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Can this country still make intelligent, involving TV?


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Old 17-06-2013, 21:34
wantoosoon
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I know this is a long-running theme, but yesterday I read this piece in the Guardian by Brian Sewell.

I have to agree with him. I've just watched a programme called Heathrow on the BBC, a behind-the-scenes look at the running of... a certain airport.

What hit me was the complete lack of depth. Now I know this is BBC1 at 8 on a Monday evening, not the Learning Zone, but this trait is symptomatic of virtually all programmes on TV today. Rather than a narrative or telling insights, we are presented with a series of glib images - mere surface. If we are lucky, we might be told what to think in a few short cliches.

"Oh, wow!" hoots the daffy Kate Humble. "I didn't know planes could fly on just one engine!"

We weren't told how aircraft designers build in such redundancy, or what other systems are redundant, we were just presented with an intelligent woman pretending to be ignorant, keeping the discussion on the surface rather than enabling us to learn anything at all.

All that is left of intelligent British TV is Storyville and the occasional wildlife or science documentary on BBC4. Aside from that one channel, it's a wasteland. The drama too is gone. We're lucky to have one good hour of TV a month.

Who would have thought the US would become noted for slow-burning, in-depth, innovative and brilliantly acted drama? And that the UK would lose that reputation?

What happened?
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:07
Zizu58
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Of course , we can't do comedies though .
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:13
paul2307
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X Factor , Coronation Street , Eastenders , Hollyoaks I think the answer is obvious




Of course we can't

Oops forgot I'm a celebrity , well I keep trying to forget it
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:16
woodbush
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I know this is a long-running theme, but yesterday I read this piece in the Guardian by Brian Sewell.

I have to agree with him. I've just watched a programme called Heathrow on the BBC, a behind-the-scenes look at the running of... a certain airport.

What hit me was the complete lack of depth. Now I know this is BBC1 at 8 on a Monday evening, not the Learning Zone, but this trait is symptomatic of virtually all programmes on TV today. Rather than a narrative or telling insights, we are presented with a series of glib images - mere surface. If we are lucky, we might be told what to think in a few short cliches.

"Oh, wow!" hoots the daffy Kate Humble. "I didn't know planes could fly on just one engine!"

We weren't told how aircraft designers build in such redundancy, or what other systems are redundant, we were just presented with an intelligent woman pretending to be ignorant, keeping the discussion on the surface rather than enabling us to learn anything at all.

All that is left of intelligent British TV is Storyville and the occasional wildlife or science documentary on BBC4. Aside from that one channel, it's a wasteland. The drama too is gone. We're lucky to have one good hour of TV a month.

Who would have thought the US would become noted for slow-burning, in-depth, innovative and brilliantly acted drama? And that the UK would lose that reputation?

What happened?
I watched it as well and thought it was poor. I said to my wife, not Kate Humble, what does she know about aircraft.

I won't be watching it again. I must admit most of my TV viewing is the documentary channel but sadly there are a lot of repeats.

I don't know the last time I watched the BBC apart from the lunchtime news.
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:21
Flat Matt
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I agree with Sewell 100%

TV has dumbed down so much in recent years. Even The Discovery Channel and National Geographic are churning out the most inane drivel that seems to be aimed at those with the IQ of a toaster.
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:22
Chizzleface
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We can definitely do good TV, unfortunately it's not very often these days. I wouldn't be looking for it in any kind of "Live" show, it's just not right. I saw that one with Richard Hammond and wanted to rip my throat out because it was so dumbed down.
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:22
lordo350
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It can do, and sometimes it does, but it is drowned out by the dross. Shows like TOWIE, X Factor and even EastEnders these days appeal to the lowest common denominator and make a buck load of cash, so keep on happening.
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:27
JimothyD
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The last mainstream intelligent shows I can remember are the likes if Spooks and Hustle. You get the odd one off but it is too few and far between. I think TV is at an all time low, quality wise.
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:28
Kapellmeister
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95% of it at least is dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Once the BBC could produce 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII'. Now we get utter trash like 'The White Queen'. It could produce 'Civilisation' with Kenneth Clark. Now we get utter drivel like 'A Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England' which talks at you if you were a five-year-old. It could produce 'Life on Earth'. Now we get glossy documentaries with soaring orchestral scores and whispering, awe-inspired narrators and almost no content, or 'star' presenters with their faux eccentricites. We get sports coverage obsessed with the melodrama of a slow-motion replay or the ecstatic faces of friends and relatives, etc. etc. etc.

