Why is British television the way it is? Because of streams

Or does the memory cheat?

I, Claudius

It’s story time! And theory time, albeit theory backed up by the occasional publicly announced historic strategy, etc.

Anyway, it can’t have escaped your notice that British TV isn’t as good as it was when we were all kids. Not the BBC. Not ITV. Not Channel 4, which might not have existed back then. Not Sky, which definitely didn’t exist back then. Not none of them. It’s all been dumbed down and it’s all stupid, innit? Drama isn’t as intelligent, comedies aren’t as funny, and the schedules are filled with pointless rubbish. Not like when we were kids.

Or is it?

Well, yes and no. And I’m going to explain why after the jump. I hope.

The story of British TV
Once upon a time, there was a TV channel called the BBC. It was the only TV channel and its mission was to both educate and entertain. This Reithian ethic meant that the viewers were going to get what the BBC though was good for them and would teach them to be better people. It would help them to understand (proper) art and literature, just like the people at the BBC, who had been to public schools and Oxford and Cambridge. Okay, there weren’t many TVs back then, because they were so expensive, and there wasn’t much TV either, just a few hours a day because of budgets, studios, people and so on, but that was the plan.

And it sort of worked. People watched it and they liked it, even when it was just educational, because there was nothing much else to do, certainly not at home.

Of course, eventually the BBC got the hang of the entertainment side of things, too, and the likes of 1984 and The Quatermass Experiment could empty the streets in the 1950s. But then a question arose – if the BBC was a monopoly, could it really be producing what everyone wanted? Was it perhaps even resting on its laurels too much and getting lazy? Perhaps, it needed competition.

So along came ITV, which rather than a monolith, was just a system of different franchises across the country that could all buy each other’s content, show their own programmes or buy in programmes from other companies. It also had a public service remit, just like the BBC, which meant that it had to both educate and inform.

ITV’s aim: to give the public what they genuinely wanted, while also giving them what they needed. And in competition with the BBC and sharing again some of the same values (and indeed people), it delivered, albeit not all day and not all the time. It could buy in The Adventures of Robin Hood and Thunderbirds from Lew Grade or anyone else who had an idea. It could make The Avengers, produce World in Action, deliver Armchair Theatre or even broadcast an unsubtitled production of Elektra entirely in Greek, just because the controller felt like it.

Okay, there was an incredible amount of dross as well, as a quick look at the TV schedules from 30 years ago will tell you,

TV from 30 years ago

Lots of movies that no one could watch elsewhere because videos hadn’t been invented. Game shows aplenty with prizes of ‘a pen’. Sport that had no Sky Sports 27 to hide on. Soap operas aplenty. US imports that maybe weren’t the best shows in the world.

But there was a lot of good stuff, largely made possible by the cheap stuff around it, constant repeats or because there wasn’t TV on all day that had to be made. Besides, what else was there for people to do that was free, available in their front room for minimal effort and could keep the whole family quiet of an evening?

Time moved on, though, and TV progressed. More TV was needed. Daytime TV came along. BBC2 was created as well, not to provide competition, but to provide a different kind of programming, one less mass market, more challenging. Would I, Claudius ever have been made for even BBC1? Probably not, but for BBC2, it had a natural home.

Channel 4 also came along with a remit to be different yet again, giving a voice to people, cultures and ideas that hadn’t managed to achieve a voice of their own on the other channels. TV comedies starring only black people and exploring the differences betweewn African- and Caribbean-British cultures? Not on the very white BBC of the 70s and 80s, which was still showing The Black and White Minstrels Show, but Desmonds had a home on Channel 4, as did original movies such as My Beautiful Launderette.

Then video recorders arrived, which allowed you to rent movies long before they appeared on TV, more or less whenever you wanted to watch that movie – provided no one else had rented it from the shop before you.

And so did Superchannel, which began to repeat shows on the newfangled cable and satellite TV. BSB and Sky both arrived by satellite, merged into BSkyB, and began to offer programmes that no one else could. Computers arrived, allowing us to play games at home that would have required a trip to the amusement arcade a decade earlier.

Suddenly, people had choice. People didn’t have to watch TV if they wanted to be entertained and if there was something educational on that felt like hard work, well, now there were other channels and plenty of other things to do instead that would be bound to entertain if the first channel didn’t.

Slowly, ratings began to fall. 30 years ago, 26m people might watch an episode of a soap opera; nowadays, just a few million tune in regularly.

Advertising began to decrease on ITV and Channel 4, just as TV began to get more and more expensive to make – digital TV arrived, giving us yet more channels but with much better picture and sound quality than ever before, requiring new equipment and higher budgets. That had to be repeated again with HD and will probably have to be repeated again with 4K. People wanted their TV to look like films rather than theatre, so shooting your drama in a small studio in Borehamwood, rather than on location in Cannes, stopped being an option. 

And children, once the all-powerful Internet arrived, began to wonder if they needed this TV thing at all. A repeat? But I can watch that on DVD or online. There’s a sick video on YouTube I’ll watch instead. Maybe I’ll stop watching your TV station altogether unless you start giving me something new.

The BBC wasn’t immune from the problem. With ratings falling, politicians began to question whether everyone should have to pay the licence fee to fund the BBC or even if there should be a licence fee at all. The BBC now had to justify what it showed on screen and prove that the licence fee wasn’t money been thrown away at an elite that produced programmes nobody wanted to watch. That meant finding money from elsewhere, particularly overseas, for co-productions – which naturally enough would have to appeal to the populations of more than one country, so arguably had to be more generic and crowd-pleasing than those made specifically for the UK.

In conjunction with ITV’s 1990-2 franchise ‘adjustment’, which reduced its commitment to public service broadcasting and ended up with all those different franchises amalgamating into one big ITV, that meant everyone was looking at how to grab hold of viewers who weren’t prepared to sit still and be fed cheap rubbish.

Enter streams
One advantage of all those digital channels, though, is you can specialise. With one channel, BBC1, you have to put on television that appeals to everyone, which is nearly impossible. But with several channels, you can serve different communities with different channels.

And this is what I like to call the ‘stream’ theory of TV. When you were at school, you probably had year groups, but also streams or sets – so those who were best at a subject were in one stream, those not so good in the next stream and so on. As you got older, you’d potentially progress not just up year groups but also sets.

And that’s, to a certain extent explicitly, how the BBC envisioned its channels. Back in the days of analogue, you had BBC1 and then BBC2 if you were smart enough or different enough. Now with digital TV, CBeebies and CBBC could start children off on this TV-watching thing. Then, when they were old enough, they’d graduate to BBC3. BBC1 would then be the channel for the general viewer, neither too ‘bright’ nor ‘too stupid’. BBC2 would be for the more able student while BBC4 would be for the top stream student. Resources are allocated accordingly, with BBC1 getting the bulk of resources since most people watch it, BBC2 getting less and so on.

