Monday, 8 October 2007

TV Traitor

I like to think that I'm fairly patriotic and do my bit in waving the flag for British goods and services. There's no better chocolate than Cadbury's and no-one does News like the British media. But news is just one part of the media and sadly when it comes to TV quality in general, Britain has been in freefall lately, slipping down the international rankings further with each new unoriginal reality show and soap. Every successful show is instantly copied by its rival channels, perhaps with a few added extras to give the illusion of innovation. These look-a-likes then clog up the schedules for months, if not years, to come. Daytime staples Bargain Hunt; Cash in the Attic; Flog It; Car Booty - is there really any difference between them all? Then there are the likes of Move to the Country; A Place in the Sun; Location, Location, Location; To Buy or Not to Buy; Homes Under The Hammer - save me from this housing-related avalanche of drivel. The majority of British so-called-drama are soaps in disguise. Either that or murder mysteries and police procedurals. Is it not surprising that many TV viewers are now rejecting British programmes in favour of the American imports?

Sad to say, I'm one of them. Unlike others however, I am not under the illusion that all American TV is good TV. I have no doubt that their schedules are just as, if not more heavy laden with cheap and tacky shows as our own. But the difference is that when something is good over there, it's very good. I would love it if British TV could produce shows with the quality of Heroes, Prison Break, The West Wing, Alias, Without A Trace, ER and 24 but it just hasn't happened yet. The nearest we've got is probably BBC's Spooks - genuinely gripping television and yet it still lacks something. I'm never all that bothered if I miss an episode of Spooks and yet when some of the aforementioned American shows are on I never fail to set my video recorder. I don't know what the solution is. If I did then I'd probably be lobbying to become the Director General of the BBC. What I am sure of is that the answer is not more commercial channels. ITV's content is downright awful at the moment. Unless there's a sporting event of particular interest to me, I never watch it. Channel 4 seem to rely too much on the American imports (until Rupert Murdoch nicks them and takes them off to Sky One). They and Channel 5 are also culpable when it comes to making documentaries with overly sensationalised titles. No matter how moving a programme may be it's difficult to take something seriously when you're constantly reminded that the title is something along the lines of 'The Boy With Two Heads'. And don't get me started on the dross that fills the schedules of most digital and cable channels.

I wonder whether in the future we'll see a society increasingly returning to books for entertainment. It would be no bad thing and I've no doubt there is more amusement and interest to found within the pages of a Jane Austen novel than a hundred episodes of Deal or No Deal.

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