back to article Why British TV drama is crap – and why this matters to tech firms

It has been years since a contemporary BBC drama caused an office discussion round here. The best American imports such as The Wire and Breaking Bad are all regular conversation pieces but I can’t remember a British one being interesting enough even to worth a mention. And you’ll know why. They’re glossy, expensive and dreadful …


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  1. All Over


    On the whole a seemingly balanced article for a Change, up until the Google comment, you just couldn't resist!

    As usual missing the point like the rest of BIG MEDIA, Google is simply a tool, it helps to connect consumers of content with new content quicky and easily! It even tries to make it easier for BIG media by providing You Tube through which tasters can be posted and which helps consumers identify similar content they might enjoy (that might be your content). But NO BIG media and their cronies see Google as the enemy, get some glasses and see the truth, wake up and smell the coffee!

    Create good content and USE Google as a tool to connect you with new consumers (those that might not know or care about your site at the moment) and you will benefit, stop trying to fight Google, accept that yes they may make some money by placing an add beside the signpost they provide to your content, they need to have some return for providing the service unless of course you wish to pay them a commision for hosting the signpost?

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Nearly

      Google makes huge bundles of cash from wrapping ads around other people's content. Much like traditional broadcasters. Unlike traditional broadcasters, Google hasn't been investing in producing original new content. Doing so would be a change in it's model, and no doubt upset the broadcasters because Google could afford a lot of hours of drama, if it wanted. It did do a future-Google product placement in Babylon A.D. after all.

      As for the BBC, if you want to imagine TV hell, just imagine if the BBC had made Game of Thrones in it's usual PC focus-grouped to death and offend nobody house style.

  2. Ironclad

    Looking in the wrong places

    There is good drama on British TV you just have to know where to look.

    I find many BBCs headline dramas (with the exception of the excellent Shadow Line last year)

    derivative and as you say often 'made for export' but get off the beaten track away from

    crime and kitchen-sink dramas and you have the likes of Sherlock, Channel 4's Misfits, BBC3's

    Being Human and The Fades.

    In addition for every Sopranos and The Wire US TV churns out plenty of dross.

    Just look at Channel5's schedule and the turgid remake of The Killing.

    Good drama doesn't need technology, just needs a bit of imagination.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Looking in the wrong places

      "Just look at Channel5's schedule and the turgid remake of The Killing."

      The Killing USA - Another hopeless US remake that takes a fine drama and turns it into tedious garbage. The US remake of Life on Mars was farcical. About the only think they got right was The Office and thats only because they had Ricky Gervais keeping an eye on them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Looking in the wrong places

      The Hour, was particularly good.

    3. ColonelClaw

      Re: Looking in the wrong places

      I though last year's The Shadow Line was bloody good. (Right up until the end of the last episode when it suddenly put in a cretinous twist in the tale)

      Anyway, Rafe Spall was utterly brilliant

    4. Graham Bartlett

      Re: Looking in the wrong places

      Although sadly the BBC decided that despite being the best home-grown TV that year (not just my opinion; it won awards), "The Fades" wasn't worth a second series. Go figure.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    British TV drama is NOT crap

    Off the top of my head:



    Red Dwarf

    Life on Mars

    Ashes to Ashes


    Case Sensitive


    All top quality dramas. And though not my cup of tea I'm sure a lot of women would vote for for Downton and Cranford.

    Most american imports are sh1te. Just because 1 or 2 are good doesn't mean the rest are. Visit the USA and witness the 24/7 visual diarrhea that passes for TV over there.

    1. Scob

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      I couldn't agree more. What a rubbish article. British TV drama is, on the whole, excellent. The stuff they dish out in the states is pure drivel in comparison bar a couple of exceptions.

      1. Barrie Shepherd

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        If you want to see really crap TV drama then check out the Free to Air offerings on Australian TV - mind you it's hard to find a complete programme between all the adverts. If you do the Networks will make sure you miss chunks by never keeping to any published time schedule.

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        How much is TV tax these days?

        I haven't watched any TV for a while now so I forget.

        It's not just drama that the BBC lost the plot to. It utterly fails in all its science stuff though it could continue cruising until the last tax payer puts the lights out on people like you.

        It is that tax that is keeping the BBC going and it is that tax that is killing the BBC. It's like a dangerous, addictive chemical. They can't live with or without it.

        I haven't got a license but I do get threatening letters telling me they have the power of intrusion into my privacy.

        That alone would be enough to stop me buying into their tax shelter for morons and speed queens. They could save themselves the postage by allowing me to view the news every once in a while.

        At what age does that become repetitive?

        Soooo long and stanks of all the fish.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      Red Dwarf?

    3. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      But nobody has to watch the crap. I fully agree that the worst US TV is worse than the worst British TV - but who cares if we don't have to watch it?

      And Red Dwarf is a comedy.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        And the others are period dramas. Apparently we do those very well, but I wouldn't know.

        The OP missed the "contemporary" in "contemporary drama".

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

          "The OP missed the "contemporary" in "contemporary drama"."

          Tell me whats not contemporary about spooks or hustle for example?

          1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

            Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

            "Tell me whats not contemporary about spooks or hustle for example?"

            Contemporary in theme only, as the BBC has since canned both of them, alas, and lets remember that both of them had been running for quite some time.

            And where are the replacements?

            The BBC do show flare on occasion (The Fades at least had an interesting concept), but they're increasingly poor at execution, expecially combined with limited budget (where exactly does the BBC tax go?). Largely, it boils down to the BBC using the 'same old names', not just in front of the camera, but behind it too, so very little fresh blood gets far, and generally new content gets to look like dull retreads As the 'same old names' tend to be luvvies too, the content tends to be a little too PC, and seldom much good because of it.

            Let's raise a beer and remember that the best, grittiest episode of Spooks were right at the beginning, with torture and death using a chip fryer - even US drama is seldom that brutal. After that, it got toned-down. We have great actors, writers and directors out there, but it's a pity that the execs (on all networks) are too busy piling high the same old cheap, freak-show 'documentaries' and reality TV.

        2. Graham Bartlett

          Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

          Hustle, Case Sensitive and Spooks are "period dramas"? Eh?!

          For that matter, the US has also produced period dramas such as Rome or Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Or there's Game of Thrones, which is near enough mediaeval period drama.

          1. JEDIDIAH

            Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

            It seems like all of the comparisons are being drawn between UK "broadcast" and US "cable". Some of these American shows are on channels that most people don't even get. They 'realso are on channels with a different business model than nearly all other channels on either side of the pond.

            Kind of an unfair comparison really.

            If you have to use something from HBO to eviscerate Brit TV then you can't be doing too poorly really.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

              It seems like all of the comparisons are being drawn between UK "broadcast" and US "cable".

              That's a vapid dichotomy. Most of the serious viewing public - ie, anyone who's going to be interested in watching TV drama in the first place - in the US have either cable or satellite, or get TV shows over the Internet. The demographic that wants to watch TV drama but only has broadcast is small and dwindling steadily. And since UK broadcast TV is a pay service, it's hard to see why this distinction would be relevant to the argument anyway.

              Some of these American shows are on channels that most people don't even get.

              Oh? Which ones?

              As of 2007, cable TV penetration in the US was around 58% of TV-viewing households.[1] Add to that the considerable number of people viewing shows on other media - DVD or (legally or illegally) streaming or downloads - and it appears that a considerable majority of TV viewers in the US have access to everything but the "premium" pay channels (HBO, etc). While some of the shows mentioned by commentators (notably Game of Thrones) are on premium channels, out of those Orlowski mentioned only The Sopranos originated on premium, and it was then syndicated to non-premium channels (as well as being available on other media). And frankly I don't think Sopranos is necessary to the argument; it's just there because god forbid anyone talk about TV drama without paying obeisance to it. (I think it's overrated, personally.)

              That's not to say I buy Orlowski's argument. I don't have a comprehensive knowledge of US or UK TV drama, so I'm in no position to judge their relative merits. But your counterargument doesn't hold water.


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        "And Red Dwarf is a comedy."

        Actually its a comedy sci fi drama.

        1. Naughtyhorse

          Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

          shit!" i thought it was a realtiy show :D

      3. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        Red Dwarf is a documentary, surely?

    4. MJI Silver badge

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes, possibly the best drama of the last decade.

      Thanks for reminding me of Hustle

      Sherlock is great, talking of how about the better episodes of Doctor Who.

      Downton is good at what it does.

      So possibly the best drama of the last decade, the best episode of a SciFi series, both British

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap, merely rarer than hen's teeth

      All the programmes you list are quality, problem is they are largely old and infrequent quality, with the schedules infested with the tumbleweed of drossovision (property programmes, fat programmes, police camera crap, antiques roadshow/springwatch, autumnwatch, deathwatch). Look at the dates of first transmission of most of the highlights, and the majority are ancient:

      Hustle 2004

      Lewis 2007

      Red Dwarf 1988

      Life on Mars 2006

      Ashes to Ashes 2008

      Poirot 1989

      You left off Torchwood, admittedly an acquired taste, but that was first broadcast in 2006, and finally became a ghastly combination of camp over acting, PC-gayness, and US dumbing down for BBC Worldwide's benefit, and I think that sad fate is looking worryingly like the Ghost of Christmas Future for all BBC drama. Sherlock is excellent, but the geological time scales they produce it on don't work for me.

      When the Beeb do try something different (like the rather clever and novel Outcasts) they get cold feet if the ratings don't back them immediately, and run away crying. So if you're successful on a minor channel you might get pulled onto primetime despite a slow start, be "unsuccessful" in a botched prime time launch and it's instant death.

      Message to Beeb: Stop filling the schedules with imported pants, and cut the budget for low brow dross like Holby or Beastenders. What happened to the hive of success that was BBC Wales?

