The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Joy In Repetition

One aspect of Tony Garnett’s criticism of BBC Drama which hasn’t really been addressed in the reponse is its over-reliance on ‘continuing dramas’ to deliver ratings.

As I’m sure I’ve said before, I have no problem with soaps, I’m a reformed addict, but I can’t help feeling that they aren’t always about actors delivering great performances or writers addressing issues in a distinctive and original way. They are too much of a sausage machine for that, and just as with sausages, a lot of the appeal is the fact that you know what you’re going to get.

But soaps have pretty much killed weekday prime-time television in the UK (by which I mean between 7pm and 9pm – a time when families might watch together). It’s either channels showing soaps or the other channels not bothering to show anything of any worth because there’s a soap on the other side. I mean, that’s fair enough for ITV, but I’m not sure it’s a good use of the license fee for the BBC to effectively ‘give up’ five hours of prime-time a week.

Of course, it’s all about chasing ratings, and that’s the problem, because it’s not about trying to get as many people watching a channel as possible, it’s about trying to get the same six million (or however many) people watching a channel as often as possible. Which is no good for the BBC, which has to justify it’s ‘reach’, and not much good for ITV; I’m sure advertisers would rather advertise once to twelve million people than than to the same six million people three times.

And by over-catering for fans of ‘continuing dramas’ – there’s no slots or money left for sitcoms, for dramas like Tenko or Bergerac, or shows like Tomorrow’s World or Top Of The Pops.


  1. Exellent point. I shall incorporate ascpects of this into my next pub rant.

  2. Jonny, I love reading these blogs. 1 problem is I have is that I read these on my mp3 player (rhymes with eye cod) and it takes an age to load. Is there an 'eye cod' friendly version of this site? ie one where only a 1 or 2 blogs load?
    thank you...
    Mr Darren Wood

  3. I've changed it to just two blog posts. Does that solve the problem?

    Hey, Darren Wood! You still busy arresting criminals?

  4. Ahh thats better, very quick loading time now :) Hope everyone else doesnt mind?
    Yes, well, Im still busy, though I do try avoiding the arresting bit if I can at all get away with it. Far too much faffing about these days. Takes the fun out of it.
    Still back up in Leeds, you should get in touch next time you're up here...