One of the few recent exceptions was the superb documentary about William Tyndale presented by Melvyn Bragg.
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:38
theonlyweeman
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Would we rather it was so smart that it was incomprehensible and made no sense? Given the current climate you should be lucky to get factual stuff at all, they could quite easily knock up a reality show if you'd prefer...
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:40
Kapellmeister
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Would we rather it was so smart that it was incomprehensible and made no sense? Given the current climate you should be lucky to get factual stuff at all, they could quite easily knock up a reality show if you'd prefer...
So the alternative is to make is so dumb that even the thickest person can understand it?
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:48
Glenn A
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You should maybe try BBC Four, Sky Arts, BBC Two to a lesser extent and the History Channel if you want something more in depth than what's on the main two channels. Also ITV 3 shows a lot of classic programmes and Yesterdays are good for period drama repeats and war documentaries. Obviously you're not going to find anything challenging on something like ITV2 or BBC Three, but there are alternatives to soaps, reality and singing contests.
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:49
theonlyweeman
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So the alternative is to make is so dumb that even the thickest person can understand it?
In the current climate where ratings are very important (even for the BBC, who have to prove their relevance in a forthcoming character renewal), yes. No longer can you just cater to smart people, everything has to be entry level.

I'm not saying it's a good thing, I'm just saying it could be much worse, and we should be thankful for the things we do have, rather than inhibiting about things we don't.

And evidently the hardcore factual stuff wasn't popular enough, otherwise Discovery and NatGeo would still be doing it, instead they're airing stuff like American Hotrod. The audience isn't simply enough to justify it in the current climate.


Also, to the poster above at no point did the White Queen set itself up to be anything factual. It's clearly just a soap with added sex and violence, set during the war of the roses. The fact it was promoted using Air's "Sexy Boy" made that abundantly clear...
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Old 17-06-2013, 22:53
Tassium
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There was this idea going around in the 90s that more channels=more choice=better for the viewer. Wrong of course.


They forgot that the money and production talent in those days was focussed on just four channels, it's now spread across many dozens of channels.


What we see now is an inappropriate use of digital technology. It makes no sense to have dozens of channels, each channel packed out with programme after programme.

Obviously most of those programmes will be filler.
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Old 17-06-2013, 23:01
Meilie
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The programme makers would argue that viewers glaze over when confronted with anything remotely technical.

But it's a chicken and egg type situation; if you never hear words longer than four syllables because they have been deemed inaccessible, how can your vocabulary expand?
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Old 17-06-2013, 23:04
MrQuike
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I agree with Sewell 100%

TV has dumbed down so much in recent years. Even The Discovery Channel and National Geographic are churning out the most inane drivel that seems to be aimed at those with the IQ of a toaster.
There's too many reality shows. The History channel gave up the ghost earlier this year and now almost all the programmes are reality shows. You can even see Bergerac, Lovejoy, Catherine Cookson, costume dramas and Keeping up Appearances on Yesterday. The others documentary channels are going much the same way. You have to keep a look out for the good stuff and record it.
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Old 17-06-2013, 23:28
Kapellmeister
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In the current climate where ratings are very important (even for the BBC, who have to prove their relevance in a forthcoming character renewal), yes. No longer can you just cater to smart people, everything has to be entry level.
I agree to some extent, but if in reality the BBC acts no differently to the commerical channels they why the **** should it be funded by a licence fee?

Also, to the poster above at no point did the White Queen set itself up to be anything factual. It's clearly just a soap with added sex and violence, set during the war of the roses. The fact it was promoted using Air's "Sexy Boy" made that abundantly clear...
So it's just a coincidence that a romantic/pseudo-historical costume drama is shown right after the BBC's series of documentaries about the Tudors has finished?
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Old 18-06-2013, 00:28
Declan_Khan
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We can. It's just not as much in demand and gets low ratings.