      <Foams at mouth and staggers off still ranting>

      1. Keith Williams

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap, merely rarer than hen's teeth

        I am so glad to see that someone else shares my distaste for Torchwood's gayness. Especially when they converted Ianto from weird sexual taste (Cyberwoman) to weirder (Cap'n Jack).

        OTOH, I have enjoyed both seasons of Sherlock (all 6 episodes!) and have recently enjoyed the complete David Tenneant years of Dr Who and am working my way through the 1st Matt Smith series.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap, merely rarer than hen's teeth

        "When the Beeb do try something different (like the rather clever and novel Outcasts) "

        Outcasts was awful. Sci fi with barely any sci fi - just lost of interpersonal issues *yawn* and a "Lost" style invisible enemy - and made on a shoestring. It deserved to die. In fact it should never have been made in the first place.

        1. Andrew Moore

          Re: British TV drama is NOT crap, merely rarer than hen's teeth

          Every episode of Outcasts was 'There is a major problem at the outpost; Cas and Fleur go for a nice walk"

      3. Graham Bartlett

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap, merely rarer than hen's teeth

        Nothing much clever and novel about Outcasts, unless you truly have no interest in sci-fi in book form. The only novel thing was the dreadful script, lousy plotting, cereal-box sets, and pacing that made glaciers look like Usain Bolt.

      4. Naughtyhorse

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap, merely rarer than hen's teeth


        the article kept banging on about;

        sopranos -1999 and

        the wire 2002

        And giving the credit to improved TV tech - i guess NICAM has been with us since the 80's!

        the entire article is utter bollocks from start to finish

        apart from anything else<cough>The fucking West Wing<cough> best drama ever - even had that special sound for the 0.n% of us that had Dolby 7.1 kit attached to our tellies at the turn of the millennium.

    6. Irongut

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      Hustle - crap

      Lewis - exceedingly boring police crap

      Red Dwarf - comedy made over 2 decades ago, not drama

      Life on Mars - good untill the last episode when they spoiled it

      Ashes to Ashes - crap

      Poirot - more boring detective crap based on some boring books

      Case Sensitive - never heard of it

      Spooks - watched the first series then realised every episode is basically the same, also the plots were ridiculous

      Sorry don't see any evidence of top drama there. And don't mention the modern Doctor Who, there aren't enough vitriolic adjectives in the English language to adequately describe my opinion of that steaming pile.

      1. jibberjabber

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        Hustle, Spooks, tripe, yes... Red Dwarf still produced but well past its prime.

        Life on Mars was indeed fantastic, but I also found A2A quite enjoyable. I also defy anyone to impugn Agatha Christie...

        And yes, modern Doctor Who is a self-parodying, CGI heavy, cynical shadow of its former, viewer-imagination-employing self. I'd rather have solid acting and wobbly sets than vice versa.

    7. Alister

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      boltar wrote:

      Off the top of my head:



      Red Dwarf

      Life on Mars

      Ashes to Ashes


      Case Sensitive


      With the exception of Lewis, none of these are produced any longer, so where are their comparable replacements?

      Or should we just stick with the repeats?

      1. AdamWill

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        On that note, The Wire and Sopranos both finished years ago, and I don't think Breaking Bad has much longer to run. So Andrew's examples don't fare much better.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      Hustle - 2004-2012

      Lewis - Current but weaker spinoff of Morse - 1987-2000

      Red Dwarf - 1988-1999 for the main series

      Life On Mars - 2006-2007

      Ashes To Ashes - 2008-2010

      Poirot - 1989-Now but just about out of Christie stories

      Case Sensitive - Current

      Spooks - 2002-2011

      Not exactly a glowing endorsement for new drama on british TV.

      There are really good, polished dramas being made, but not really much of the layered, clever, politically charged stuff the UK was once thought of for; GBH, Boys From The Black Stuff, House Of Cards, Our Friends In The North, Cracker, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Blue Remembered Hills, Singing Detective, Edge Of Darkness, etc, etc and before them the Play For Today and Wednesday Play Strands

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        Black Mirror was quite recent.

      2. Green Nigel
        Black Helicopters

        Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

        Looking at the time scale, is this an increasing result of outsourcing to outside production companies, who have to make a profit to survive?

        Add to your list, but not BBC, Primeval, a lot of fun but appears to be cut through production costs.

    9. horse of a different colour

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      Hustle? HUSTLE? HUSTLE?!? That was utter, utter, utter, utter shite. I mean, really? Hustle? HUSTLE? etc

    10. Robert E A Harvey

      @Boltar Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      And of your list, how many originated in the last 3 years?

      I'd add Garrow's Law, BTW.

    11. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      Trust me, British TV drama is NOT crap. It might not reach the level of the often cited The Sopranos but then few things do, even when it comes to the best US TV has to offer.

      Unless you've tried Julie Lescaut (France), Inspector Rex (Austria/Italy), or El Barco (Spain) or indeed the stuff which doesn't make it outside the US because it really is crap then you don't know what crap TV is.

    12. Sigmund Fraud

      Re: British TV drama is NOT crap

      George Gently was also pretty good

  4. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Money doesn't matter.

    The idea that you need vast amounts of money per episode to make "edgy" drama is utterly wrong. TV producers seem obsessed with blowing money on costumes, famous actors, expensive locations and silly effects.

    Decent stuff can be made on a seriously-slim budget: look at something like Shane Carruth's movie "Primer" - which only cost a few thousand dollars to produce.

    Independents are clearly the way to go - they don't have all the burdensome overheads of 'traditional' producers.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Money doesn't matter.

      The arguement is that current BBC is crap precisely because it is entirely done by independents.

      Instead of people who have been in the business for years able to match a screenwriter from coronation street with the director of Reggie Perrin and the camera crew from Life on Earth. You get a small company that needs to make a product fast, that needs to maximise returns so must have a global market and it must be fashionable enough that it will get good media coverage now - because all you have to care about is the current quarter, because thats all the funding you have. And their purpose in producing the drama is to be noticed so they can get a job in movies.

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge


    The best US drama is commissioned and produced by the cable networks such as HBO. The irony is that their long term contracts with their viewers work in a similar way to the much-maligned licence fee allowing shows to develop over time rather than being pulled as soon as ratings do not meet expectations. This is one of the reasons why good screenwriters now seem to prefer TV over Hollywood, with its continued obsessions of novelty for novelty's sake, sequels, SFX and merchandising.

    The production values of such shows are aligned both with those of Hollywood but also with the attention to detail that has been the hallmark at least of British historical drama and documentaries, which is where the BBC has traditionally been so successful internationally and for which it can more easily secure the necessary co-funding in advance. More contemporary shows are occasionally elsewhere but much more likely to be bought as formats (Life on Mars, Shameless) and done for the mass market, which disdains too much non-local locality.

    This does suggest that the BBC needs to move away from the me-too crap that it produces to be financially successful. But the charter forces it to try and cater for all. Personally, I agree with you that the Greg Dyke race to the bottom serves no one - the great unwashed reads The Sun and enjoys scandal and sport - and that public broadcasters should concentrate quality* and innovation over repetition quantity.

    *It has to come up with its own definition of such and stick to it.

    1. Oninoshiko

      Re: Irony

      "The irony is that their long term contracts with their viewers work in a similar way to the much-maligned licence fee allowing shows to develop over time rather than being pulled as soon as ratings do not meet expectations."

      Umm, what? Let me email a few friends stateside, I wasn't aware that paying HBO became compolsary. And therein lies the differnce. HBO has to produce what people want (I leave debating if that is a good definition of "quality" to the reader), or lose funding. Many in the US already think they are not worth the money, and therefore don't pay. Try that with the Beeb and you'll understand why the license fee is miligned while an HBO contract isn't.

  6. jason 7

    I can't really comment..... I havent watched any British drama on BBC or ITV is some years.

    The same goes for comedy.

    What I have seen on advert previews does look like flashy angles and lighting and little else.

    What do we watch? Well all the US imports and a lot of the Euro imports such as Spiral/Wallander etc.

    British TV is now largely irrelevant.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can't really comment.....

      You admit you can't comment, because you haven't watched anything other than adverts in years, and then comment that "British TV is now largely irrelevant".


    2. dogged

      Re: I can't really comment.....

      You've been missing out.

      LUTHER for example, trumps everything on AO's list of water-cooler TV shows.

      Watch it. You won't be sorry.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: I can't really comment.....

        I had Luther in mind when writing that, actually.

        I watched it, wished I hadn't bothered.

        1. dogged

          Re: I can't really comment.....

          I loved it. Steven Mackintosh's portrait of a man falling apart at the seams in Season 1 is absolutely extraordinary and totally convincing.

          Still, de gustibus non est disputandum so we can't really argue about that. I will say that the BBC's decision to only fund 3 episodes of Season 2 hurt it badly and I hope they don't do anything that foolish again.

        2. JFK

          Re: I can't really comment.....

          Emmy's nominations came out:

          Luther 4 nominations

          Sherlock 12 nominations

          Downton Abbey 16 nominations

          It not all crud in everyones eyes


        3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: I can't really comment.....

          I LOLed. Not done that in a while, thank you both.

  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    More stuff, quickly

    > BBC or ITV doesn’t spend enough

    In recent years the pattern for british drama has been one of short-run series: maybe 3 * 1 hour episodes. That has two big problems. The first is that setting up a TV series is expensive. Before you start filming you have to assemble the "team", make all the props, get studio space/locations, create the basis for CGI and budget for the show's eventual promotion and advertising. A lot of those costs are more-or-less constant whether you make 3 episodes or 20. However, if you only make a few, then those costs have to be amortized across the small number of episodes, making each one appear more expensive - the opposite of an economy of scale.

    The other basic problem is that with gazillions of TV channels, there's a need for LOTS of stuff to fill the empty voids between advertisements. 3 episodes just won't hack it - and is difficult for the schedulers to fit in to a format that's designed around "seasons" of 10 or 20 episodes - and therefore difficult to sell to them.

