Ah, thank heavens for cable TV. Although network TV has been producing some perfectly acceptable dramas this fall season, the miss rate has been a lot higher than the hit rate. Cable, however, with the obvious exception of Starz, has a far better success rate.
You know what else? Thank heavens for Israeli TV. Although you could argue over the merits of The Ex-List and Traffic Light for a while, they were at least a cut above the normal fare, and Israeli TV has at least indisputably given us the basis for the surefire cracker that was In Treatment. Now Israeli show Prisoners of War has given us the basis for Homeland, starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis and adapted for US TV by former 24 producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon.
Bearing more than a passing resemblance to AMC's Rubicon, the thankfully faster-paced Homeland sees obsessive CIA analyst Danes convinced that returning war hero and former prisoner of war Damian Lewis has in fact been turned and is really working for al Qaeda. All she's got to do is prove it, even though no one else believes her, not even her mentor, best friend and boss Mandy Patinkin. In fact, given she's on anti-psychotic drugs, there's a very good chance she actually is crazy. All the same, to prove her hunch is correct, Danes is going to do anything she has to - whether Lewis is innocent or not.
Glynis Barber may best be known now as a star of soap operas such as Emmerdale and EastEnders but back in the 80s, she was something of a small screen pin-up. After a brief appearance in The Sandbaggers as a Russian spy so beautiful "you'd crawl a thousand miles over broken glass" for her, her big break came as Soolin on Blake's 7, a role about which I've already written. After Blake's 7 finished, she went on to much greater fame and pin-up-dom as Makepeace in fondly remembered Dempsey & Makepeace:
But in between those two series, she starred in a much more poorly remembered show on BBC2 about a literal pin-up: Jane.
Yes, we're about to get a little bit racey after the jump
As Sally Sparrow once said, "Sad is happy for deep people." And indeed, there have been a whole load of miserable plays, TV programmes, films et al designed for smart people: I love Se7en (as a quote in the introduction to the BFI book on the movie says – or was it one of the special edition DVD commentaries? – "Of course I love Se7en – I'm an intellectual"), for example, and Callan and The Sandbaggers are so brilliant because they're so bleak. Think of Turn Left and Midnight in the latest series of Doctor Who, as well as the fate of Donna in Journey's End: better for bleak, no?
Over the last year, though, there's been an increase in sad TV programmes on the Beeb: Wallander, The Day of the Triffids, Survivors, Paradox, Criminal Justice et al have all been deeply miserable. As Paradox shows, being miserable doesn't mean being good, but does it help – the bleaker moments of Paradox were its best bits.
So today's question (in parts) is:
Does being depressed, sad or miserable increase the chances of a show being good? Is sad happy for deep people? Are TV shows getting more depressing of late (thanks to the recession maybe?) And do you like watching sad shows?
As always, leave a comment with your answer or a link to your answer on your own blog.
About the blog
A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
Add in film, theatre, art, books, events, competitions and even weekly reviews of Wonder Woman comics, and you've (hopefully) got officially the fourth best blog on the web for media lovers. Oh yes, and there's The Barrometer, the ultimate guide to quality TV.
Praise for the blog Cision: fourth most important UK TV blog Blogging Edge: Blogger running Britain 2013
"For most of us watching the telly of an evening is a way to wind down and relax, but for Rob Buckley it’s his blogging bread and butter. With reviews of cult classics and up and coming US and Brit television shows, The Medium is Not Enough is fast becoming essential reading for TV buffs, with over 50,000 hits a month."
"The Medium Is Not Enough is a light-hearted look at TV, often from the US, but also from the UK. With varied, well-written content, the blog features healthy engagement and features well in search engines."
"Billing itself as 'officially the fourth most popular UK TV blog', there are several whimsical regulars here that could help it climb as high as number three…"
I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.