ITV and Channel 4 had similar ideas, with CITV, ITV2, ITV1, ITV4, ITV3 being the progression, and Channel 4 offering E4/Channel 4/More 4, although with differences in both funding and in what counted as a ‘most able’ pupil (it’s a strange world where ITV3 is aimed at the pinnacle of audience intellect).

No money
That, at least, was the theory, anyway. Trouble is we had that economic meltdown back in 2008 and a licence fee settlement. The result was less money all round. Over at the BBC and Channel 4 in particular, there was some shifting around of cash. ‘Top stream’ programming became harder to justify, so cuts were made. More4 stopped making much more than documentaries and lifestyle shows. BBC4, while it continued to make top documentaries, had to stop making more than a few very original dramas and comedies.

Sadly, the result is, on average, dumber TV. There’s just not the money to make really good, challenging TV to a high standard any more, except in a very few isolated individual cases, and with the constant need to find ways to pry people away from other media, it’s far more tempting to funnel money into the easy wins that get a reasonable number of viewers without offending anyone than into that period drama about gay Oxford students, slow-moving, thoughtful spy dramas or an anthology series involving left-wing playwrights. Not always, since no one goes into TV to make anything average, but some things are unavoidable, thanks to the current economics.

However, it’s also worth noting the importance of the streams, progression and memory.

It’s tempting to think that TV one saw as a child was brilliant and that modern TV just isn’t as good. But have a lot back at those listings from 30 years ago. Good TV was very rare. If ITV stuck on Mind Your Language or Up The Elephant and Round the Castle now, no one would touch them with a barge pole, but they ran for seasons and seasons in the 70s and 80s. The simple fact is that we were young and had no frame of reference for a lot of what we saw. It looked good because we didn’t necessarily know what good was. Going back, it’s easy to see that the memory cheats. Not always, but it can.

But we’re also older. We’ve seen more, perhaps our tastes have changed. We know more. If we watched the generalist documentaries we saw as children again now, we’d think them lightweight because we know all the things we saw in those documentaries. Not always, but often. Every generation has to learn for itself what the previous generation has already learned. Brian Cox might produce less information per minute than Jacob Bronowski did in one of his documentaries, but less than Carl Sagan in Cosmos? Probably not.

So on the down side, we have fewer things that excel and that speak to the pinnacle of what TV can produce. We’re no more likely to get something like Boys From The Blackstuff instead of The Syndicate on BBC1 than we are to get opera instead of The Voice.

But on BBC2 or, if the money comes back, BBC4? Maybe. Even ITV is happy to produce thoughtful cop shows about crossword-solving detectives in the 1950s. We just shouldn’t expect it as a matter of course.

What we also have to do is forget what BBC1 was like when we were kids. Not only have our memories often cheated us, they’re obscuring us to the fact that as a channel, BBC1 is no longer intended to be as all things to all people as once it was. If you’re smart, there’s BBC2 and BBC4; only if you’re very lucky will you find something you want on BBC1. Because you’re smarter than you were and this isn’t the channel for you. It’s no different from people moving from Radio 1 to Radio 2/4 or possible even Radio 3 over time, then wondering what that old rubbish is if they happen to hear Radio 1 again. It’s just something that’s relatively new to TV.

You’re now a top stream kid now – learn to live with it.

Caveats
This is, of course, a very basic essay and glosses over a lot of history, politics and more. Aesthetics have changed, the idea in documentaries of ‘an expert’ telling you things rather than ‘discovering’ them before your eyes has been adopted, and I’ve not covered how subscription TV such as HBO, Sky Atlantic and Sky Arts can provide niches for quality TV. And that’s before we even debate the difficulty of making a great work of art, anyway.

But as a broad thesis, I think it’s roughly where we are. Let me know what you think!




  • Mark Carroll

    I can certainly buy that television isn't actually much worse now than then (though I miss Open University lectures!), and, given how little I see any BBC policy statements these days even pay lip service to educating and informing, I can certainly buy that they've ended up somewhat lower-brow.

    I can't help but think that production values are overrated, though. Maybe I'm unusual, but I don't need my dramas to look near film quality, nor have many breathtaking sets: they can still be good while being rather cheap, given good scripting and acting. And, given that I watch pretty much nothing live anyway, I'd be happy for them to fill some of the early hours with cheaper but perhaps still different or challenging productions, leaving prime time for the masses and daytime for … well, largely not me. It's okay for me if in productions the “crowds” are small and the sets are polystyrene or the presenter mostly stands still and doesn't seem excited, but maybe I'm unusual.

    Much of what I get from the BBC these days are foreign dramas, comedy quiz shows, and documentaries, like that one lately about the Ottoman Empire. The better drama series I can think of in recent years are not British, they're mostly American, thanks to channels like HBO.

    I've merely danced around your thesis, though, in this comment; I'll be interested to see what others have to say.

  • I did ask the OU why they don't do those lectures any more and they said it was basically down to delivery mechanisms: it's a lot easier now to either post DVDs or deliver course material over the Internet. It's a shame, because I missed those. It's worth noting, mind, that a lot of BBC2 documentaries are co-productions with the OU, too.

    As for the desire to watch theatrical TV, you've just outed yourself as a BBC4 viewer, my friend, although arguably 'green screen' shows such as Spartacus approach older, theatrical TV in some aesthetic respects.

  • Jason S.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the “stream theory” of why British TV is experiencing the same depressing decline that American TV is having, but I think you missed out on explaining several key concepts

    1) Creative entities in television have been swallowed by multinational media conglomerates. This is a trend that got very ugly indeed in America, due in part to a progressive loosening of ownership regulations by Washington lobbyists. In 1990, the Big Four terrestrial networks in America (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) and their associated companies owned only 12.5% all new series produced; by 2002, they owned 77.5%, and thus shut out many independent production studios (Turner, 2004). This was possible in large part because of the rapid absorption of terrestrial and cable/satellite networks by movie-based corporations. Today, an oligopoly of five major media conglomerates dominate the majority of the TV output in the United States: Comcast (NBC networks, USA, Syfy, Bravo, Telemundo etc.), 21st Century Fox (FOX and FX network), the Walt Disney Company (ABC, LWN, A&E networks), CBS Corp. (CBS and Showtime), Viacom (Nick, MTV, Comedy Central), and Time Warner (The CW, the Turner networks, HBO).

