The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Chinese Torture

Over on the Guardian website we’ve just had the now-traditional annual article pointing out that BBC Drama would probably been in a much better state if the people making the shows didn’t have to deal with quite so many executives (who don’t actually have any programme-making experience or any power to decide whether or not shows get made) sticking their oar in.

Probably some truth in this. Certainly, in my experience, one frustration (with any TV channel) is the time spent waiting for somebody to say ‘no’, and often the reason why that ‘no’ is so long coming is because your script has to be painstakingly shuffled all the way up the chain of command, when ideally you want your script to be on the desk of the one person who has the power to say ‘yes’ as rapidly as possible. As it stands, you have to go through the psychological torture of knowing that the longer you are having to wait, the more likely it is that the answer might be ‘yes’...

The other problem is that, in television, it seems there are too many people who are paid to worry about people might think. I mean, it’s good that scripts come under such intense scrutiny, but worry is the enemy of creativity. As soon as you start worrying ‘Will audiences get this joke?’ rather than ‘Do I find this joke funny?’, or ‘Will my boss like the show? rather than ‘Do I like the show?’ you’re in danger of smoothing out so many corners that you end up with a script that no-one could possibly dislike and no-one could possibly love. Criticism is good, notes are good... but second-guessing the tastes of others just demonstrates a lack of confidence in your own judgement.

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