Friday, March 23, 2007


In today's Broadcast there is a really interesting interview with Stephen Merchant, who is looking to try his hand at writing drama.

The article states "...he'll be looking to the US rather than British drama for inspiration." It then goes on, "...there's an incredible sense of personality and vision. They [the U.S.] take the genre and invest it with a whole new depth and I just feel like in British drama, we've become a little complacent." He then mentions the 'formula and copycat shows' on British TV, but the article does note "his reluctance to criticise his peers".

What do you think about the differences - if any - between our own homegrown and American drama? For better or for worse? For richer or for poorer? Do 'they' really do it better? Or do they just have more filthy lucre available? Do you think 'The Writing Team' (U.S style) may be the way ahead for UK writing?

Answers on a postcard. Or you could just post a comment here.


  1. Obviously more money goes into US television, when it comes to drama, and more attention to character.

    But I think the big difference is not just the writing but the production.

    US dramas have better pace and urgency to them that few UK dramas can match. I think Spooks has come the closest.

    Here's the think. If I was a patient in ER I'd expect to make it. If I went in to Casualty or Holby City I'm probably die waiting on a trolley in the corridor somewhere.

  2. Thanks for that GD.

    You mention more attention is paid to character & I totally agree on that, but I often wonder why that is the case? Surely that doesn't boil down to money too? Or perhaps it does, with more time for development?

    The pace issue is a bone of contention with me too. I once had a discussion with an indie drama exec producer about this exact topic and he assured me the pace of our current drama is "what people are used to and what they expect from British TV". And yet I think I would struggle to find a 'joe bloggs' friend who would choose an episode of Casualty or Holby over CSI or 24.

    Makes ya wonder if the right people are seeing the right stuff these days.

  3. "what people are used to and what they expect from British TV"

    That sounds like a dreadful cop out. And anyway, the marvelous BBC adaptation of Bleak House put a spring in its step rather than plod along. The State Within went at a clip. The quote seems to have a faint whiff of BS about it.

  4. Yup. Precisely. Then I saw one of their new TV productions and was shocked to say the least. A radical shift in viewpoint had occured, I would say. Perhaps he listened to my ickle voice, after all?

    You just never know...

  5. If we're talking about the very best US drama then I think HBO has moved the goalposts considerably and part of the reason is the amount of money they can invest per hour. The US is such a big market that niche shows that won't necessarily appeal to a mass network audience such as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and The Wire still command big enough audiences to justify their expense.

    Unfortunately we do not have that luxury in this country so quality often suffers because UK dramas have to appeal to a mass market and so cannot take too many risks. E.g. there is more emphasis on the writing of character on HBO - you'll often see Tony Soprano making the tea or reading the paper in a scene - there isn't this paranoia about constant editing you get over here, driven as it is by the fear that people will switch off if the narrative isn't constantly moving forward.

    However, having said that, I did see a UK drama recently that did have similar production values - Edge of Darkness, made in 1985!

    Maybe I'm just an old cynic - pass me my tattered leather and packet of camels...

  6. It's taken me a while, but Welcome to you Willd!