    The trend spread to in the UK by the 2000s, especially in commercial television. Granada and Carlton, which had successfully monopolized all the ITV franchise in England and Wales throughout the '80s and '90s, finally merged into a single monstrous ITV plc late in 2004. BSkyB has also come to dominate satellite television, gobbling up and rebranding the competing Virgin channels by 2010. (And roughly 39% of BSkyB is owned by 21st Century Fox, an economic example of an American-based monopoly treading onto British shores) Five was taken over by Northern & Shell Publishing Group, and a few years back there was a proposal to sell all of the Channel 4 networks to BBC Worldwide (?!), which thankfully hasn't materialized…at least not yet…

    The prime goal of any global monopolized conglomerate is Microeconomics 101: earn the highest profit margin imaginable without risking too much in the short term. The term “tentpole” used by current high-profile productions from big film/TV companies is often a misnomer; while negative production values may be uneccessarily through the roof, there is very little financial or intellectual risk, because the whole ordeal is, ideally, a politically correct “designed-by-a-committee” investment that will earn back the money spent on producing, marketing, and distributing it. And after the Crash of 2008, earning back the money invested became an urgent priority for American and British TV companies; in the Digital Age, that meant utilizing TV's newborn competition in the form of on-demand Internet services, which ideally also increased international reach. Consequently, there's a lot of pointless trash being broadcast on all our screens on both sides of the Atlantic, because of the need to maximize profit while minimizing effort. But it can only go on for so long…

    2) As the result of the need to “cash in while you can”, British TV is incredibly preoccupied right now with mainstream international trends, a phenomenon that has its cinematic equivalent in what I like to call “the Eisner effect”. The term gets its name from Michael Eisner, who was a major player in supposedly revitalizing Disney animation throughout the late '80s and '90s. After The Lion King became a box-office goliath in 1994, there was a trend among all the major Hollywood studios to capitalize on children's animation; that meant theatrical pictures, direct-to-video films, TV, toys, theme park mascots, etc. And the bubble burst so hard in the early 2000s (thanks to computer animation) that Eisner resigned as CEO after making Disney abandon 2D and reduced its animated output. His successor, Bob Iger, basically repeated the same trend that Eisner started, but with superhero-related “nerd” franchises from acquired Marvel, Classic Media, and Lucasfilm properties – and, at least until the bombastic Lone Ranger travesty, it was making Disney billions each year. And now every film and TV company is doing the same thing as Disney: dull, heavily-CG tentpoles with international ensemble casts.

    British TV is also in the midst of an Eisner effect (perhaps several). Which leads me to a statement that will likely be considered heretical by many readers: Planet Earth killed BBC Worldwide. The gargantuan ratings figures, DVD/BluRay sales, and torrent downloads that series alone generated in America raised a lot of eyebrows and initiated the new strategy for the Beeb: appeal to Americans by making every pretty and politically correct to rake in the cash that the license fee wasn't bringing in. It took advantage of the growing appreciation of British TV by America and other countries, and raped it to death. The declining natural history output got duller and dumber each year (and aging Attenborough was, surprisingly, part of the problem); the dramas and comedies became less about heart and wit, and more about achieving critical and commercial success in the States; and the British TV landscape went from being at least 30% tolerable to less than 10% tolerable (at least for my tastes). Now Doctor Who can't just be a British show that makes little kids hide behind the sofa; it has to be a big international franchise, when collectable merchandise flooding Hot Topic stores where they don't even belong. It just feels wrong.

    Another part of BBC Worldwide's Eisner effect was its swift control of properties produced for other TV networks (ITV1, C4, Five, Sky, Virgin even a few Australian and Canadian channels) and then retooling them as its own international co-productions that it can cheaply sell abroad and earn nearly all money. That joke might make more sense for those exposed to BBC Worldwide's half-ass science fiction/fanatsy output (Torchwood: Miracle Day, Primeval, Sinbad, Orphan Black), but in truth this is happening to shows of all genres. ITV and C4 are trying to do the same thing, but currently they're operating at a smaller scale due to being scared shitless by the increasingly egotistical BBC. BBC Worldwide's essentially a big Hollywood studio that has monopolized the TV oligopoly of Britain, and is thus a major contributor to truly trans-Atlantic problems with the media that are only getting worse.

    REFERENCES
    Turner, T. (2004). “My Beef with Big Media”. Washington Monthly. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2014, from http://www.washingtonmonthly.c

  • JustStark

    As an OU student during the period of transition (I started off getting a TV scehdule with stuff to tape at three in the morning, ended up getting DVDs bundled in with the textbooks in the Big Parcel) I can confirm it's delivery methods (DVDs being weightless compared the VHS) and also, possibly, the fact that it has now become perversely a lot hard for people to actually record TV to watch later (lots of people nowadays who would have had a VHS recorder now get along with no way to record digital TV, using internet catch-up services if they want to see something that's already been on).

    As for theatrical TV, well, I also miss that — but on the other hand it occurred to me watching Game of Thrones (and TV doesn't get much dumber) that it's actually quite theatrical in a lot of ways: if you watch, you can see so many ways in which they have cut the budget. Battles, for example, all done in very tight shots; 'tournaments' consisting of a small circle of extras cheering on two fighting knights. Sets that are clearly just a tiny section of papier-mache stonework (watch how restricted the actors' movements are) with the rest of the frame filled in with an old-fashioned matte painting (done on computer rather than with paint on glass, but it's the same thing really).

    It's a different type of theatricality to the stuff of the '60s, '70s and even '80s where a blank set with a filing cabinet and a typewriter would suffice to suggest to the audience 'D.Ops's secretary's room', and it's more tailored to the modern sensibility that demands detail; so where previously you skimped on detail, now they have to cram as much detail as they can in but cut down the amount of stuff (so if costumes have to look great in HD, you work out a way to frame the shots that you simply don't have a many people in them).

    But it's the same principle of artifice. Instead of using suggestive props and sets and letting the audience's imagination fill in what's lacking in what they're seeing, you use representational props to suggest to the audience that the world beyond the edges of the frame is much bigger than it is, and just as rich as what the camera is pointed at (when in fact the world beyond the edges of the frame probably doesn't exist at all, and even the world within the frame that the actors aren't directly interacting with is pretty suspect).

    (Not that that was unknown in the good old days either, of course, with the traditional scene of three Daleks gliding through the door, then one turning its head around to say, 'The other 9,997 of you wait in the corridor.')

  • GYAD

    “There's a sick video on YouTube I'll watch instead…”

    Getting down with the kids, eh bruv?

    That's a very thoughtful argument you've made and I agree with most of it.

    I''d add that intellectual standards (even if only aspirational) do appear to have gone down, both among the audience and in TV itself. “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and the more recent “Robin Hood” were both designed as entertainment – but one of them employed historians to advise the production, whilst the other seemed to think that Kevin Costner was a historian.

