Thursday, July 05, 2007

Today : The Ideas Drought

The other night I was watching Balderdash and Piffle on BBC2. The show is based on the Guardian Notes and Queries model - A wiki if you like. Viewers are challenged to help the Word-Nerds of the OED to help with definitions and etymologies of words. I don't usually watch this show but found it interesting and quite charming. It is a classic BBC2 show - popular intellectualism.

But I only watched it by accident when I switched off my DVD of The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5 (The Crackpots and These Women aka the first Big Block of Cheese Day). The reason I was watching this for the hundredth time? TV is more or less a desert.

Primetime contains nothing that interests me. It is basically split into three types of shows. Soaps, reality soaps and makeover shows. Now Soaps are okay, I just choose not to watch them. But the other stuff is empty and devoid of ideas. 10 years ago a show following a vet or a doctor was original and eminently watchable. Driving School, Airport and others were pretty good entertainment - giving us some insight into the stories of 'real' people. Also 10 years ago Changing Rooms was an original idea. It got people thinking about design and then there was the all important reveal - where enthusiasm was infectious and disappointment was cringeworthy.

But there have been so many variations on these ideas that it has all become a lazy blur of unoriginality and tedium.

The other issue is the fact that anything remotely successful is flogged to death. Take the idea of Strictly Come Dancing, which is one of the best and most entertaining family shows of recent years. After its initial success we have had Strictly Dance Fever (a dance contest) and now DanceX (another dance contest). SDF failed and was cancelled, I predict the same fate for DanceX. Casualty ran out of steam years ago but then was expanded not once but twice, spawning both Holby City and Holby Blue. The Weakest Link was very successful, but it's been going on for too long and is tired and repetitive. In the past the BBC was known for drama, and still comes up with the occasional gem, but it seems that drama can't be made these days without an ex-Eastender in the lead role.

It was ever thus, I guess. In between The BBC Shakespeare were long forgotten awful sitcoms, horrid drama series and pointless game shows. My complaint is mainly lack of variety. In between such gems as Planet Earth, Coast, Spooks and Dr Who, the schedules are wall to wall DIY, Antiques, Makeovers, consumer shows and reality soaps. I can't even think of a sitcom or sketch show that is currently part of primetime schedules.

Is this a paucity of new ideas or a way of trying play it safe. Either way, those in charge have apparently not encountered the law of diminishing returns.

And its not just me who thinks this. Plenty of BBC Tv viewers agree.

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