Spiga

American TV is better: Or why British TV sucks...

There's nothing like Christmas television to remind us that all is not well in this country when it comes to our programming. Perhaps it's just one "Only Fools and Horses" Christmas special too many or another Dickens novel massacred by B-list British actors, either way the target audience for this crap is diminishing year by year. The image of a family stuffed with turkey huddled around the box watching a turkey of their very own no longer exists in mass.

Of course some of the major soaps do well every year (ratings-wise at least). Plot arcs climax (conveniently) during the festive season, believability and good taste are pushed to their absolute limits in the hopes of stealing viewers from other channels and we are left with a bitter taste in our mouths. Again we succumb, in spite of our better judgement, to over-hyped exploitative television.

The British aren't alone here, I've never experienced US Christmas TV but I'm sure it's more or less the same because the motivations are for all intents and purposes the same. Ratings.

I'm afriad ladies and gentlemen that the death of originality may finally be upon us and as much as I long to believe that the writers strike in America will make the major networks wake up and realise what they have lost, for the moment this seems far off. They have fallen back on repeats and reality television that essentially costs next to nothing to make. As long as the American public remain content to suck on Simon Cowell's American Idol teat then I'm not sure we'll see a return to TV as we know it. It won't be long until all the prewritten episodes of our favourite quality shows are all aired and all that is left to fill the empty air is exploitative crap.

I guess it sounds like I've contradicted myself, I've listed a lot of reasons why American TV is heading down the drain but up until now there has been some class A programming. On the major networks shows like Lost & Prison Break have captured the imaginations of British viewers. Invariably the bigger audiences in the States mean bigger budgets and in turn the ability to get away with bigger risks. At the end of the day there is just more TV to make and greater variability of content within the frame of television. Cable channels like HBO can actually turn a profit making what is essentially cult television (though I guess it’s difficult to call something like The Sopranos cult.)

What Britain has always done best is 1) Documentaries - the BBC's budget for which is diminishing significantly in 2008 (no doubt the focus will be on Strictly Come Planting, a show where celebrities pair up with professional landscapers to create the best garden) & 2) Comedies - the export market for which is resting almost entirely on Ricky Gervais' back along with repeats of Fawlty Towers. We are in trouble guys, the time has come to take a risk and stop relying on reality TV (Channel 4- your reputation for being a thinking person's channel disappeared with 'Wife Swap').

Who knows what the future holds. One thing is for sure, it's looked better...

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