    A big reason for these issues is the way that british dramas are written and produced. Over here we tend to treat them as hand-crafted works of art. Great when they succeed, but an expensive and inaccessible mess when they don't. Other places tend to productionise the writing - with a team of scribblers who contribute a part to each episode - which gives them depth and variety, rather than the monoculture and superficial characterisations that our lone-writers don't have the time (or ability) to incorporate.

    It could be that the biggest technological boost we could give to TV drama production is to find ways to enable a group of writers to work together (assuming you can get past the diva effect). You'd think that with all the tools available for softies to write code in a collective and collaborative way, that there'd be solutions for authors, too. Maybe they are just too stuck in their own ways to look over the parapet - or maybe they just like being the queen bee.

  8. Michael M

    As William Goldman said...

    ...of people in Hollywood - "Nobody Knows Anything". I admire how Mr O is bringing this ethos to The Register.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    The trouble with US TV content is that it all looks and sounds the same. Audiences here in Aus seem to like US crime dramas based on the same tired formulae so that's exactly what they get. Endlessly. Repeatedly. Relentlessly. Then it's repackaged as CSI This and CSI That.

    As for "overlapping dialogue and sound effects", that's just fancy packaging of thin content to distract pretentious reviewers. Good drama is based on a good story, not tinsel.

    Worst of all is that US accents annoy the fuck out of me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Piffle

      > Then it's repackaged as CSI This and CSI That.

      Something struck me about CSI, NCIS, House and all the rest. In any given episode a problem presents itself, things look bad for the heroes, there is a sequence where the heroes do something technical set to music* and then the problem is resolved.

      Isn't that just The A-Team?

      * Some of which is surprisingly good and often worth watching the show for.

      1. Gazareth

        Re: Piffle

        Nope, it's the very definition of a procedural show, which they all are & the production of which the US have got down to a fine art.

        1. arrbee

          Re: Piffle

          I thought the A-team format was more: problem presented, team seem to fix problem, turns out there is a bigger problem that team missed, team fix bigger problem

          1. Robert E A Harvey

            @arbee Re: Piffle

            I thought the A team format was: improbable problem, client mysteriously ignores opportunity to go to police, catch phrase, team argues, catch phrase, lunatic expenditure of ammunition & explosives with no fatalities, team argue, more mindless wholly ineffectual violence, catch phrase, catch phrase, I wonder what the hell just happened.

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Piffle

          Actually, it's the formalist's description of a drama which is the strive to restore the equilibrium lost at the start. The mystery ties in nicely to the human penchant for hypothesis (an essential part of processing language, trying to work out what's coming next). But, basically, we all want to see "John Wayne coming to save America at the last minute". To this American productions add the magic dust that America, even if, or perhaps because, it's just small-town Kansas, is the world.

          Of course, it's the subversions of such productions, exemplified by Sergio Leone's "Once Upon A Time In The West" which are so much more interesting. But people aren't interested in, er, interesting. They want fast-food in a fancy box.

  10. Baldie

    Gina McKee (was) in Line of Duty. Not Blackout. Unless she had a small bit part while I was out getting a coffee.

  11. Largest of Als

    TV Drama

    "I can’t remember a British one being interesting enough even to worth a mention"

    Did you miss 'The Shadow Line' or both series of 'Luther' on the BBC?

    More recently, 'Hit and Miss' from Sky..

    There's lots of good British drama, that just doesnt get the chance to shine.

    1. TheProf

      Re: TV Drama

      The Shadow Line?

      Was that the one in which a bomb exploded, powerful enough to blow the windows out of a clock shop, and both people in the shop stood up, brushed the dust off themselves and left? The one where there was a fight and one person was hanging from a light fitting while another person tried to kill them? (2 core cable, you know, those ones held up by two tiny brass screws.) The one where the villains smuggled heroin into the country by hiding it in the stalks of cut flowers? The one with the 'so-scary-he's almost-comedic' hit-man? The one where EVERY copper was bent and all the villains were scared of the missing crime lord's camp son?

      I didn't like it. Too far fetched.

      1. Davidmb

        You didn't like it...

        But clearly watched most of it. Personally I liked the unrealistic bits - all TV drama is unrealistic, so occasionally it's nice to see a show embrace it so fully,

        1. TheProf

          Re: You didn't like it...

          Well I wouldn't have commented on it if I hadn't watched all of it. I know what commentards would say.

          I also watched the one John Simm and Jim Broadbent were in. (Exile. Thanks Google.) That one was even worse! It took the 'art' of coincidence to a new level. E.G. Simm is looking through many boxes of his old cassette tapes and finds a party mix from twenty-odd years ago. As he listens to it the music cuts out and is replaced by voices that DISCLOSES IMPORTANT PLOT INFORMATION. He peels the label from the cassette and underneath is a second label that DISCLOSES IMPORTANT PLOT INFORMATION.

          I, however, must be wrong about these dramas. They got glowing reviews in the grown-up newspapers. Maybe because both had characters suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Must be the sympathy vote.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is going to be less money in TV production in the coming years, not more. Blame the freetards who believe that piracy doesn't hurt anyone and that you can pay several million in production costs with Doctorow "whuffie".

    The real secret is to avoid making the sort of content that nerds like - that way you've at least got a chance of having an audience that will pay for your content - something that a lot of nerds think that they should get a pass on because they know "advanced internet"

    1. Killraven

      Para 1: Piffle & poppycock. There will be less money in TV production, because people are moving away from watching broadcast television, which takes major advertising dollars away. Plus, as more and more of the remaining TV watchers use time-shifting devices (DVR ala Tivo) it is easier to skip commercials, also devaluing advertising time.

      Para 2: That's about right, but not because of file-sharing is that the more intelligent a program is (the "nerd appeal") the smaller your target audience is.

  13. Captain Underpants
    Thumb Down

    What do I think?

    I think you're being extremely unfair and making a bollocks comparison, is what I think.

    If you want to compare all British TV drama output against all US TV Drama output, you'll find there's an absolute wagonload of complete shite that the Yank stations churn out year in, year out, because they have tons of channels that need to be filled with Exclusive To Us content.

    You can't just cherry pick the best handful of US dramas from the last decade and use them as the basis for moaning about the state of UK TV output. But then again, given that you've in the past suggested that the licence fee is inherently demonic and we should all want a more American television system (because that's what I want, less funding for any public interest content and more adverts, not to mention billions more channels showing reality-television shite because That's What Gets Viewers) I'm not entirely surprised....

    1. AdamWill

      "If you want to compare all British TV drama output against all US TV Drama output, you'll find there's an absolute wagonload of complete shite that the Yank stations churn out year in, year out, because they have tons of channels that need to be filled with Exclusive To Us content."

      Not...really, actually. The U.S. doesn't have many more major channels/networks that produce original drama than the U.K. does - the major networks, a couple of second-stringers, and a couple of special interest channels like the 'sci-fi' channels. That's really it. The U.K. has much the same with the terrestrial channels, Sky's marquee channels, and a few similar special-interest channels.

      The other seventy jillion channels in your typical U.S. cable package, just like on Sky, are sports, lifestyle and repeats. No original drama on HGTV...

  14. Rich 2 Silver badge


    One of the best bits of British drama I've seen on TV for some time was "Occupation" some years back. If you didn't see it, go and find it. I was skeptical, thinking it was just another James Nesbitt vehicle, but it turned out to be an excellent and gritty depiction of the fuck-up that is Iraq.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hawking for Sky are we?

    Are you insane?

    Most american 'drama' is histrionic claptrap, drawn out and watered down over 100 episodes of dross until it fizzles out. Whereas most UK drama is compressed and concentrated, giving quality over quantity.

    Give me three Sherlocks over an entire year of american drivel .

    Remember what happened to Torchwood when they attempted to go downmarket and americanise it - boring drivel.

    Stop playing up poor quality american series - recognise them for what they are, a tolerable premise spread too thin, too slow, too crap.

    There's nothing from the US over the past five years that wasn't a waste of too much money.

    1. Captain Underpants
      Thumb Up

      Re: Hawking for Sky are we?


      A good example can be had in the form of Torchwood. Mostly dreadful shite (I tried one or two episodes from the first and second series, and couldn't stick through either of them), so far so unremarkable.

      Then the far-better-than-it-had-any-business-being Children Of Earth miniseries came about, and was excellent in no small part because it was allowed to be nasty and allowed to be short. That did so well that a fourth series was commissioned, with at least half the funding & development coming from some US studio (Starz, maybe?). They then took an idea that was sort of on the same wavelength as CoE, but made it drag on for far longer, and produced a resolutely mediocre load of turd as a result.

      If you're going to champion US dramas, you have to acknowledge that most of them happen despite the US television setup, not because of it. As someone else has said, the cable networks operate on a system that's somewhere between a licence fee and a patronage mechanism, and they are more often than not where the stuff that gets critical acclaim is generated.

    2. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: Hawking for Sky are we?

      > UK drama is compressed and concentrated, giving quality over quantity.

      So are OXO cubes, but you wouldn't want to eat them out of the packet. The problem with british dramas is that they don't give themselves the space to develop interesting characters. By only having a small amount of time to fit in all the exposition, development, twists and conclusion british writers tend to skim over the bits that make a story interesting. It's a bit like reading a Cliff's Notes of a classic text, rather than reading the original yourself. You get the basic story, but none of the nuances and depth that make it enjoyable.

      Oddly, a lot of films manage to squeeze in more dimensionality in a couple of hours - but that might be because they apply more bodies and more skill (as well as more money) into getting the whole package presented to a viewer - or it might be because they focus tightly on what's important, rather than indulging the writer's whims, meanderings and biases.

      1. Tel Starr

        Re: Hawking for Sky are we?

