Friday, May 3, 2013

TV, or not TV?

I like to kid myself that I only watch intelligent Television, documentaries, debates, the news, quality drama. The truth is that I’m just as likely to vegetate in front of trash as the next person, sometimes it’s just too much effort to hunt down the good stuff.

I’m unnaturally obsessed by the obese, absurdly interested in travellers and continually astonished that people will bare everything to the cameras and an audience of millions. Combining fat and gypsy in the same programme title has been like ringing Pavlov’s bell for me, they could only have topped it by adding embarrassing in there somewhere – it’s clearly true so why not?

The simple fact is that these programmes are running out of steam, they need to tap a new vein. After watching a reality-doc that purported to reveal how travellers fund their lifestyles which then did nothing of the sort, instead reverting to the ‘let’s show more garish gypsy weddings’ formula, I’m pretty much done with that format. Ditto Embarrassing Bodies, Sex Clinics, Secret Eaters and those others that prey on closet-exhibitionists or the seemingly stupid for our voyeuristic pleasure.
The terrestrials seem to have cottoned onto this fact and started investing in quality with the realisation that they can drive ‘appointment to view’ television by scripting proper ‘water-cooler moments’ in style. Who’d have thought it?

Broadchurch was a good example of this with the biggest shock being that it was on ITV, normally a graveyard for intelligent TV (despite the potential acronym). Good actors, a plausible premise and reasonably well-scripted it seemed to have many millions hooked until the end. That the reveal seemed so swift after an over-long build-up is probably nit-picking. It’s only worth mentioning since other countries (Homeland, The Killing) seem to do a much better job of stretching the storyline. As a ‘back in the ring’ statement though it was unequalled and will probably give ITV the encouragement to do much more.

Within a week (or possibly the same week, I can no longer recall) Broadchurch’s David Tennant was doing his best to reinforce his position as Britain’s most-bankable TV star by popping up on the other side in The Politician’s Husband. This was ‘serious TV’ writ large, when politics is the subject it’s rarely anything else. By episode two they’d even managed to persuade Dave that anal rape and erectile dysfunction were great storylines for his character, I would have liked to have been in that script meeting.

Over on More 4 politics from the other side of the pond has been the disturbing source of Boss starring Kelsey Grammar. There’s been no anal rape yet but mutilation and murder have been at the fore and there is usually one ‘soft-porn’ sequence in every episode. Boss demonstrates the stark difference between US & UK TV with overlapping storylines, great multiple character development and depth that demands you pay attention. UK TV is getting better but it has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with Mad Men, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and their ilk. They’re finally treating us like adults; soon they might even start to respect our intelligence as well.

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