If Bleak House and Larkrise To Candleford cost millions to make but only draw in less than a million viewers while cheap dross like The Only Way Is Essex draws in twice as many viewers, sadly cost effective producing says they'll make three reality shows for the price of one high end drama and then make three times the money back via advertising sales and boxed sets.

I remember when aside from the 6-7:30 PM block BBC2 was overrun with documentaries on everything from American Indians to puffins to historical agriculture. Now any decent documentaries are relegated to BBC4 or promoted as prime time entertainment on BBC1 but are fronted by useless but popular names like Richard Hammond who has no business being involved except as the "layman" for the professional to talk down to vicariously as if he represents all the dullards at home that need everything explained twice in great detail.
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Old 18-06-2013, 00:43
Bushmills
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Is this the thread where old fogeys go to die?

There's good stuff and there's bad stuff, same as there's always been.

'Civilisation'? I'll raise you a Black & White Minstrels and a LoveThy Neighbour.

Jewel In the Crown? I'll trade you a Mind Your Language and a Metal Mickey.

Brian Sewell is yet another old has-been who's bitter that he can't get a commission as easily as he used to. It's a well worn path - I see even Michael Palin is at it today (a shame as he's one of my heroes, but even I had to admit that his last, most recent BBC series was pants).
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Old 18-06-2013, 02:13
Declan_Khan
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Is this the thread where old fogeys go to die?

There's good stuff and there's bad stuff, same as there's always been.

'Civilisation'? I'll raise you a Black & White Minstrels and a LoveThy Neighbour.

Jewel In the Crown? I'll trade you a Mind Your Language and a Metal Mickey.

Brian Sewell is yet another old has-been who's bitter that he can't get a commission as easily as he used to. It's a well worn path - I see even Michael Palin is at it today (a shame as he's one of my heroes, but even I had to admit that his last, most recent BBC series was pants).
I'm 29, I don't think I'm due my pension anytime soon thank you very much.

Sadly Palin has competitors for the celebrity holiday show masked as a cultural excursion these days from everybody from Caroline Quentin to Top Gear. Sadly few are doing a better job than Tony Bourdain these days and CNN is available worldwide.
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Old 18-06-2013, 07:14
KennyT
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I was looking forward to "Precision" on BBC4 and while I did find the most recent episode (on "weight" or rather "mass") interesting, it did fall into some all-too common tropes and cliches:

1 The presenter "going on a journey"
2 The "tell em what you're going to tell em, then tell em, then tell em what you told em" style
3 The "talking to camera while driving" sequence (has anyone ever been pulled over for not using "due care and attention"?)
4 The time lapse landscape sequence.

But on the bright side, there was about 30 mins of genuine content in the hour, which is about all that you can expect nowadays, I reckon. And it's 30 mins of content you wouldn't get on most other channels!

So, it's BBC4 for me, when I want a little "brain exercise" (esp Only Connect!)


K
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Old 18-06-2013, 07:28
petely
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Can this country still make intelligent, involving TV
Yes, it can. But there's no call for it.

So few people would understand, appreciate or have the attention span to watch that the money needed to make an hour of TV like this would be better used making a whole series of cheap, trashy: reality / emergency-services drama / celeb-chat / quiz shows instead. That's what the mass-audiences want: a steady stream of the same old pap.

As another poster alluded, there are too many channels, each taking a very thin slice of the TV revenue pie, to be able to justify spending significant sums on such "minority interest" content. These days quantity is far more important than quality.
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Old 18-06-2013, 08:46
jeff_vader
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Short answer: yes. And often world-class when at best. But it's in increasingly short supply.

I think some of our new presenters should be compulsorily made to watch Michael Wood's series (just discovered them on youtube )
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Old 18-06-2013, 10:07
barbeler
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Sadly, the very fact that this forum has entire sections devoted to Soaps, Big Brother, The Apprentice, The Voice, The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, is sufficiently evidence that dumbed-down TV is catering for the dumbed-down viewing public.
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Old 18-06-2013, 13:51
los.kav
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I saw my first episode of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, and still can't believe it gets shown on the Educational Chanel in America.
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