab C. Nesbit-string vest-toothless-simpleton-sat-in-a-filthy-living room-surrounded-by-pizza-boxes-and-empty-microwave-dinner-packets image in my head right now. But seriously, what have we made over here that has any real credibility on the international series market? And let’s face it: to make a TV show these days is to make it at the very least for Britain and America.
Situation comedy. What has the UK produced since the days of Alan Partridge? And even then we are talking something that had a cult following up until pretty recently. There have been two shows that immediately spring to mind, both cut from the same Ricky Gervaised shaped cloth: The Office and Extras. How is it that these seem to be the only decent, witty and intelligent shows we can produce? Surely it can’t be because Ricky Gervais is the only funny English person right now?
Does anyone remember Garth Meranghi’s Dark Place? What a great show that was, a hilarious tongue in cheek send up of every stupid 70’s monster schlock anthology series that existed based around the musings of celebrated horror author Garth Marenghi in a kind of Tales From The Crypt anthology series. It lasted six episodes I think in 2004.
The best in recent years we could come up with was Gavin and Stacey, and yeah I watched it and got hooked in on some of the storylines, but I wasn’t even aware of it until my housemate got it on DVD. Then, if I remember correctly, I watched all the episodes in one night and ended up feeling a little bit like I’d lost about a third of my IQ, absolutely dreading going outside to be confronted with droning kids yelling ‘What’s occurring’ every other sentence…
Plus, any decent UK sitcom worth it’s salt only ever lasts for 2 series. No more, no less. Probably budget constraints, but also for the ones that have ‘jumped the shark’ and gone on to exceed this, it has generally been poor. It’s like the writers have just lost steam, and the actors live off one catchphrase they have been given, that is then shamelessly plugged on everything from tee-shirts to, I dunno, chocolate selection boxes. ‘AM I BOVVEERRD THO?!’
There is a flip side to this too… And that is that the American shows that have exceeded more than a season are available on DVD and are bought internationally. Surely this brings revenue and network support for future series? What do we export? The Office. And it did incredibly well. Why has this market not been tapped further? Especially when the BBC is having relentless funding cuts from our mates in the blue party – this could be a valuable resource to ensure more ‘quality’ TV shows are made.
I’m ranting now, and it’s late, so I’m going to wrap this up. There is a lot of quality written talent out there that simply doesn’t get the prime air-time it deserves (Garth Merenghi, 15 Storey High, Spaced… to name but a few) and if writers pulled their fingers out of the arses instead of getting complacent and drunk on their new found fame or respect, maybe we’d see some quality that runs for longer than a maximum of 12 episodes. ‘GAAARLIC BREEAD?!’