    Also, the way audiences watch has changed. With so many channels and so many choices of when and how to watch – many younger people don't even have a TV anymore – means that programmes have changed. Largely by becoming more ADHD (in my opinion, a mistake – the ADHD audience won't watch the programme anyway and the “top stream” audience hates it). Factual channels like History or Discover aren't even trying to get the audience to watch their programme all the way through – only to watch till the next ad break.

    Finally, I'd say that we now live in a truly international TV world, which has totally changed the way programmes are made these days. Not only are organisations like BBC Worldwide trying to sell British TV overseas, but the primary influence for many British TV shows is foreign (usually American and more recently Scandinavian). As a result British TV has become more glossy, more expensive and more homgenised.

    However, as you say, it is worth remembering that old British TV was often terrible as well and that British TV is still better – day by day – than anywhere else apart from the USA.

  • JustStark

    “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and the more recent “Robin Hood” were
    both designed as entertainment – but one of them employed historians to
    advise the production, whilst the other seemed to think that Kevin
    Costner was a historian

    Ah, I think that is part of the horrible desire to be 'relevant', which was so painfully on display in Robin Hood (Robin and Much have come back with PTSD after a war in the Middle East DOES THAT REMIND YOU OF ANYTHING DOES IT DOES IT).

    Nobody's allowed to put on a play these days without explaining how it's 'relevant to today' (never mind that human nature is constant and so Shakespeare just by being Shakespeare tells us as much about ourselves now as he ever did, oh no, now we have to pretend that Coriolanus is really just like a merchant banker, donchano, or Peter Abelard was a proto-atheist fighting against religious fundamentalism why yes I did just see Eternal Love on tour and it is awful in every respect).

    So historians are irrelevant: that would be like saying it's about the middle ages, when everybody knows all anybody cares about is the last five minutes.

    Sorry. May be ranting a bit there.

  • GYAD

    Well said.

    There does seem to be a lot less confidence in the universality of great drama these days. Everything must be updated, homogenised and neutered; we aren't allowed history except as a reflection of ourselves.

  • Many thanks for your very detailed reply. I'd certainly agree with much of it, some of which I touched on in passing, but which you went into far better detail with.

    However, to a certain extent, I think that the conglomerate issue is less an issue than who the conglomerates are and what they believe. The 70s and 80s had plenty of co-productions between US UK and Australian companies, for example, but their aim wasn't necessarily to make as much as possible and they wanted to educate – that is to take people up a level. It's only because the aim is to reach as many people as possible (in part because of rising costs) that co-productions now result in worse output than before. I think blockbuster movies also have convinced people about the need for a worldwide reach for something and have set a template accordingly – I certainly think that's just about the only explanation for Da Vinci's Demons.

    The fragmentation of audiences caused by cable and satellite is also an issue. I think Tim Kring – creator of Heroes – was largely correct (or at least adequately summed up network TV thinking) when he argued that basically anyone with any brains now has cable and watches cable TV, leaving only idiots behind as the viewers of network TV. The main aim of network TV is therefore to cater for idiots. He might even have a point, when you consider the ratings of NBC and CBS and compare their programming.

  • Nice Sandbaggers ref

  • Nice Sandbaggers ref

  • But not even ourselves so much as a notion of how me might perceive ourselves. Look at Atlantis, for example. It's a hodpodge of different ideas, stories and more, but all carefully designed not to upset anyone and to key into certain issues. So there are no Greek (or even Minoan) gods in it, because the writers don't want to be seen as backing non-Christian or non-secular ideas, but they'll accept monsters as being non-denominational and inoffensive. They'll assume that young boys are the audience and assume that young boys aren't going to watch a show in which a girl is, say, part of the core group of heroes or a protagonist, even when dealing with a genre that involve the likes of Athena, Atlanta, Amazons and other strong women who don't all necessarily begin with an A.

    The idea is not to create something that challenges the audiences preconceptions, but to try to second guess the audience or focus group something to death and give them what you think they want. In part, that's because it's very expensive to make drama, particularly drama like Atlantis that's filmed in foreign locations and shows aren't (and can't be) given the time to get an audience. At least not on the BBC, which always has to answer questions about 'value for money' in a way that a network like HBO doesn't have to.

  • GYAD

    I agree that “Atlantis” is bland because it is chasing ratings.

    I'd consider it a prime case of declining intellectual standards and ambition as well.

    Here's a show which takes the history out of its period setting and the mythology out of its genre fantasy.

    However, I don't think it removed the Greek gods in order to avoid upsetting Christians and/or secularists.

    Is anyone offended by the Olympians?

    I didn't watch enough of it to have an opinion on the sex of the protagonists.

    It doesn't bother me though, anymore than it bothers me that “Call the Midwife” is female-led.

  • Well, I think you forget that it's a BBC America co-production, so the potential for US fundies to object is definitely and my point isn't necessarily that people will object but that the producers perceive the possibility of that objection within their target viewships (or their parents). And yes, people do object to Olympians in the US.

    Similarly, you aren't the target audience of Atlantis (I presume…). The question isn't whether you would object to the genders of the leads. The question is 'Do the producers of Atlantis think teenage boys will want to watch shows where women are the leads, rather than supporting characters?' And the industry perception is no, whether the reality is true or not, so the producers of Atlantis probably went for the standard male trio of leads as a result, rather than because there was a compelling need to stick Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras together on 'Atlantis'.

  • JustStark

    It's a perfect example, though: it looks nothing like a real office that is in daily use, and yet back in the '70s what you'd get if you decided to do 'office' in the Corpus Playroom using just stuff from the Penguins' lock-up was seen as a perfectly fine thing to put on television.

    Nowadays, you'd have to spend tens of thousands on just that single, simple set.

    Or, and I'm sorry for the difficulty in finding illustrations but the images keep having the stupid actors getting in the way of the set, consider the offices from The actual Sweeney:

    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/yhKvewuT

    http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/3H4-Myx

    versus the recreation of a seventies police station from Life on Mars:

    http://images2.fanpop.com/imag

    — just look at how much extra that must have cost, and for what?

  • JustStark

    I don't see how the lack of Greek gods in Atlantis can be because of fears of objections when it's surely aimed at a similar market to Hercules: the Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, and they had such gods turning up all over the place.
    Rather I think it's just that they are trying to shave off anything that might be off-putting to modern audiences and the gods of Olympus bring with them a whole different way of looking at the world (of destiny, and fate, and duty, and all those things the great Greek plays and epics are about) that would require an imaginative leap for the modern young audience (imagine trying to explain Antigone's dilemma to a yoof of today!).

    Far easier to ignore all that stuff and just go with 'I fancy the hunky star but my Mum says I have to marry my cousin instead' melodrama.

