The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Spies Like Us

Don’t like to be negative, but I’ve been very disappointed with this series of Spooks so far. It’s one of my favourite shows, so my disappointment is all the greater. But I don’t think it’s the fault of the people making it.

The problem is, the budget has obviously been cut, and quite dramatically. I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of why this has occurred, suffice it to say they are all wrongs. The show just feels less ambitious. Not cheaper, but as though it’s avoiding doing expensive things – stunts, action, explosions, crowd scenes.

Budget cuts also have an effect on the scripts. Because of reduced shooting times, the writers have presumably been briefed to keep things simple, to cut down on the set-ups, characters and sub-plots, to make the show easier to film. So when, in the past, you’d have 70 minutes of story squeezed into an hour, now it’s 30 minutes padded out. Even the US versions of the episodes must drag in comparison to what it used to be like.

My other disappointment is that one of the things I loved about the show was its verisimilitude, the sense that the stories had been extensively researched, worked-out and were as plausible as possible. Now it’s entering Bonekickers territory; we have terrorists holding people hostage in an underground bunker, yet can still broadcast freely over the internet, without the security forces able to cut off their wi-fi – or even just pull the plug on their electricity supply.

But it’s still doing okay in the ratings – but not as well as it used to – and my hope is that the BBC restores its budget, so not only does the show get a bit of spectacle once more, but so the show’s writers can tell stronger stories.

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