        Actually 'raw' OXO cubes used to be lovely before they changed the formula a decade or two back. They use to become nice and goo-y in the mouth, now its just seems to be powdered rat shit.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: Hawking for Sky are we?

          I agree - I don't eat half as many raw Oxo's since they changed the formula. Still occasionally for the salt/flavour rush. Nothing before or since make the mouth water to the same extent.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hawking for Sky are we?

      "Most american 'drama' is histrionic claptrap, drawn out and watered down over 100 episodes of dross until it fizzles out."

      American TV networks don't understand the concept of quitting while you're ahead. If they have a cash cow series or franchise they'll milk it until only the bones are left. Then they'll milk it some more. Thats why we ended up with the excrabale Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise, why Two and a Half Men should be done under trades discriptions as its been going so long it should be called Theree Men, why Stargate is still searching the universe in search of an original plotline that wasn't done in the original series, why Desperate Housewives ended up as Menopausel Housewives, and why The Mentalist which started off as a damn good series is slowly descending into Been There Done That territory and just rehashing itself. And there are 101 other examples.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: Hawking for Sky are we?

        "American TV networks don't understand the concept of quitting while you're ahead."

        I'm sure they do. They also recognize that applying gambling concepts to making money off advertising (er, television) doesn't make much sense.

        They're businesses. Their job is to broadcast shows which have a high ratio of viewers to cost. Ideally, young, spend-y viewers. That's how they make money.

        It's always cheaper to keep making an existing show than to start making a new one. You can bet your bottom dollar that at every major network HQ they have a big line graph which illustrates the precise amount of viewers an existing show in a given timeslot has to fall below before it makes sense, economically speaking, to cancel it and take the gamble of running a new, unproven show in the same timeslot - and that number is quite low. As long as CSI: Dakota is still being watched by X million people, the network is making money and is happy. They don't give a toss if it lost all artistic value six years ago.

        Basically - if you want a show to get off network TV in the States, _make people quit watching it_. That's all the network cares about.

  16. Magister

    Each to their own

    Personally, there is a lot of TV drama that I don't watch - US / UK doesn't really matter, I'm more interested in the content. I have to say that I can't remember anyone talking about a US drama in the office except when they were commenting upon how dreadful it was; but then that's probably just me.

    The last US series that I enjoyed was "Modern Family" - some really interesting concepts and a little bit edgy, I'm surprised that they got away with making it as US TV is usually not happy at being that far out on the edge.

    Waiting for the next season of "Downton Abbey" - or as Graham Norton described it "The Only Way Is Berkshire".

  17. Martin Lyne

    Perhaps everyones sick of fucking period dramas and fucking cop shows.

    I demand more sci-fi for my license fee. Crowdsource the computational requirements to save money. I'd happily let my computer render a few frames a day to make something decent to watch.

    Just keep the Dr Who writers away from it.

    1. TRT Silver badge


      you've got to make drama now for the Doctor Who actors to do. (1) they can't risk being typecast (2) they have half a year of down-time and you want to keep them on the payroll.

  18. Timmay

    The Wire

    People go on and on about it, and honestly, I've tried over and again with The Wire, but I still just don't get the praise and fuss lathered over it.

    I normally ignore stuff which is massively popular, and then review it once the hype has died down, and often then end up liking it, but I just can't get into it. Am I alone?

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: The Wire

      was a monumental piece of TV. It's really a 50+ hour film.

      Surprised no one has mentioned "The Shield"

    2. mark 63 Silver badge

      Re: The Wire

      Its a slow burning thing, so you have to watch 2 or 3 at a time.

      guess its a bit of a love it or hate it thing. i recently discovered it and watched all five series in about a month.

      you of course have to have the next episode available and no ads. eg DVD

  19. hitmouse

    The Americans like "local content" as long as they don't have to understand local issues or references to people they've never heard of. That's why period drama works, because they've heard of a few royals and Winston Churchill, but they don't want to be troubled with anything more recent.

    That's why they remake "Life on Mars" and dozens of other British shows.

  20. Alan Bourke

    You can see this in films too

    ... starting with the original Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Strange cities that are American but have Brits in them, or vice versa, or American Brit cities where everyone somehow manages to be unemployed or a teacher or something, let live in a huge townhouse in the nice part of town.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: You can see this in films too

      The original "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was filmed in Munich. You can even see the city's famous Frauenkirche in one scene.

      That's a bit like setting something in "London", but catching a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the background...

      1. Tubs

        Re: You can see this in films too

        "That's a bit like setting something in "London", but catching a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the background..."

        That must be Blackpool Tower, silly...

  21. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    One or the other or both

    You're right.

    Apparently. she comes back to life in the sequel to both, Blackout Duty. Exciting!

  22. TRT Silver badge


    Was dreadful. I was laughing my arse off at the terribleness of the first episode, which I made it half-way through before I had to turn it off as it was making my ears bleed. The last episode, I did kind of watch ten minutes of before I was asleep. It was well acted and well produced, but virtually plot-free. Well, OK, it had a plot, but it lacked a story.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ITV are almost scared of taking a risk, relying instead on trash and "a flash or camera angle every 5 seconds" reality talent shows.

    These things are cheap to make and bring in the audiences, advertisers love it as they can peddle their wares to a likely impressionable audience ("latest must have" teens etc.).

    I think it almost shocked them that Downton Abbey became a success (though in part to it being scheduled right after x factor to hook in those who couldn't be bothered to reach the remote).

    The BBC has some quality dramas - Silk, Sherlock, Silent Witness, Ashes to the belated Spooks.

    Even Holby City is looking more like ER and less like casualty.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just the British dramas

    The documentary strands used to be excellent. Now we have almost entirely either so-called docu-dramas, which I haven't seen a single one that isn't irremediable shite, presumably because they're catering to the same demographic that, for instance, won't watch anything made in monochrome, or read a book that isn't 'contemporary' chick-lit, involves murders, or Harry Potter or, virtually regardless of presenter, at some point involves them firing a machine gun, which seems to me to be catering, if not to the presenter's desire to get paid to play around doing 'cool' stuff, then again to the males of the aforementioned potential audience who will only watch a film involving tough guy talk, explosions, shooting, car chases and so on. As such almost nothing produced by the Beeb (the commercial channel output having being so dire for so long they're no longer even worth considering - except, perhaps, when they show US drama!) is of any greater value than the endless brain-dead reality tv all channels pump out these days.

    As for the BBC ads for itself, why do they constantly advertise what is on next? Assuming there is a sane, logical reason for it, one can only assume it is to entice the types who would turn over if not subjected to hype? When I'm subjected to hype, I turn over, or off. Same with BBC News, the interminable self-aggrandisement on the hour, every hour; again, I turn off. Or to Sky News. ITV has always been shite; now it is comatose and the BBC is as sub-standard as ITV used to be when it had some sort of intelligence at the helm. Channel 4 was bloody brilliant when it began, a worthy rival to BBC2, but it too is now clogging up the sink, waiting for the plunger to put us out of it's misery.

    Quality plummeted with Thatcherism and her basic tenets still rule the career politician (Thatcher's Children) and money is all that matters in the UK now. We're in the age of gambling as exemplified by the numerous lotteries. British Society has all but been destroyed by the greed she and her disciples - such as Blair and Cameron - thinks is good. And the types who ended up running the BBC and Channel 4 were the likes of Michael Grade and Greg Dyke - from ITV and Channel 5 (who'd a thunk it!).

    I'm surprised Alan Sugar didn't get DG. Or Simon Cowell. Or whatsisname Waterman.

    Howabout Saturday afternoon, when we have just had the Euro 2012's, the Wimbledon, and the Olympics about to start, and in the fortnight breathing space between Wimbledon and the Olympics there is athletics, golf and motor racing on BBC1, BBC2 and BBCHD (while BBCs 3 and 4 aren't on air for several more hours, so watch commercial tv repeat drivel - or fuck off, appears to be the message from the national broadcaster. I choose not to renew my tv licence).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just the British dramas

      I nominate you for the Reg's "Most Boring, Rambling Post of the Week" award.

      And whilst I'm here, is there an equivalent to Godwin's Law that applies to irrelevant mentions of Maggie?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not just the British dramas

        You're either a Tory, or weren't old enough to get it at the time.

    2. Chris 3

      Re: Not just the British dramas

      Looking for good quality documentaries? Look no further than BBC 4.

      And may I compliment you on that open sentence, it really was a doozy.

  25. Steve Evans

    You may have a point...

    I was trying to think of the last BBC drama I enjoyed watching... Might have been Ashes to Ashes.

    Now what about the last US one... Prison Break was great. I can't wait for Dexter to return. Heroes, was fun the start with, then I'm not sure what happened to it. I think the BBC moved the time slot, I missed bit, decided to catch up "on-line" and ended up watching a different series and totally baffled!

    CSI is a bit, well, tired now, and I sometimes have a hard job turning off my "WTF are you talking about" reality filter when they make some ridiculous scientific or technical claim.

    The problem is from over here in the UK we get to see US drama through rose tinted glasses. I really only get to see what the UK TV companies have passed. There are certainly still plenty of crap ones where they expect the audience to have the attention span of a gold-fish. The advantage the US has is it has far more milk being produced, so more cream available for export.

    1. Daren Nestor

      Re: You may have a point...

      Prison break was the classic example of flogging a dead horse. They should have stopped after Season 1.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What happened to Heroes?

      Sky did what they do best, they stole Heroes and used it as vehicle to get mugs to sigh up to them. Thank god for torrents.

      1. Havin_it

        Re: What happened to Heroes?

        No. All four seasons of Heroes were screened on BBC2. You just had to wait a couple of months after it was shown on FX.

        I think you meant to say "thank god for torrents as I'm too ADHD/self-entitled to accept deferred gratification."

  26. Alan Bourke

    British TV drama *is* crap

    ... when it tries to be American TV drama, and vice versa. So homegrown attempts at something like The Wire are shite, and US versions of Life On Mars are shite.

