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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Why we should back the BBC and ignore Boris

This week Boris Johnson made one of those ill informed, sweeping statements that gets a telly lover like myself rather miffed.

I'm sure this going turn quickly into rant so I want to say before I wind myself up, that I adored Breaking Bad. It's incredibly good. It's the sort of the show every TV fans yearns for, but to say the BBC has never ever made anything of its caliber is utterly uninformed and unfair.

I lived in the US from 1999 until late 2012, and I can promise you one of the biggest things any British person misses when they've settled in is their UK telly fix. Even when I lived in the US I noticed us Brits have a rather strange habit of heaping praise on anything that comes from America whilst seeming completely oblivious of the dramas and documentaries being pumped out here.

Firstly, a lot of people don't seem to realise that the majority of US television that they praise so heavily isn't your bog standard network television. The majority of the big hitters, The Sopranos, Homeland, The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad are either on cable or on one of their pay channels like HBO or Showtime.

What US TV doesn't have is our diversity. Their schedules focus primarily on dramas, reality and generic comedy, whereas ours feature gameshows, human documentaries, nature, and panel shows. A lot of people bemoan the fact our series are so short in comparison to the longer run series the US tends to opt for, but our shorter runs allow for a diverse and varied schedules.

The other night I sat immersed in an episode of one of my favourite documentary series in recent years. 24 Hours in A&E. I've never missed an episode. It is one of the most honest, life affirming and important piece of television which consistently delivers week-on-week. This is the sort of show we should be praising and discussing. Whilst I'm aware it isn't a show that gets massive viewing figures, but it's an example of great documentary making and TV in general that would never be given a slot on network TV in the US.

Johnson's statement on Breaking Bad infuriates me because it's another example of someone who hasn't paid any attention to what we've made over the last few years. I can only assume incredible recent dramas like Happy Valley, Accused, The Missing, Sherlock and Luther.  Whilst older shows like State of Play, The Street, Planet Earth, Louis Theroux's documentaries. The BBC, and the British television industry in general should be proud of what they produce and the variety that we have. I know as a nation we're not good at bigging ourselves up, but we need to start paying more attention to the great local telly we have, and most importantly we need to back the BBC!


Mo Walker said...

Someone needs to send Boris a list of the Emmy Nominations and highlight the BBC shows that were nominated.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you entirely. Part of the problem, however, lies in millions of people, not only Boris Johnson, knocking and pouring scorn on the BBC for years, whatever it does. It's almost become a badge of honour, especially among the online loudmouths. On the principle of the loudest hinge getting the oil, the government now appears to believe that it needs to appease said loudmouths by destroying one of its greatest assets. I fear it may now be too late to 'back the BBC'. I hope I'm wrong.

As for American TV, maybe someone could also point out how many BBC (and ITV) shows are bought and 're-made' by US television companies - Sherlock, Broadchurch, House of Cards ... and that list is anything but exhaustive.

Balderdashandpiffle said...

I think the problem with peoples perception of the BBC sms from the BBC's desire to compete head to head with ITV for ratings. There is no need for the BBC especially BBC 1 to target ITV at prime time.

The populous would miss the wide variety of programming that the BBC stimulates s without the BBC I fear a race to the bottom. However if savings to the public purse are a the bottom of this drive (which I doubt) then serious attention should be paid to Channel 4 for example.

Another point I would like to raise is that culture is the defining point of a nation and the BBC is an essential part of what makes the British British and should not be put on a commercial footing because commerce is only about maximising monetary gain.


I will start by saying Im an American so perhaps that disqualifies me from comment but many many of us over here nearly DEPEND on the BBC for our really quality films and tv series. I cannot bear to think of losing any of the wonderful shows which so many of us enjoy and look forward to! I do admit that quite a number of us over here are very disappointed with BBC AMERICA... because we get so little choice in our shows...but we rely on our PBS carrying shows from the BBC as well as our NETFLIX, ACORN and other services .... libraries for goodness sake! We just dont want to lose our top quality fare from the BBC! I am not intending to denigrate any of our great American actors or the good shows we do have... but there is a standard here.... for quality.... in both countries...and it is the BBC! PLease do your best in Britain to protect this wonderful service!( I neglected to mention... news from the BBC as well... I watch two or three of our news sources but always include the BBC in my news viewing!) I do hope your American viewers support of the BBC counts for something! :)

marke09 said...

I am a massive fan of the BBC but how many times over the years have we been in this situation - almost every government has had an issue with the size of the BBC or its supposed bias and every time the BBC emerges from it and continues to do what it is suppose to do that is to entertain and inform. Yes the BBc is sometimes seen to be too big and some cuts are necessary but the BBc will still be around in decades to come possibily leaner but still making original British Drama that it is so good at.

Just because the Gov. has announced a green paper to review the BBC all the doomsayers are out saying hands off -0 the BBC knew this was coming as part of charter renewal so lets not get too hysterical yet

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