  • Well:

    a) It's 14 years later and things have got a lot fundier since then
    b) If they can get worked up about the demon worshipping Harry Potter, they can get worked up about Atlantis
    c) Xena and Hercules both eventually squared that circle by introducing the Christian god and killing off the Greek gods, as well as the Norse, Celtic, Egyptian and other gods along the way
    d) They were also far more fantastic than Atlantis – cf Porkules. There was never really any suggestion that they were anything except silly entertainment. Atlantis is a little closer to reality in style, particularly since Jason is from the modern day, so there's far more the ability for people to take it as if not necessarily supporting the existence of the Greek gods, denying the singularity of the Christian God, even if only in past ages.

  • JustStark

    Also having said that it's clearly possible to do a modern crappy idiot's tale featuring the Greek gods without involving any depth, because Clash of the Titans was just that and I expect the sequel, which I stayed well away from, was more of the same.

    Oh, on the subject of films I haven't seen, though, doesn't Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief have Greek gods in the present day, and isn't it a lowest-common-denomination flog-it-cheap-to-yoof effort just like Atlantis? How does that fit into the 'they're objectionable' theory?

  • JustStark

    If they can get worked up about the demon worshipping Harry Potter, they can get worked up about Atlantis

    But that didn't actually stop the Potter films from making scads of cash, though, and that is all that matters.

    In fact a little bit of controversy can often be good for the bottom line. Nothing boosts a film's takings like a boycott by the Catholic church, after all (or at least that used to be the case, maybe the Pope's box-office power has faded in recent years).

  • 1) Not many people watched it
    2) Some people didn't watch it because of previously stated objections
    3) When asked if there is a God or not at one point (rather than just gods), a wise centaur hints that there probably is a God, too.
    4) Atlantis is made in a post-Harry Potter, post-Percy Jackson, post-'it's blasphemy!' age, so has the benefit of hindsight.

    But seriously, they talk about the gods in Atlantis, they talk about beliefs in the gods and what those beliefs entails (cobblers though those statements are), it's just they don't bother actually featuring them or suggesting that they are out there, just not showing up. So if the argument is that it's the different worldviews that are the problems, why have the worldviews but not the gods?

  • It's the BBC and the BBC gets an attack of the vapours every time the Daily Mail even hints it's doing something wrong. It's also a TV series, not a movie, so the rewards are considerably smaller for the same possible risks.

    Again, my point is about the perceptions of the people involved and what they believe audiences want, not necessarily what the audiences actually want.

  • JustStark

    So if the argument is that it's the different worldviews that are the problems, why have the worldviews but not the gods?

    Well, I stopped watching it an episode and forty minutes after it became clear it was shit (so at the end of the second episode) so I may just have to stop speculating at the thought processes of the creators of a programme I have barely even seen, but I really don't think the 'scared of Christian objections' theory fits the available evidence. Nobody else making TV, even in the states, seems scared of the Christian lobby, so why would Howard Overman be?

  • “Nobody else making TV, even in the states, seems scared of the Christian lobby, so why would Howard Overman be?”

    What TV shows on at the moment can you think of that state that gods other than the Christian God exists? I believe Supernatural was the last one and the Christian angels killed all the 'baby eaters' off because they weren't as powerful as them.

  • JustStark

    It's the BBC and the BBC gets an attack of the vapours every time the Daily Mail even hints it's doing something wrong

    I thought was the US fundies you said they were worried about? Which is it? US or Daily Mail?

    Not that the worry of what the Daily Mail will say actually ever seems to stop the BBC doing anything — didn't the BBC kick up a big fuss about the Doctor Who 'gay agenda' and didn't the BBC take exactly no notice whatsoever?

    I agree that these things are driven by the perceptions of the people involved and what they believe audiences want, but I just don't think those perceptions include, 'People won't watch if we have real Greek gods showing up'. If that were true they wouldn't keep making films and TV series in which Greek gods show up (and they do: what about Gods Behaving Badly or Valentine, both of which have Greek gods in the modern day).

  • “I thought was the US fundies you said they were worried about? Which is it? US or Daily Mail?”

    Both. It's a BBC/BBC America co-production.

    “'People won't watch if we have real Greek gods showing up'. If that were true they wouldn't keep making films and TV series in which Greek gods show up (and they do: what about Gods Behaving Badly or Valentine, both of which have Greek gods in the modern day).”

    GBB: made two years ago but unable to get a distributor in the US or the UK, despite having been made by the makers of Little Miss Sunshine and having got a showing last year at the Rome Film Festival.
    Valentine: cancelled after three episodes because of incredibly low ratings that in fact destroyed the CW's entire experimental programming production model for that year.
    Cupid: cancelled both times due to low ratings.

  • JustStark

    Not many programmes really take a stance on the existence of gods one way or the other — it's hard to see it coming up in Homeland — so I think the sample size is rather small. But Jaime Murray was in one that had real Greek gods wandering about in the modern world just a few years ago, wasn't she?

    And then there' Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where the Norse gods are definitely real, albeit actually aliens from another dimension, though it's ambiguous what the actual difference there is seeing as they to all intents and purposes are the Norse gods and do all the things the Norse gods do, like fight giants.

    It just doesn't seem to be a complete no-go area for mainstream TV, is all I'm saying, and there are any number of aesthetic explanations as to why Atlantis in particular might not want to have the gods show up in person.

    Heck, the gods rarely actually show up in person in actual real Greek plays!

  • JustStark

    unable to get a distributor […] cancelled after three
    episodes because of incredibly low ratings […] cancelled both times due to low ratings.

    That rather suggests that if it is true that the US networks regard Greek gods as a no-go area, it's not because they are afraid of fundamentalists but simply because nobody wants to watch them.

    (Alternatively Valentine and Cupid might just have been rubbish; I haven't seen them, I don't know).

  • “Not many programmes really take a stance on the existence of gods one way or the other — it's hard to see it coming up in Homeland — so I think the sample size is rather small. But Jaime Murray was in one that had real Greek gods wandering about in the modern world just a few years ago, wasn't she?”

    Valentine, which we've already mentioned.

    Homeland, of course, didn't; The Unit, an otherwise simple special forces drama, had many religious issues, including a mission to get the spear of Jesus. Then there's Save Me, NBC's forthcoming Salvation, GCB (Good Christian Belles/Bitches) – US dramas are far happier to depict modern day Christians and the Christian God than they are others.

    “And then there' Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where the Norse gods are definitely real, albeit actually aliens from another dimension, though it's ambiguous what the actual difference there is seeing as they to all intents and purposes are the Norse gods and do all the things the Norse gods do, like fight giants.”

    It's clear they're not supposed to be gods, but aliens. They certainly don't think they're gods (cf Thor, with the line about just having to summon some thunder and lightning and credulous mortals will worship you as a god). Certainly, no one on Earth thinks they are or worships them (cf 'These guys are basically gods' 'There's only one God, ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that').