  27. Drummer Boy

    British drama terrible

    Which will be why Downton Abbey is up for more Emmy's than I can shake a stick at then?!!

  28. Captain Hogwash


    I know it's not real in any case so don't care and no longer waste time watching. Documentaries are where it's at.

  29. mark 63 Silver badge

    I love a good long drama series i can sit down with a dvd box set, and through all my research and discussions with mates i seem to end up with US stuff.


    Breaking Bad - best drama ever

    The Walking dead

    Falling skies

    The Wire

    Sons of Anarchy

    Firefly ( if we're counting sci fi )

    BattleStar Galactica remake ( more than just sci fi)


    Being Human

    The lottery ( good , cheap , but just a miniseries )

    Day of the triffids (1981)

    Survivors (1978)

    so what am i missing in the uk?

    preferably something thats not a police / detective theme

    1. Green Nigel


      It wasn't just me who remembered the first showing of "Survivors"!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Most american 'drama' is histrionic claptrap, drawn out and watered down over 100 episodes of dross until it fizzles out."

    +1 to this. US drama has followed a format since the 60's of: think of an idea. Write 6-7 episodes about that idea. Now write 25 more. Repeat 4 times to get the syndication rights off the ground.

    We can get away with just the 6-7 decent episodes and drop the padding because UK TV works differently, with regional stations being relatively unimportant.

    The US system pushes many good series out of business by forcing those 25 pointless episodes down viewers' throats until they give up and the show gets cancelled.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unimportant regional stations

      _That's_ when ITV made quality stuff: when it was made by the regional stations. Central, Granada, Yorkshire, Tyne Tees, Thames (the token ITV station from South of Brum. I don't recall any of the others making anything of note). A real blast from the past watching the Callan DVDs, each episode preceded by the Thames logo/theme tune. I daresay those days are gone forever, but in my more wistful moments would like to see the clock turned back. As I expect Edward Woodward would.

      1. BoldMan

        Re: Unimportant regional stations

        Don't forget HTV who made the wonderful Robin of Sherwood... and of course Anglia TV... "The Quiz of the Week" maker...

  31. Yet Another Commentard

    Isn't the problem that Auntie Beeb is for some bizarre reason chasing ratings? As a result we end up with derivative "safe" stuff, as we have had for years.

    To deal with worldwide - sell an overseas licence, make it cheap-ish. No number, no iPlayer. UK licences give the full Monty (and something like 20 devices per licence), overseas limited to what the beeb can show there.

    Next, start on a series of one-off TV plays. A bit like the Radio 4 equivalent. Each one should NOT have a recognised writer or have "stars" in it. Run one each week, on BBC2 or BBC4. You will have lots, and I mean lots, of dross, but what's needed is an Abigail's Party amongst it all to make the difference. If one is well written, well acted, and has potential, then syndicate it. Or get the team back to dream up an equally clever series.

    We have not moved on since the 1990's when it would be "oh, just put David Jason in it". The BBC is in a unique position to make programming that is "edgy" but it is far too conservative, and desperate to hit the lowest common denominator. Sadly it seems to be Channel 4 that does more of that. That is what the BBC should be about, relatively risk free ambitious TV that cannot be done commercially. Endlessly copying some x-factor crap is useless (yes, I know, not contemporary drama). Trying to remake Morse 100 different ways is stupid.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Isn't the problem that Auntie Beeb is for some bizarre reason chasing ratings?"

      If the Beeb chase ratings it's criticized for duplicating what the "commercial" channels do; if it doesn't it's criticized for being out of touch.

      The real problem is that those in charge of the Beeb have little choice but to respond to this nonsense since it often comes from the government, or its backbenchers.

    2. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Next, start on a series of one-off TV plays

      You mean like "Play For Today" from the 70s & 80s? It worked then but I'm not sure if it would work now. Back when there were only three or four channels and no internet for Joe Average, he might often stick with something like that when it appeared on his screen. Nowadays I suspect too many would just flick it over to something less demanding. Pukeahontas vs Man Getting it By Football exemplified the mindset of so many people.

      1. Yet Another Commentard

        Re: Next, start on a series of one-off TV plays

        @capt Hogwash

        Exactly - that's sort of what I had in mind ("Play for Today"),

        You are, of course, correct in your analysis of how it would be received too.

        To coin a phrase from a film of the late eighties "I weep for the future."

  32. Killraven

    I d'nae think so!

    As America produced any drama even close to as good as Spooks?

    Not likely.

    1. OrsonX



  33. Chris Miller
    Thumb Up

    Twenty twelve

    Though I can't decide if it's comedy or documentary.

  34. Cliff

    Red Riding

    Surprised nobody's mentioned that either. Red Riding is on 4OD and well worth it - 3 x 90'

    Excellent drama is not cheap and is a huge gamble. The Shadow Line could have been terrible, but was absolutely stunning instead. Part of what makes shows like it work is that they're closed-ended, not looking for 100+ episodes for syndication. There is no 'Shadow Line Season 2 - Wratten's Revenge', so ideas aren't spread thinner each and every series. US dramas often start well, then repeat and repeat with different veneers.

    Dexter started off feeling fresh, now it is episodic. The Mentalist was fun, now it is just fading. Breaking Bad is now just Bad. House is still going, that shark was jumped a long time ago. These ones were good enough to even be seen here, most US drama is commissioned and cancelled before we even get a sniff. Budgets are huge because they're planned to amortise across scores of shows. The dream is to get people excited/hooked then keep peddling until you're cancelled, so Lost starts with intrigue but does so by starting storylines it never intends to satisfy.

    The Shadow Line will never get a chance to let itself down and spoil the greatness of what it was.

    1. King Jack


      House has ended.

  35. LinkOfHyrule

    BBC, remake Breaking Bad - replace crystal-meth with processed catnip products, get the bloke from Finger Mouse to make some finger puppets of Jesse and Walter to play the main characters, cast Dale Winton as a Mexican drug lord, swap the New Mexico desert for the post-apocalyptic Kent village that is Dungeness and get Rolf Harris to rerecord the theme tune using a musical instrument made of out a tampon and a piece of tracing paper - and I GUARANTEE you'll be on to a winner!

    I want my consultants fee now, bitch!

  36. MonkeyBot

    Bit of an unfair comparison

    The article seems to be comparing the output of the BBC to the output of the entire US TV industry.

    It shouldn't be surprising that the total number of "good" programs coming out of the US is more than the UK when they've got far more shows to begin with. They also have a hell of a lot crap as well, but we don't normally import that.

  37. Rubbernuke

    So what about these?

    Rubbish: how about-


    Blakes 7

    TorchWood (some!)

    Doctor Who

    Quatermass and the Pit


    Red Dwarf

    Life on Mars

    Fall of Eagles

    Ashes to Ashes




    Shadow Line




    Being Human

    The Fades

    (not drama but) Monkey Dust

    Smileys People

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

    House of Cards

    Edge of Darkness

    Survivors (1978)


    Sapphire and Steel

    The Singing Detective


    Inspector Morse

    Prime Suspect

    Cold Lazarus / Karaoke

    ....need I go on? Next time do some research, you are talking crap.

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: So what about these?

      Sadly most of these are from bygone eras. We don't make stuff like Edge of Darkness anymore (and it was brilliant) or Threads, or, or...

      Which I think was part of the point of the article.

      1. Rubbernuke

        Re: So what about these?

        I hoped to pick a few dramas from each decade that stood out for me. Quite a few of these were/are modern- in fact the most modern good stuff has been detective or crime dramas in the UK. All we need is a good sci-fi show to balance the weirdness of Dr Who.

        And was Threads (although brown trouser amazing)a film? Actually, thinking about it there was a good post WW3 US drama called Testament- imagine if an SS18 landed in the Wonder Years and that's what it was like, ideal Sunday lunch material.

      2. jason 7

        Re: So what about these?

        Exactly, not many on that list made in the past 5 years let alone 10.

        The quality has nosedived. Those that are mentioned are so processed and reconstituted to appeal to the US market its not funny.

        And Dr total bumgravy. Emperors new clothes or what? You had Tennant running around shouting "Oh the human race is sooo marrrvellous!" and gurning like Les Dawson then you have Matt Smith doing his best Three Stooges impression, the joke being..there is only one of them. (I nicked that line from a well known comedy from an age when the BBC had good comedy).

        Current BBC drama motto - Look depressed and shout so loud some spit comes out and folks will think it's quality.

        1. Rubbernuke

          Re: So what about these?

          These are from the last 5 - 10 years:


          Shadow Line




          Being Human

          The Fades

          (not drama but) Monkey Dust

          Prime Suspect


          Life on Mars

          Ashes to Ashes


          Quatermass and the Pit (remade for BBC 4 starring D.Tennant)


          Lots of good stuff, I don't know what you are moaning about.

    2. amanfromarse

      Re: So what about these?

      No, he's spot on. You've got appalling taste.

      I can't believe how many people are citing Being Human. It's awful and actually makes AW's case.

      And if you're going back decades you can do the same with American TV.

      I don't get this defensive British vs USA attitude. It's just good drama or it isn't.

      1. Rubbernuke

        Re: So what about these?

        I'm not disputing that the US has some great TV- it does and I watch a lot of it. What I found silly was the article stating that UK TV drama was poor when its not. Its as rich and diverse as its ever been, its just not tailored to be sold in bulk because its written in a more concise manner.

        And I liked Being Human. Some episodes were off but it delivered when it mattered.

      2. Green Nigel
        IT Angle

        Re: So what about these?

        Being Human did have a simple local charm & humor to its first series, sadly the ideas ran out and it resorted to looking up its own arse and cliches in subsequent series to such an extent that the main actors left. Torch-wood, has in some episodes, replicated this pattern.

