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Tony Grist

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A Grumble About The BBC [Feb. 10th, 2009|09:38 am]
Tony Grist
So what's the point of the BBC if it doesn't pick up an outstanding series like The Wire?

We're watching The Wire- finally- on our cable provider's "choice on demand" service. They have a rotating archive of programmes- including a stash of HBO classics. The other show we're following is Six Feet Under.

I don't believe the BBC picked up on Six Feet Under either. No it didn't- I've just checked. That originally went out in the UK on Channel 4.

The Wire originally went out in the UK on FX- an obscure satellite/cable channel- to the shame not only of the BBC, but of all the major broadcasters.

We watched four episodes of The Wire last night- taking us almost to the end of season I. 

I don't need to tell you The Wire's good. 

So why do we still pay a license fee- to fund the BBC- when the BBC doesn't show the Wire? I used to be a supporter of the system; now I'm not.

The BBC used to be our major broadcaster. It directed the national conversation. ITV had Coronation Street; the BBC had everything else. It had the best drama, the best comedy, the best documentaries, the best current affairs.

Now we have hundreds of channels. The BBC could still occupy a special niche if it cared to- but most of its output is play-safe stuff. I don't believe they've got a single programme in their portfolio right now that's worth staying in for.

Ok- there's still Dr Who.

I think the heart went out of the BBC when it buckled to the Blair government over weapons of mass destruction and the death of Dr David Kelly.  It was in the right and it allowed itself to be faced down over a technicality.  I wince, I shout at the screen when Alistair Campbell- Blair's hatchet man- the man who gutted the corporation- shows up on the One Show and elsewhere to have his tummy tickled. Did you know he once suffered from depression and has written books about it to ease his pain? Poor diddums!  He ought to be standing in a dock at the Hague.

So what do I still make a point of watching on the BBC?  Dr Who,  The Antiques Road Show- and- erm- I think that's about it. The last British made drama series I really liked- The Devil's Whore- was on Channel 4.

So I'm paying over £100 each year for Dr Who and The Antiques Road Show. Hardly value for money. It would be cheaper to buy the boxed sets.

[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2009-02-10 11:20 am (UTC)
At the moment I'm enjoying the Victorian Farm and that religious programme where the C of E vicar tours the world finding out about other faiths. There's Being Human on BBC three, which we can't receive, but I've been downloading them from the iPlayer. One day I might even find time to watch them!

Otherwise I admit, there isn't much that we watch at the moment.

Our next TV hurdle is to go digital. We'll have to shell out for a satellite dish before October when they turn off our analogue transmitter. I need to sort out one of the Freesat deals because I refuse to pay for Sky when we really don't watch TV much at all. That's not for any snobbbish reasons, by the way, just that we have always tended to work evenings.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-02-10 12:15 pm (UTC)
We have cable, so there's all sorts at our disposal. Recently I've found I'm watching Sky Arts a lot.

There's plenty of stuff on the BBC with which you can pass the time of day without feeling ill, but they seem to have pulled right back from the edge. And I'll confess I'm bored with the one genre they excel at- the dramatization of classic novels.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2009-02-10 12:09 pm (UTC)
I think the heart went out of the BBC when it buckled to the Blair government over weapons of mass destruction and the death of Dr David Kelly. It was in the right and it allowed itself to be faced down over a technicality.
I think you're right. I also seem to remember a moment in which the governor - ? - of the BBC was summoned to No 10, after they'd had the temerity to report something close to the truth about the war in Iraq.

The effect was immediate. News coverage of the Middle East became more of an artful dodge, reducing what was once thoughtful analysis to a dialog of "he said, she said", as if reality on the ground were merely someone's opinion.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-02-10 12:18 pm (UTC)
I liked Greg Dyke- but I think he should have stood his ground and fought back. His successor appears to be a nonentity.

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[User Picture]From: huskyteer
2009-02-10 03:19 pm (UTC)
There's a lot of neat stuff on BBC4, but terrestrial does seem to be floundering these days.

I also resent all the hoopla about new Dr Who when the BBC left it to moulder in a cupboard for years and years. They don't deserve to make money from it again now.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-02-10 03:39 pm (UTC)
I'm just glad the Doctor's back.

Mind you, I don't think New Who is nearly as good as it ought to be. I enjoy it, but come away feeling vaguely unsatisfied. I hate it that he has to save the universe every week. I want smaller, subter, cleverer stories than the ones we usually get.
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[User Picture]From: brttvns
2009-02-10 05:26 pm (UTC)
A lot of fair points, but I do like BBC4 and the occasional documentary on BBC2 - but everything is too occasionally to justify the fee.

And how come no channel has taken on HBO's 'Deadwood'? Excellent.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-02-10 08:46 pm (UTC)
I think those HBO shows may be just too "adult" for mainstream British TV.
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[User Picture]From: brttvns
2009-02-10 09:19 pm (UTC)
The Sopranos was picked up by Channel 4. Though featuring strong language and sex 'Deadwood' is one of the most refreshing and intelligent series (not just on the West) I have seen in recent years. I think if sex and cursing was not wrapped up in cotton-wool (and also the attitude to racism that is depicted of its time - Deadwood's that is, as it was intelligently addressed in both context and character) viewers would learn a damn sight more than watching the programmes that are chosen, whether they be the daytime rubbish of our own production (which features more narrow-mindedness than any Gangster or Western series) or the imported shallowness of Sex In The City.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-02-11 10:14 am (UTC)
I agree. I think we ought to have got past the point where anyone pretends to be offended by characters saying "fuck" or "cunt" or "cocksucker".

I never watched The Sopranos- and it's beginning to prey upon my conscience. I loved season 1 of Deadwood, but gave up halfway through season 2. I thought it was becoming repetitive, but maybe I was wrong.
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[User Picture]From: petercampbell
2009-02-10 06:35 pm (UTC)
As far as I understand the process, a lot of US TV shows are bought blind - they're in production, but no-one has actually seen them. By doing this, companies get the shows much more cheaply than if they wait for them to be broadcast (if it's a hit, the cost soars). This might explain why the likes of The Wire ended up on such an obscure channel.

The BBC is apparently planning a spruce-up of its programmes: less makeover shows and quizzes, and more challenging content. The channel really has gone downhill of late, though I do like The Culture Show and am addicted to Strictly Come Dancing (sad, I know)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-02-10 08:50 pm (UTC)
I watched a season of Strictly- the first, I suppose- even though I detest Bruce Forsyth. Shows with an element of competition built in are terribly addictive. I once- to my shame- got hooked on America's Next Top Model.

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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2009-02-11 01:10 am (UTC)
Top Gear. That's all, and maybe Spooks.

And David Kelly was murrrrderrrrd - in my humble opinion.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-02-11 10:18 am (UTC)
I think it was suicide- though I'm open to persuasion- but he was certainly betrayed and hung out to dry by his (and our) masters.

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