    The comics are a bit more ambiguous, but the films and TV shows are pretty clear that Norse mythology was just mortals getting the wrong end of the stick and being easily impressed.

    “It just doesn't seem to be a complete no-go area for mainstream TV, is all I'm saying, and there are any number of aesthetic explanations as to why Atlantis in particular might not want to have the gods show up in person.”

    Those shows that do address the existence of the gods or not are almost always very clear that they're on their last legs and just milling about (eg Valentine, GBB), the people involved are probably deluded and/or not actually gods (eg Cupid) or that there are higher, Christian powers (eg Xena, Supernatural).

    I think The Almighty Johnsons and Vikings are the only real exceptions to that. TAL was going to have a US pilot but that didn't happen; it was also cancelled in NZ after the 2nd season for getting poor ratings.

    You are right. There are other potential reasons for the gods' non-inclusion in Atlantis, but it's an odd choice for a fantasy series based on any number of Greek myths (rather than plays) not to have them.

  • “It's not because they are afraid of fundamentalists but simply because nobody wants to watch them.”

    Which is kind of point isn't it? That producers are worried that people don't want to watch shows that feature Greek gods so don't include them in shows, even shows that absolutely should feature them, thus compromising the show creatively over fears about the audience? Whether it's because of religious fundamentalism or whether it's because people just don't want to watch that kind of show is almost irrelevant if they have the same effect.

  • JustStark

    it's an odd choice for a fantasy series based on any number of Greek myths (rather than plays) not to have them.

    Actually thinking about it, it's not that odd and is probably why they tend to show up in myths but not in plays: they are fine for doing big epic things and setting wars in motion or giving orders that Must Be Obeyed, but they're a real bugger if they actually turn up on-stage. Suddenly you've got a character in the cast who could by definition just solve all the conflicts of the drama at a stroke. It's going to be really hard to stop them becoming the focus of whatever's going on.

    The last thing I saw with onstage gods was Dido, Queen of Carthage in Emmanuel Chapel (and it is only now I realise the irony of that but no, nobody complained) and that works really hard to stop the argument between the gods that is the cause of the events in Carthage from overshadowing the actual plot, mainly by keeping the appearances of the mature gods to an absolute minimum (Cupid is less a 'god' than a force of nature, in the play, a sort of Puck-figure).

    if the gods are kept offstage, then the drama can centre of the human characters, but if a god comes onstage then either it is to resolve the plot (a la that 'classic' deus ex machina) or the question has to be asked, 'why don't they just resolve the plot?' and suddenly your story is all about that rather than what the human characters are doing.

    (This is an even bigger problem with the Christian God, of course, as if His existence is ever confirmed then, 'Why don't they just pray that everything be sorted out?' becomes the elephant in the room and various unsatisfying answers like, 'Because He wants you to learn by doing it yourself' have to be trotted out).

  • JustStark

    It's not irrelevant to the point at issue, though, which was:

    However, I don't think it removed the Greek gods in order to avoid upsetting Christians and/or secularists.

    ie, the discussion was about the motivation for not having the Grrek gods in (is it to avoid upsetting people, or is it because it's believed that nobody wants to watch them?).

    But, laying that aside, there's another couple of interesting issues. Which are:

    1. Are producers right that people don't want to watch programmes that feature Greek gods?

    I mean, producers make the kinds of programmes they think people want to watch (in the old days of the BBC they made the kind of programmes they thought people ought to watch but there aren't too many of those around now, for good or ill). And they are not always right but they can't always be wrong either.

    Maybe people just aren't interested in watching Greek gods? In which case, is removing them not exactly the right thing to do?

    2. The idea that Atlantis is a 'show[…] that absolutely should feature them'.

    This I am confused about. Given that most actual Greek plays, even ones where the gods' demands drive the action, tend not to actually feature the gods, why should Atlantics 'absolutely' feature the Greek gods as onstage characters? Especially given the difficulties dramatically in presenting the gods as onstage characters, as noted above or below or wherever this stupid comment system chooses to put it, given that I suspect those difficulties are why the Greek playwrights themselves shied away from putting gods and mortals on the same stage?

  • It's more a problem with monotheism than with polytheism, because yes, by definition, there's a character who could solve all the conflicts in a stroke. But there's another one who can f*ck it all up again in a second stroke. And a third and a fourth… The gods can also have their own rationales for not interfering in each other's schemes, too (usually a bigger god, usually Zeus, who'll slap them around if they do).

    So you can have Ajax, Hippolytus, The Eumenides and numerous other Greek tragedies all perfectly happy to have one god, a demi-god or several gods as the focuses of the story.

    If Hercules and Xena could manage it more or less every episode for about a dozen seasons, I reckon the BBC could manage it for one, couldn't they?

  • “Maybe people just aren't interested in watching Greek gods? In which case, is removing them not exactly the right thing to do?”

    Clearly some people are. Or were. Even 15 years ago.

    But the question now is are there sufficient numbers to justify the making of such a show now. Which again is the original point (which you mentioned yourself) – that that is the question. That there's been a shift from making the shows that people should watch or that pitch to the 'higher' stream to shows that it's perceived people really want to watch and so everything is then scrubbed clean or dumbed down to match that expectation.

    “Given that most actual Greek plays, even ones where the gods' demands drive the action, tend not to actually feature the gods, why should Atlantics 'absolutely' feature the Greek gods as onstage characters? Especially given the difficulties dramatically in presenting the gods as onstage characters, as noted above or below or wherever this stupid comment system chooses to put it, given that I suspect those difficulties are why the Greek playwrights themselves shied away from putting gods and mortals on the same stage?'

    Except they didn't. And one could argue about the differences between Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes and Euripides, to name but a few, to explain their motivations for their inclusion of the gods or not in each individual play, but whether it's The Bacchae, The Frogs or Prometheus Bound, the gods are there in rather a lot of plays.

    More to the point, Atlantis isn't a single play. One season is 10 plays, so there should be by your rationale just as many episodes featuring Greek gods as there were on average in Greek tragedy, no? At the very least, one, wouldn't you say?

  • JustStark

    It's more a problem with monotheism than with polytheism, because yes,
    by definition, there's a character who could solve all the conflicts in a
    stroke. But there's another one who can f*ck it all up again in a
    second stroke. And a third and a fourth…

    But suddenly then your programme has become about the gods and their schemes. What if you don't want that? What if your programme is supposed to be about the human characters?

    The point is that the gods overwhelm your story, and distort it until it's about them. Easiest way to avoid that its to keep them offstage.

    If Hercules and Xena could manage it more or less every episode for about a dozen seasons, I reckon the BBC could manage it for one, couldn't they?