        Art is often best in what ever media, in the expressing, wanting to share personal ideas, interpretations & feelings. Knowing when to stop is almost as important as the technique in execution, go too far & you kill it.

        Unfortunately ( for us) when they have a winner, the relatively small production companies used, not totally unreasonably want to maximize profits in order to survive until the next hit.

    3. OrsonX

      Re: So what about these?

      Dr. Who?

      do people actually like this utter garbage?

  38. Jim 59


    I am no drama expert, but I agree BBC drama is poor. The writing is one reason. Actors being presented as celebs is another. Worst of all is the implacable political correctness. Almost every scene is set up to give you a "message", which, apart from being irritating, ruins the scene and makes it entirely predictable. How can any drama survive that ?

    For example, one such message is that "women are strong and independent". Nothing too much wrong with that. But the drama is so keen on forcing this message on the viewer that it is written into every available scene. So you have the 7 stone female bank teller who beats up the 16 stone armed robber. Silliness. Yet we see this same scene many times every night, or one like it.

    The same message explains why every female character in British drama is the same. In fact there is just one character to go round - it is the same woman. She is bad tempered, overbearing, does no suffer fools and constantly makes the men around her look weak. She turns up in dramas, plays, books, and some films. A girl version of the same character features in many children's books.

    Artists must be wriggling under this cosh, but are not free to speak.

  39. Adair Silver badge

    What do I think?

    I think that getting rid of my TV four years ago was, and remains, one of my more intelligent choices. No regrets.

  40. Tim Parker


    Having read as much of the article as I could stand, and nearly all the comments, i'm wondering whether the following would be a fair summary ?

    AO : Recent BBC drama, I don't like it. QED it cannot possibly be good, given I don't like it, so in fact it's crap. The US dramas, they're great. That's it - proof if proof be need be.

    Others : We don't think they're all rubbish, we quite liked these.. Personal taste etc etc

  41. Tubs

    There are a few comments here that US TV is drawn out beyond belief, and I have to concur on most counts; the US have been producing hour-long shows with no content except for the cliffhanger at the end since the sixties.

    One of the oddities (for me at least) at the moment is Prime Suspect USA; this suffers from the opposite problem. They've taken a two-hour show and diluted it so there is no fleshing-out of characters. The storyline finishes just as it should be getting going!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I've been using the small amount of time I spend looking at the goggle box to watch The Hollow Crown. Now that is drama.

  43. Aldous
    Thumb Down

    The Wire was not successful on TV

    its ratings were meh in the states and in the uk it was broadcast after 11pm (iirc 23:45) on BBC2 so sod all people saw it on TV. it was successful on DVD/download by word of mouth and standing on quality which has earned it (quite rightly) a spot as one of the best TV drama's ever.

    However this is no good. ITV want ratings and people like celebrities yeah so like we do celeb police unit and they can arrest another celeb yeah? brilliant ! TRASHBAT!

    The BBC however don't have sponsors and so can take a risk instead of having to pander to the lowest common denominator right? nope. instead of slow burning but gripping shows we have flashy gimmmiky ones. they import danish drama's that do well despite the handicap of foreign language ( far to many people won't watch anything subbed) but can't click that there is a market for this sort of thing. instead we get more trying to be American (and i don't mean good American) drivel.(by this i mean pandering to the american "laugth track" or "awkward" brigade)

    don't even start on its current crop i.e doctor who pandering to lowest common denominator and children's toy manufacturers. But hey at least we can watch people singing to celebutards on BBC instead of People singing to celebutards on ITV and if we are really good and pay our license fee's we can also see celebutards dancing instead of ice skating wooooohooooo!

  44. MJI Silver badge

    BBC now get shot down for trying

    eg Outcasts - was quite good, I would have watched S2

    new Survivors - was OK, original was good AFAIR

    It appears to be unless the ratings are good the programme gets pulled. Just remember the first series of Only Fools & Horses was a bit of a flop.

    As to David Jason in everything - to me he will always be 75% Del Boy 25% Granville.

    As to newer programmes - I do like Moffatts work Sherlock is good, but not enough, I liked Jeckyl, DW is variable but "Blink" is a classic.

    I was amazed ITV did Downton Abbey - not lowbrow enough for them I thought, no shouty presenters, I generally dislike ITV programmes in recently years.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Town Hall becomes City Hall

    Why did that bring The League of Gentlemen to mind...

  46. Brian T

    oh noes!

    Blackadder wasn't a docu-drama?!?

  47. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Thinking outside the box (pun intended)

    maybe there's an argument we need a hybrid public/private TV model.

    Public (BBC) can take risks and trial stuff that is new, experimental, niche

    *if* it's successful, then private (Sky/ITV) can take it over to develop it into a series/franchise.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proportionally speaking, British drama is just as bad as its American counterpart. 90% is utter garbage regardless of which side of the Atlantic it's produced on. The real issue is that what little drama we have on TV is eclipsed by drooling, vegetative reality shows.

    1. Green Nigel

      All the Worlds a stage

      Art imitates reality? but reality is cheaper and thats how the TV executives like it!

  49. Nick Pettefar

    Wallander and Luther

    Marvellous stuff.

    A lot of tripe is also on though, shallow tripe suitable for brainess watchers/watching. I guess most TV execs are similarly brainless shallow tripes too.

  50. The Mighty Spang

    oh so you don't watch BBC4 then?

    Their films were great. and the bbc cut their funding for original drama. oh well.

  51. lurker


    This article does not use the word 'freetard' even once!

    Where is Andrew Orlowski, and what have you done with him?

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey, don't complain too much, they'll start buying in the Austrian canine hero Kommisar Rex,

    or his Russian woofy competitor Mukhtar ;) Note the rather splendid hat:-

    Have to say I hadn't noticed he had such a cute lady-minder.

    Actually it looks pretty highbrow compared to most of the local stuff in these Eastern-EU parts, like Keeping Up Appearances, which they seems to think is a documentary of some kind...

    Actually I think the wildly popular Benny Hill reruns have more credibility, and are more culturally authentic than that, although Ihey could probably do with a good dose of 'Allo 'Allo ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I want to relive my youth, bring back Benny Hill, and The Two Lenny's (I think that was the 2nd one I used to watch)

  53. Homer 1

    Americans make "dramas"?

    I thought they were all just very lame sitcoms. Or maybe I've simply become jaded by my experience of watching the first three series (or "seasons" as the Yanks call them) of Friends, before somebody pointed out, much to my embarrassment, that it was supposed to be a comedy.

    Although when I say "all" I really just mean the "one and only", since apparently they've been regurgitating the same-old hackneyed crap since the 70s, albeit with much better title music back then.

    Meanwhile, the worst thing about British drama is there's not nearly enough of it, but what there is (or I should say "was") ranges from OK to pretty damned good. Frankly I'd rather watch an entire day of British repeats (or "reruns" in Americanese) than even one hour of what passes for television in the US, especially as most of that hour is likely to be "commercials", i.e. adverts. But then one doesn't need to be "in the US" to be carpet-bombed with American junk TV these days, thanks to our American-infatuated marketeers broadcasters outsourcing their Content® manufacturing to American Content® factories. That includes the supposedly non-commercially oriented and publicly funded BBC, for some unfathomable reason. Maybe it has something to do with the Beeb being co-opted by a certain disreputable American corporation. Who knows?

    I'm afraid the Yanks lack the dry wit, insight and intelligence required to generate much interest (from me, at least). They seemingly lack any comprehension of sarcasm, and they have the extremely annoying habit of explaining everything a little too verbosely (no doubt for the benefit of the archetypal, brain-dead American viewer, who would be utterly lost otherwise). They have the even more annoying habit of insisting on happy endings, a.k.a. the Hollywood Reality Distortion Field, not to mention their puerile "anything is possible" bullshit (to which I usually mutter the "with a big enough gun" caveat).

    But by far the most annoying aspect of American Content® is that every major planetary event, from alien invasion to Armageddon, always seems to begin and end in America, because - you know - this is Planet America, after all, and who else are Aliens supposed to make First Contact with, if not the President of Planet Earth? Other countries? Pfft. There's only America and the wilderness east of "Liberty" Island, the latter of which is populated entirely by God-damned unamerican tree-hugging hippie commie terrorists with bad teeth. who spend all day morris dancing, drinking warm beer and burning the American flag, so obviously no self-respecting alien is going to want to consort with those sorts.

    Bah! American TV "dramas". I gave up after Starsky and Hutch, and even then the best acting was performed by the car.

  54. Len Goddard


    Seems to me that this thread shows the essential futility of the original article. There is virtually no concensus on what is good or bad. Also, just because YOU don't like a show doesn't make it crap and just because I like it doesn't make it great.

    You can attempt to analyse shows on the basis of some arbitrary checklist of qualities but once again you descend into a morass of argument over what should be judged good and bad. Fine for a university course on contemporary media but essentially useless otherwise.

    In the end, a show is good if enough people watch it to pay for its production and encourage the makers to produce more of the same or similar. Unfortunately that makes a lot of stuff "good" which I personally loathe so I don't watch much TV nowadays.

    Me, I liked (in no particular order) Luther, The Wire, Lewis, Hustle, West Wing, Fringe, Spirals, Wallander, The Borgias, Rome, Firefly and many others. Equally, I'd rather watch reruns of Porridge or Yes, Minister or Mash than most recent comedies.

    You are always likely to have more good US shows than British simply because they make so many more. They also frequently can excellent shows for silly reasons or as a result of poor ratings due to schedule mishandling (yes, Fox, I'm talking about you).

    Now I'm off to watch the recent Shakespeare Hollow Crown cycle. That's not something likely to emerge from the US.

  55. Jock in a Frock

    It's not the darama that's the problem...

    ... it's all the other guff - Reality TV, Big Brother, Grand Restoration Location Makeover, The Boy With an Arse for a Face, Constipation Street, EastMoaners... I could go on.

