Feeds

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

Platforms, platforms everywhere. And nothing to watch

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Analysis 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.

But Line of Duty, a thriller about a bent detective, is pretty bold. It’s extremely tightly written, brave, and nasty with it – although the unseen gangster may may yet turn out to be Fat Bastard from Austin Powers films. He sounds like him.

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. But it is a return to form.

The BBC has been showing another crime drama, though. Blackout is a vehicle for Christopher Ecclestone, and that’s where the good news ends. This is classic contemporary drama which thinks it's edgy, but where the focus is entirely on the visual style, which mimics that of a slick advertisement. The BBC is a great training ground for advertising production talent – its own (nonstop) advertisements for itself (brands, strands, idents as well as actual programmes) are top quality. As a result, much British drama boasts eye-catching cinematography and editing, but the directors don't know about story-telling. They're passing through, en route from Audi advert to (they hope) Hollywood riches.

(Hollywood demands 'emotional range' on the applicant's CV, which is why Blighty's directors and writers wedge touch-feely moments into the oddest places. Like Dr Who – as Ian Harrison pointed out here).

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. Gina McKee is in it, I think, or is she in Line of Duty? It's hard to remember because Britain only has about eight professional actors, who must appear in everything all the time. This over-familiarity means we don't really believe them as anything but themselves.

Eccleston lives, with his family, in a trendy loft space – something BBC producers would probably quite like to do. (“Sit down, have a seat”). It is also improbably politically correct. At the end, Mayor Ecclestone declares the city to be a Chavez-style socialist republic, which is what a lot of BBC producers would like to do to W12, if not everywhere else. (“Love it. Here, sign this contract, we’re commissioning you”). But even the most politically disengaged viewer will be thinking: “Hang on: rate capping, surcharges, EU contract directives... You what?”

There’s also something else unsettling about Blackout.

Everything that can be Americanised has been: so Town Hall becomes City Hall, press officers become media aides, and when we see the city, it’s an American city: a helicopter shot shows us the tops of skyscrapers that could be any generic American finance district.

Now you’re wondering – all very interesting, but what’s this digression doing at El Reg where I expect to see news of TV technology platforms and business.

The answer is: quite a lot.

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Next page: The bottom line

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.