    Maybe, maybe not; I think it would be difficult because once you've put one god onstage then as mentioned, they tend to overwhelm — and the examples of Hercules and Xena support that because once they start tangling with gods it becomes difficult to go back to human-level antagonists and suddenly your programme is all gods, all the time.

    Maybe they could have a god show up just once — but why would they, given the dangers of it changing the focus of the programme so substantially?

    Also just practically, how would it even work? A mysterious old man shows up, gets the main cast to do something, then at the end turns young and goes 'oh by the way I'm Zeus' and disappears? Now your cast have met a god, you're in a double-bind — either next week it's back to business as usual, which is mad, because they met a god, or suddenyl it's all about when Zeus might turn up and want something else doing, or whether Poseidon might turn up to hurt them for helping Zeus out, and suddenly your programme is, again, more about the gods' schemes than about the human characters.

    Why would you want to do that to your programme?

    I reckon if you're going to have gods in your programme you have to think about how they're going to be handled very carefully, and structure your programme around that. Otherwise — the easier option — just keep them offstage.

    It's not like there's a moral obligation to show them onstage, after all. Even the Greek dramatists didn't feel that had to show gods, even when they were presenting myths in which the gods were the ones who set things in motion — people would just come on and say, 'Apollo told me to do this'.

  • JustStark

    so there should be by your rationale just as many episodes featuring
    Greek gods as there were on average in Greek tragedy, no? At the very
    least, one, wouldn't you say?

    No because, as mentioned, it would distort the programme: once a god shows up, then for better or worse the audience are going to spend every episode from then on wondering when the next one's going to turn up. Gods are going to overshadow the human characters; it's just what they do.

    If Atlantis were to have a god show up then suddenly it would become about the gods, not the human characters, in the same way Hercules and Xena became about the involvement of the protagonists in the gods' schemes. Once you've have your main characters deal wit gods, to have them go back to just dealing with mortal antagonists and complications is just too much of a let-down.

    I can't believe we're having this discussion about a programme so completely lacking in any kind of worth or quality as Atlantis.

  • “But suddenly then your programme has become about the gods and their schemes. What if you don't want that? What if your programme is supposed to be about the human characters?

    The point is that the gods overwhelm your story, and distort it until it's about them. Easiest way to avoid that its to keep them offstage.”

    Not if you don't want them to – cf Greek tragedies that only mention gods; cf Hercules and Xena.

    “Suddenly your programme is all gods, all the time.”

    Except they weren't. Xena became all Caesar, all the time. All the rift between Gabrielle and Xena. Hercules became the funny antics of Autolycus or Salmoneus. All interspersed with stories involving the gods.

    “Also just practically, how would it even work?”

    However, you want it to. The Iliad does it; Jason and the Argonauts does it. Hell, you can watch Vikings doing it right now on LoveFilm/Amazon Prime, with Odin showing up every so often but only briefly, Odin's requirements then being talked about in other episodes.

    “either next week it's back to business as usual, which is mad, because they met a god, “

    In a world full of gods. So why not? You've been talking about them all the time. They show up. You adjust. You carry on. You feature the gods if you want to.

    Hell, even Witchblade and Fringe had no gods, but had mysterious people lurking in the background and foreground of scenes, exerting an influence, but without the show being about them. It can be done. Often.

  • JustStark

    Greek tragedies that only mention gods

    Is that not exactly what Atlantis does at the minute, though? Gods are mentioned, just not presented onstage.

    Hell, you can watch Vikings doing it right now on LoveFilm/Amazon Prime, with Odin showing up every so often
    but only briefly, Odin's requirements then being talked about in other episodes

    I have the Vikings DVDs on order from my rental service (finally, Vikings are getting the recognition they deserve after years of bloody pirates) so I'll be sure to check that out; I didn't realise it featured the actual gods (isn't it a History Channel production?).

    But then isn't it an example of a current TV programme that features non-Christian gods (albeit not one on mainstream TV) so another counter-example to the idea that people won't feature non-Christian gods in case they upset Christians?

  • “If Atlantis were to have a god show up”

    We're talking about a show that featured a minotaur, a hydra, Maenads, witches, furies, sirens, Medusa, Circe, prophetic oracles, and werewolf followers of Hekate, all of them scheming about Jason and manipulating his actions, and you're worried about what would happen if a god did show up, instead of just get mentioned every episode?

  • “Is that not exactly what Atlantis does at the minute, though?”
    They're mentioned, but there's never the implication that there are gods, only that everyone is terribly, terribly mistaken.

    “I didn't realise it featured the actual gods”

    Kind of. There's always the possibility they're hallucinations. Total onscreen time is probably about 3-5 minutes across two seasons; lines of dialogue: nil. I was just presenting it as one possible way you can have gods in a show without their necessarily dominating the action.

  • JustStark

    There's always the possibility they're hallucinations

    Is that not the same as Atlantis then, from a point of view of whether the gods are presented as 'actually existing'?

  • JustStark

    you're worried about what would happen if a god did show up, instead of just get mentioned every episode?

    I'd just like to make it clear that I am not 'worried' by anything that could happen to Atlantis in any way, shape, or form. All the sets could be hit by a freak earthquake that dumped them into the sea at the same time as every single tape, hard drive, and photographic record that it ever existed was evaporated, and that would not worry me in the slightest.

    I'm simply speculating as to why the creators might have taken the perfectly valid dramatic decision to keep any gods offstage to avoid even the possibility of them overshadowing the actions and machinations of their mortal characters.

    I mean, is it not a perfectly valid and understandable dramatic decision?

  • No. Atlantis merely mentions the names of the gods. It gives them followers. These followers sometimes have magical powers, as do the witches. But you never see the gods, never have the gods turn up possessing someone or in the form of a bird or whatever. The gods never speak directly to the hero or offer advice. Essentially, you could remove them and use 'magic/witchcraft' as the explanation for everything (and argue that since the Bible has witches, magic is real so that's fine), but for it not to be actual gods behind it all.

    Vikings on the other hand gives you actual visitations by Odin and the Valkyrie… that might be hallucinations although not necessarily. Everyone believes in the gods and those who prophesy on behalf of the gods is generally right.

    So it hedges its bets, but we're not talking about a show that does mythology per se, anyway.

  • Not if you are almost deliberately going out of your way not to have them show up or do anything, to the extent that you're distorting the shape of the script and jumping through hoops not to mention them at all, even when you're basing an episode around the followers or on stories that actually did feature them in the first place.

    Throughtout the series, for example, the big question is of why everyone's so interested in Jason and how Jason can do all the mighty things he does, speak the language of the Atlanteans and so on. The obvious solution? He's a demi-god, probably the son of Poseidon.

    Actual answer? Because he's John Hannah's son and John Hannah runs the production company.