    There's a dearth of good drama, good writing, and BBC & ITV are scared of taking risks. The Shadow Line was good, more for the performances than the story. With Blackout, there was absolutely no coherent story for Eccleston & Bremner to work with. All style & no substance.

    Give Shane Meadows & Paddy Considine more budget to work with - they will provide all the drama you want. And it doesn't all have to be gritty northern bleakness, these guys are magnets for brilliant actors, and they produce dialogue that Jimmy McGovern would be proud of. They would make a shopping list gripping drama.

    Stephen Graham in This Is England was a stand-out performance, I'm not surprised that martin Scorsese cast him as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire.

    Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty in The Wire) was also gripping in Appropriate Adult, one of the scariest dramas I've seen in recent years.

    American drama does tend toward being difficult to follow. As others have mentioned, characters talk over each other, and it requires real concentration to follow (e.g. The Wire, The West Wing, Southland), but that also merits repeat viewing (justifying the cost of a DVD box set). I'm currently on my 3rd run through The West Wing.

    OTOH British drama seems more geared towards the dialogue being spoon-fed to us. This often strikes me as a little patronising, as real-life doesn't scan like that.

    Just my £0.02

  56. AdamWill


    "Blackout has another problem common to our contemporary home-grown drama: the plot is implausible on so many levels. The baddie in the show is an evil corporation that bumps off its enemies."

    Is there meant to be a link between those two sentences? Cos I'm not seeing one...

  57. h3

    America still has the same problems we have in that the series that end up not being axed straight away are usually junk.

    I don't watch much TV but I enjoyed "Dirk Gently" (Was axed after 4 episodes).

    Whereas - Firefly / Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles / Caprica / Terra Nova / Camalot / Farscape / Legend of The Seeeker.

    (This year I have watched - Game of Thrones / Hell on Wheels / Walking Dead / (Watching Breaking Bad and True Blood).

    I think the BBC does a better job of not leaving the story at a cliffhanger.

    (And I don't really like the amount of time wasted on soft porn by every HBO show).

    The BBC recently also seems to have started keeping programs going on for too long (Which is something the Americans do all the time - see e.g The Office which said about everything it needed to within a small amount of episodes here - Then they take it to America and do 25 episodes a year indefinately).

    Sherlock Holmes is not that bad but it is not as if we are short of interpretations of it.

    If you remove all the HBO programs then American Drama has a really low signal to noise ratio.


    1. Anonymous Coward

      Farscape was Australian

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love this thread soooo much. lovely laundry of what to torrent off the neighbors wifi here in the colonies!

  59. Sooty


    The problem is one of perspective and relative size. if you are in America, the only things from the uk that make it over are the best of the best, so all you ever see of British shows are the really great ones. You probably think British telly is much better. Nevermind the muddy waters of trying to remake anything successful and killing it in the process. Similarly with American shows over here, there are vast amounts of dross produced, but we only ever see the good stuff. Given the relative sizes and output of the two countries, it makes it appear that there is a lot more good stuff produced in America, despite the proportions of varying quality being about the same and similar quality stuff being exported.

    Lowest common denominator tv is pretty much the bulk of the output on both sides, we just don't see much of it from each other. Admittedly though, some of the sky/cable channels here seem to be proud of showing nothing but America's really crap output.

    Also, I'm amazed no one has mentioned Waking the Dead yet!

  60. Petrea Mitchell
    Thumb Up

    Making it work

    Andrew says:

    " [...] I quickly discovered how much people love the peculiarities that anchor something in a local context, and give it a specific flavour. Blackout is made-for-export, but has all the British quirks written out."

    Indeed, just look at how well Downton Abbey was treated by the Emmys this year.

    I'm an anime fan, which means I like watching animated Japanese shows which are frequently produced on a shoestring budget and with no consideration for an export market at all. And yet online distribution is starting to work: most of the anime that airs in Japan is now available within a week, subitled in English, on legal streaming sites where you have the option of either watching for free with ads or with a paid membership and no ads. (And not just in North America-- the most prolific site, Crunchyroll, frequently gets rights to "air" shows to most of the English-speaking world plus some, and there are services only available to other regions.) I look at this and it drives me nuts that the BBC apparently sends new episodes of Top Gear to the US via carrier pigeon, from how long it takes them to air over here.

    The only downside is that now that so much of it is accessible, one does get reminded on a regular basis that Sturgeon's Law holds true for everything. But it's worth it to find the good stuff.

  61. Beelzeebub


    ...I think it's alll shite

  62. Anonymous Coward

    2 pence - and what of comedy?

    As many have rightly pointed out, there has been some fantastic british drama over the last few years.

    One more to add to the list, was the very short series, 'Black Mirror', which really pushed PC boundaries.

    However, when it comes to comedy, it seems it's not only Britain that suffers, but the USA too.

    We've had a two reasonable contemporary comedies lately - The IT Crowd from the UK and Big Bang Theory from the US.

    Looking further than that, I'm hard pressed to recall anything in the last decade which is truly funny.

    All we seem to get now are Quiz shows with comedians, which bolster their stand-up routines and careers.

    Nothing wrong with that - some are genuinely funny.

    However, we seem to have lost the creative spark that bought out gems such as "The Young Ones" - insanely British, low budget, politically incorrect - that show just how funny we are as a nation.

    Perhaps that's half the problem, the majority of us practice comedy all day long at the office and perhaps it's hard for comedies to compete with general, exceptionally politically correct comedy which happens every day in offices up and down the country.

    If anything, Political Correctness has killed British TV comedy - it seems we are too afraid to create the comedy which makes us such a funny nation - the ability to poke fun at ourselves and our taboos - for fear of upsetting 0.001% of the population. Yet we practice that same comedy every day, so there's just a TON of material ripe for the picking.

    It's time to get a grip on the PC nimbys - take the overall viewings and ratings and compare it with the complaints. If it's over 50% complaints, can the series. Why the hell should 99.998% of the population have to pander to 0.001% ?

    1. Rune Moberg
      Thumb Up

      Re: 2 pence - and what of comedy?

      I am only a simple foreigner, but I quite enjoyed "The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff" which seems to have been cancelled after only one season.

      As for the yanks, "The Big Bang Theory" (as you already mentioned) is a favorite of mine, but I'd rate "Modern Family" higher.

    2. Mark #255
      Thumb Up

      Re: 2 pence - and what of comedy?


      The Thick of It and Twenty Twelve are both utter genius.

      Episodes is very engaging, particularly the leads. (And Matt Le Blanc playing "Matt Le Blanc" is very funny.)

      Him and Her was very amusing if you can re-engage your inner-sniggering-teenage-boy/regularly read

      Of course, for everything I like on the TV, there's several things I can't stand, but that's what the off switch* is for.

      * Feel free to replace with "the Internets" or "the DVD collection" if you prefer.

  63. Doug Glass

    How to appreciate British TV in one easy lesson

    Watch American TV. And yeah, I'm one of 'em.

  64. ScottishYorkshireMan

    It's not crap and you better be right with the US drama you watch.

    Why the hell does the mention of the word Google, immediately draw the comments off the subject? If ever there was a company without direction, there you are.

    Line of Duty has been excellent. Whether its made for the home audience or not, its been refreshing. However, likewise the US drama's are good, You have to choose carefully though, because if those US drama's dont get the 50B viewers for every episode, you probably won't see the story out to the end. Anyone remember Fast Forward, that I thought was excellent, but no, canned. Body of Proof, thoroughly enjoyable, but it took considerable facebook pressure to keep it on for a 3rd season and that season is coming with major cast changes. Falling Skies, great idea, concept and season 2 was seriously struggling for story until the little chippie in the biplane turned up. I wonder if having Mr Spielberg on the design team will be enough to see a season 3.

    Even CSI Miami dies this year and that could have just run forever.

    Look at Silk, excellent, personally can't stand lawyers and you want to believe that Martha's type do exist but again short series because money is obviously tight and there are BBC exec expenses to pay. The jewel in the crown was always Spooks, the original team but even the transition to new members was well handled. Even that had to be closed down.

    Doctor Who, has become, well something that could well have been directed by Google, directionless.

    Here's hoping that those 24 channels that the BBC has opened for the Olympics don't cause the drama budget to be cropped even further.

  65. Zot

    I know what happened with Blackout.

    It was first 'green-lit' and made, THEN a BBC head (Art or something) decided he/she did not actually like it!

    So it sat for six months, eventually being cut down from 4 episodes to 3. And it shows. The production was external to the BBC, and what I've heard was, apart from the Director, produced by a complete bunch of idiots who desperately need to grow up and start being f**king professionals. They really didn't know what they were doing, and probably spent half their time on TwitBook, not caring about what they were doing at all.

    It was crap because it was produced by childish block-heads. That's why.

    *Rant over*

    : )

  66. Richard Scratcher

    A Very British Coup

    Now that was a classic piece of British drama (1982) adapted from a great book. It's a pity we don't get dramas like that these da.......awww shit! Channel Four is doing a remake. Let's hope they don't bugger it up.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: A Very British Coup

      Isn't "bugger it up" redundant as soon as you say "remake"?

      I mean, ok, BSG has gotten rave reviews as a remake, but isn't it the exception that proves the rule?

  67. Tim Almond

    License Fee

    I'm not sure it matters so much to technology, but I think it does matter with regards to how people see the license fee.

    We've been told for decades about all the great things done at the BBC because of how it's uniquely financed, but I honestly can't put their drama or comedy over the things coming out of the US. I'd probably put C4's output above the BBC's now (Being Human was very good, but I'm struggling to think of much else that I set the PVR for). The best two recent comedies (The I.T. Crowd and The Inbetweeners) were both on C4.

