Monday, November 20, 2006

In Praise of American TV

I've just been watching "Heroes" which is a wonderful TV show from the US. It's about a group of totally unconnected people, who all start to display super-hero type abilities. Slowly the plot is connecting all these disparate people and I am loving every moment of it. I am especially fond of Hiro, who is a young Japanese guy who can bend the space / time continuum.

People always used to say that British TV was the best in the world, but I'm afraid nowadays we come a pretty poor second (or even lower) to the US. When I think of the TV series that I love best, that I look forward to the most they are all American - Deadwood (sadly discontinued), The Shield, Lost (just love the silly conspiracy theories) and of course, my all time favourite TV series ever - The West Wing.

And there are so many more. Now of course I'm not saying that all American TV is wonderful, I've seen some shocking examples. But apart from the odd historical drama and the BBC's wonderful wildlife series (like Life on Earth), we seem to have lost the ability here to make quality TV. So much of the schedule is filled with inane celebrity vehicles where you vote people off each week. I'd be very surprised if a series like Heroes could ever be made in this country where almost all drama series are a vehicle for a former soap-star.

Even in the genre of Cop Shows we are being out done. America gets The Shield, Thief, Cold Case, Without a Trace etc and we have Blue Murder and endless series of Frost or Midsomer Murders.

Recently we've had Vincent with the wonderful Ray Winstone, and last year there was Life on Mars (original but flawed) and I am hard pressed to think of anything else outstanding.

The over-reliance of the networks on series made by the production companies formed by former soap-stars, and on writers who had a hit series many years ago and have done nothing since, is killing British drama television. The networks need to take more chances with unknown writers, unknown actors and please, oh please can we have some original ideas - the thought of yet another prime time TV detective series just makes me want to bang my head against a wall (and I'm a fan of detective fiction).

I just have one more thing to say. Bones the TV series (absolutely dreadful), is based (very loosely indeed) on the books by Kathy Reichs. Now you can buy a spin-off novel of the series, by Max Allan Collins. So, this is a book based on a TV series based on a book! What is that all about?

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