    I take your argument that there could be valid reasons for not including Greek gods at all in a fantasy series that's an adaptations of Greek myths and plays. I'm just not seeing them as working in the case of Atlantis.

  • GYAD

    Are there any examples of Christian fundies in the US complaining about pagan gods appearing on TV? And it having an impact (as opposed to just being lonely nutters spouting off)?

    After all, there's lots of US shows about witches, which should presumably also be a no-go subject.

    The article you link to is hardly that supportive. The author describes a named pagan as a “dear friend” and attacks Christian fundamentalists. About the nastiest it gets is the author saying he “grieve(s)” the growth of paganism.

    As for “Atlantis”…

    I don't think teenage boys do want to watch a series led by a girl…unless she's hot (“Xena” etc.). I don't think “Call the Midwife” would get the same audience if Ray Winstone played the lead either.

  • GYAD

    “US dramas are far happier to depict modern day Christians and the Christian God than they are others.”

    Presumably because most Americans are Christian…

    It doesn't strike me that there's some evil conspiracy or rampant bigotry here, just commercialism.

  • JustStark

    I don't think teenage boys do want to watch a series led by a girl…unless she's hot (“Xena” etc.).

    Though when I was a teenage boy I watched Dark Season and Century Falls, both of which had unhot girls in the lead roles.

  • I don't believe I said there was an evil conspiracy or rampant bigotry. It's the perception that there might be a problem or that a predominantly Christian nation isn't going to watch a show that features other religions except in fantastic settings that's the issue.

    I think people are happy to watch Sinbad or Xena, for example, but do you think there are many producers in the US or the UK planning stories that feature Allah, djinn, Mohammad et al in modern times, even with one eye on the potential export market (1.6 billion Muslims worldwide). How many Hindu dramas are there on UK TV, despite 1.5m Hindus in the UK, 900 million worldwide? Surely if commercialism were the issue, producers would be lining up to develop shows for those markets?

  • My link was basically just to show that there are people in the US who don't think pagans should be pagans. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), it's actually quite hard to find organised hate campaigns on the Internet through Google; I have seen various pagans report having been abused by Christians and Facebook groups defaced, but you can delete and report abusive posts so it's quite hard to point people in that direction.

    But religious concerns are a concern, even before any real campaign has kicked off. Even in today's news, consider this:

    http://www.thewrap.com/noah-ex

    “I don't think teenage boys do want to watch a series led by a girl…unless she's hot (“Xena” etc.). I don't think “Call the Midwife” would get the same audience if Ray Winstone played the lead either.”

    Well, TBH, that's streaming right there. As Mr Stark pointed out, there were plenty of shows with non-hot women as the leads back in the 80s and 90s, and there are plenty of women who are pretty but not 'hot' in shows watched by teenage boys, even in the US: does anyone fancy Laurel in Arrow, for example, and I'm pretty sure Chloe in Smallville wasn't designed to appeal to teenage boys, any more than Lana was.

    So do you mean 'all teenage boys'? If not, what majority? How about the gay ones? And how do you know – did you do research or did is it just 'a perception'?

    Even at the outside and we accept for a moment that most teenage boys will be repelled by a show that features a non-hot woman (what was ITV2 thinking with Plebs?), if the argument is that we should be producing shows that are challenging and aimed at the upper levels rather than the 'general idiot', why aren't we including non-hot women and trying to lift 'the general idiot' to a higher level?

    More so, we're streaming in another sense – we're assuming that no woman/girl at all would watch an action show about Greek myths, when as we all know, that's really not the case.

    Basically, demographic targeting is a form of streaming and 'the bigotry of low expectations' is ruining TV aimed at the general population just as much as other kinds of streaming.

  • GYAD

    I think creating a supernatural Muslim drama would be a great way to get a fatwa…

    Anyway, there just aren't that many Muslims in the US. OK, there's a big foreign market…but that's pretty well covered by foreign TV.

    (Some of which is pretty good – Dubai did a good series on the successors of Muhammed recently that was quite well made).

    Sure, the US exports more TV than anyone else, but it'd still be like Dubai making a Buddhist soap opera in the hopes of capturing the Asian market.

    As for the UK. Well, there is a lot of South Asian TV…it's just not on the terrestrial channels.

    Also, trying to capture 1.5 million out of 60 million is aiming low.

    British TV is pretty wary of religion anyway – there's very few Christian dramas.

  • GYAD

    TBH, a few nasty comments on the street or online don't strike me as meaning very much. Some people are just jerks.

    As for “Noah”, if what I've heard is correct then I can see why faith groups might want an explanatory message. Hollywood wants the faith audience bad enough to make that concession but not enough to make a theologically accurate film.

    I think it's quite reasonable to be considerate about people's faith, so long as it doesn't turn into the censorship of important issues.

    As for my flippant “hot girls” comment…

    I think some of what you're saying isn't really aimed at me. I never made comments assuming that teenage boys would be “repelled” by non-hot girls on TV, nor that women wouldn't watch a show based on the Greek myths.

    All I'm saying is that in my personal experience boys prefer to watch TV about boys. Similarly girls prefer to watch TV about girls.

    Of course there is some cross-over and some interesting exceptions.

    This is why I mentioned “Call the Midwife”. Now, are there men who watch that show? Probably. Will men watch period medical dramas? Yes. But “Call the Midwife” is a show aimed squarely at women and that's OK by me.

    I wouldn't want all TV to be aimed squarely at one sex or the other. Nor do I want them so bland that every show appeals equally to both sexes. I think it's quite possible to have a mix.

    As ever, moderation is the key.

  • GYAD

    TBH, a few nasty comments on the street or online don't strike me as meaning very much. Some people are just jerks.

    As for “Noah”, if what I've heard is correct then I can see why faith groups might want an explanatory message. Hollywood wants the faith audience bad enough to make that concession but not enough to make a theologically accurate film.

    I think it's quite reasonable to be considerate about people's faith, so long as it doesn't turn into the censorship of important issues.

    As for my flippant “hot girls” comment…

    I think some of what you're saying isn't really aimed at me. I never made comments assuming that teenage boys would be “repelled” by non-hot girls on TV, nor that women wouldn't watch a show based on the Greek myths.

    All I'm saying is that in my personal experience boys prefer to watch TV about boys. Similarly girls prefer to watch TV about girls.

    Of course there is some cross-over and some interesting exceptions.

    This is why I mentioned “Call the Midwife”. Now, are there men who watch that show? Probably. Will men watch period medical dramas? Yes. But “Call the Midwife” is a show aimed squarely at women and that's OK by me.

    I wouldn't want all TV to be aimed squarely at one sex or the other. Nor do I want them so bland that every show appeals equally to both sexes. I think it's quite possible to have a mix.

    As ever, moderation is the key.