This week Boris Johnson made one of those ill informed, sweeping statements that gets a telly lover like myself rather miffed.
“Why on earth can’t the BBC produce something as brilliant as Breaking Bad?” asks Boris Johnson https://t.co/VKEhFi5N6N
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 15, 2015
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!