It’s not all doom and gloom

Posted on August 2, 2010

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Read Stephen Armstrong’s piece ‘Is Sky’s deal with HBO another nail in the coffin for free TV drama?‘ for Media Guardian today and you might experience that same crushing sensation around your chest cavity.

Just months after Director General Mark Thompson’s Putting Quality First was released into the pre-election world, Sky now appear to be grabbing the opportunities in front of them. The latest one trumpeted in the Guardian could – if you’re not careful – cast a sorry shadow over home-grown stuff and in particular BBC’s output.

After all, if Sky have the money – £33m of it – to invest in quality drama and comedy both imports and homegrown, where does that leave everyone else?

As it happens, the BBC has done pretty well already producing some cracking output over the past twelve months. My personal favourites include the BBC Four one-offs on Hughie Greene, Fanny Craddock, Peter Cook and Tony Hancock.

One totally home-grown effort about the wife of a lawyer in an abusive relationship who ends up murdering her husband but losing custody of her new born child (although obviously, its telling I cant remember the title).

Doctor Who has come ion leaps and bounds (yeah alright, maybe that’s just entertainment). Rev has been good. Mongrels is getting picked up quite well. Miranda has been recommissioned for a second series (good for her). And most recently, I notice untold numbers of people getting very excited about The BBC’s adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

But that’s no reason to dismiss Armstrong’s interview or the competition. The BBC needs competition. Everyone says so.

So, looking to the future, what else could the BBC do to make itself distinctive in terms of drama and comedy?

If budgets are squeezed then the BBC should make a virtue of that. I’ve mentioned before how I’d like to see a renaissance in the styles used for some 70s BBC productions of Shakespeare plays.

Take that further. Drama doesn’t have to be entirely done location. Stick it in a studio. Make it look like rep. Make the focus of the drama the dialogue. Save the money for the writers and the actors and that’s it. Make a point of making it look as bare as possible. There’s more on that on the daytime schedule blog post I wrote a few weeks ago.

Find a way of filming / broadcasting / relaying a play. We’re doing it with the BBC Proms already. BBC Four does a mix of live relay and deferred broadcast. Find new angles, mixing with the artists on stage to provide a unique angle on a drama. Then broadcast that live.

OK … So that’s only two ideas. One of which I’ve already explored in a previous blog post. But my point is, its not doom and gloom. We just need to be resourceful.

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Posted in: TV