  68. Richard Lloyd

    US dramas are better simply because they make more of them

    US TV companies make shed-loads of dramas (and comedies in particular) - they even cram in "mid-season replacements" where they can too. And, yes, things seem to be go in 2 extreme directions - either they get yanked off after a handful of episodes (a massive waste - the unaired episodes may appear months later on the Web or DVD, but sometimes don't appear at all!) or they run far too long (The Simpsons is now so poor - it died after about the 8th of its trillion seasons - and has no reason being on air when the same team are still producing the much funnier Futurama).

    It was a bit bizarre that "once was the most popular TV show in the world" CSI Miami got killed off after its 10th season (when CSI:NY is kept on despite having lower viewing figures), though you wonder if it was a contract renegotiation year and no-one could agree. Mind you, the original CSI needs desperately to be killed too now the two main leads (Petersen and Helgenberger) have finally left (Petersen years ago and Helgenberger just recently).

    As people have said, the more "stuff" you produce, the more likely that something good will emerge, providing you do have an outlet for it (i.e. premium cable channels). Anything edgy in the US (particularly nudity which is pretty well banned on US network channels) is shown on premium cable and we've seen stuff in recent years like Game Of Thrones, Dexter, True Blood (sorry, it's much better than Being Human), The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy really leading the way with drama, IMHO. I'm sure for every good UK drama, I could name 5 US dramas equally as good or - often - better.

    What we really need is a good "adult" sci-fi drama (the BBC still considers Dr. Who a kids programme, so it doesn't air after the watershed or have any equivalent adult themes). ITV do the dismal Primeval (also not after the watershed) and we have Being Human which I really didn't like, especially since True Blood was waaay better.

    I want something like the BSG remake, but the last time we saw sci-fi like that on BBC TV was Blake's 7 (dodgy sets and special effects, but the characters and storylines were often every good) or even Star Cops.

    BTW, a recent comment mentioned the 24 Olympics channels - they are paid for by Sky :-) Even the host broadcaster isn't the BBC - it's a Spanish company! That's what you get with the overdone BBC cuts we've had since the licence fee was frozen (shouldn't that mean inflation-sized cuts per year and not the massacre we've seen?).

    1. Homer 1

      More = Better?

      By that logic, cockroaches must be better than humans, because there's more of them.

      Although it's tempting to believe that statement might actually be true on the other side of the pond, especially in the Content® manufacturing industry.

      It may sound reasonable to assume that given enough Content®, something worthwhile will ultimately float to the top of the cesspit, but for some reason the "Infinite Monkeys" theorem doesn't seem to work in America. Maybe the cockroaches would have better luck. Who knows?

      The last American production I remember enjoying was "Cheers", which is nether drama nor contemporary, and strangely doesn't seem that funny any more, in this America vs The Rest of the World era.

      1. ForthIsNotDead

        Re: More = Better?

        America has had its moments, though not so much recently.

        Anyone here old enough to remember Hill Street Blues? Just top notch TV drama, and (at the time) completely new.

  69. Daniel Gerson

    Good article in general... & Re:crap American television

    I think one of the things you could have focused on, is that Americans produce such top rate shows BECAUSE they produce so much crap!

    I.e Scale is important, The more shows in production, the greater supply of production, the lower the production costs.... This in turn makes it cheaper to experiment, which ultimately produces the good shows, even if entirely at random (South Park creators didn't predict THAT particular experiment was the one that would succeed, same as angry birds). So, put another way, the UK doesn't produce sufficient crap, probably because of the CROWDING OUT of the BBC, but that's just speculation.

    P.S. As good as the article is, it's not clear how bad shows clearly link to consequences for the Tech sector.

    Libertarian leaning South African.

  70. davenewman

    We make better comedy equivalents of dramas

    MI High was an improvement on Spooks. While transformed for children's TV, they also added comedy.

    New Tricks was better than Waking the Dead. Comedy cold cases with actors of former TV detectives playing retired policemen beats the forced, US-style, agonizing on Waking the Dead.

    Let's celebrate and export quirky British comedy, and forget about the drama.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Re: We make better comedy equivalents of dramas

      I can't believe I upvoted this! New Tricks is like nails on a blackboard, to me, but I like how you contrast it with Waking The Dead.

  71. David Gale

    There are people who still watch TV?

    There are people who still watch TV? Oh, OK. Well enjoy your debate...

    Foreign policy dictated news coverage, aspirational lifestyle dramas to keep the good little consumers focused on what we're supposed to want, sports that are more dictated by money than talent, all screened by broadcasters with a political axe to grind.

    TV...? No, thanks.

  72. elderlybloke
    Thumb Up

    I was mystified

    when I read this article.

    In my opinion (and of my beloved Wife) it is American TV programs of any sort that are Crap.

    Most English/British TV is very good.

    Even down here in New Zealand the English TV is preferred to American.

  73. Tom 13

    Now you have me feeling sorry for you lot again.

    I mean, if you think our crap is good compared to your shows, it really must suck to be you.

    I'd say part of the BBCs problem with worldwide is that the bulk of profits are probably in DVD/Blueray, and being a bloated government type agency if spirit if not point of law, they don't seem to respond well to foreign sensibilities (sort of like US car manufacturers). I know it would put a fair dent in my pocket if they'd release the old (Baker et al) Doctor Who episodes in comparably priced season sets, but there's no way I'm coughing up $25 +tax for the episode set of one adventure and purchase the whole run.

  74. ForthIsNotDead


    American TV:

    Endless CSI type programmes

    Endless 'law' type programmes

    Endless vampire type programmes

    British TV

    Endless auction programmes

    Endless "do up your house programmes"

    Line of Duty: Breath of fresh air.

    The state of British TV drama is reflected in my DVD collection:

    * Edge of darkness

    * Tinker Sailor Soldier Spy

    * Smileys People

    * A Very British Coup

    * The House of Cards

    * The Sweeney

    * Aufhedersien Pet (sp?)

    * Soldier Soldier


    In other words, it all started tailing off > 1988. Could be an age thing though. My kids think "24" is awesome. I think its terrible. They think Lost is awesome. I thought it was a black comedy. Absolutely hilarious. They say I'm an old square. I say they haven't been treated to a good drama. They thought Smileys People was stodgy old shite.

    Meh. I'll stick with what I know, thanks. Enjoying Line of Duty though. And I admit, I do enjoy Ashes to Ashes et all. BT Vision has a "box sets" option in the online menu. You select it and there's probably 50 or 60 full box sets to enjoy. All for free. Bloody excellent.

  75. Lamont Cranston
    Thumb Down

    No, no, no!

    "stretching the audience, knowing that they have DVD and TiVO to allow you to replay the important bits "

    This is what books are for. Alan Moore described one of the advantages of books over films as the fact that you can skip back to a previous page and reread it knowing what happens later, allowing you to grasp the import of certain scenes. This is a good thing, but it's certainly not what I want from my TV. TV (like film) should be passive - if I have to skip back on various scenes to make sense of the diaglogue, or follow the plot, that means it hasn't be written properly. Good TV should be easy to follow, and still make sense if you miss an episode - if you can't manage that, write it as a film instead, to be watched in one go.

    I gave up on The Wire after the first two episodes, as it was tedious, plodding shite. TV is supposed to entertain, not be a chore. Yeah, I've dissed The Wire, so I'm clearly a massive thicko - downvote me till I burn.

    I do agree that most British telly is toss, though.

  76. lambda_beta

    all TV is CRAP

    I would like to chain the author to a chair and watch American TV for a week. Only then would you see the true meaning of CRAP. But to be fair, all TV is CRAP and some is worse than others.

  77. Jon Green
    Thumb Down

    Were we watching on different planets?

    Tell you what, Andy, you just go ahead and enjoy one-hour drama that's teaser-ADVERTS-act1-ADVERTS-act2-ADVERTS-act3-ADVERTS-act4-ADVERTS-epilog(ue). Oh, and some more ADVERTS before the next hour's teaser. For a total of about 42 minutes' actual drama in each hour.

    I've written to that format. It's a bitch. You've got to contrive some kind of plot twist every few minutes to time with the ad breaks, because you need to make sure the viewers stay and watch the ads - that's where your pay comes from - and come back for the next act, because that keeps the sweeps+ratings alive, and that's where your next season's (or part season's) paychecks/-ques are coming from. Never mind about the story, never mind about the talent, never mind about the setting, the arc or the production values, just so long as the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR keeps turning up.

    You criticise UK drama compared to the US product, but that's because you've come to expect material written to US constraints. British drama doesn't play well in the States, unless it's been written with export in mind, because its pacing doesn't fit well with commercial station broadcast structure, so it ends up on PBS or similar. That's changing. I notice that productions like Sherlock are now written to be broken to US structure; British TV writers are learning.

    Yes, the top tier of US TV drama has really improved beyond all expectation in the past 15 years, maybe 20, led by some screenwriters who really cared about quality writing, and some producers and studios who recognised - at LAST! - that if you produce good product, you get ratings and income. But the vast majority of the rest is still ghastly stuff, utter tripe that plays to loyal niches with low expectations that are duly met (near enough). Setting the top-flight programmes of both countries to one side, the general run of British TV is and always has been massively superior to the US (Jeremy Bloody Kyle notwithstanding).

  78. F0rdPrefect

    "Which is not to say Line of Duty is in the American league. The supporting characters are cyphers. They have little or no psychological complexity or lives of their own. A good test of a drama is how quickly you can imagine the characters having their own spin-off series. By the end of the second series of The Sopranos, each of Tony’s crew was so richly drawn you could imagine a spin-off for each one without too much difficulty. Not here."

    Well as they have only had 3 episodes, not 2 long series, they wouldn't have, would they?

    There are plenty of good BBC progs that do get discussed in the offices I visit, Sherlock and Dr Who, to name but 2, but I have never heard anybody ever, anywhere discuss The Wire and haven't even heard of Braking Bad.

    Perhaps people in the media watch and discuss different programmes?

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