Don’t try to cross the pond, television

Guy Burstein

(February 9, 2012) — British television has long been known for producing good shows ranging from Sherlock to Dr. Who. This is because of a different approach in production which values the quality of a series just as much as the money it makes. These features that help make it so good should be replicated more often in television here. In addition, the selection of actors in British television is entirely different. In the United States, any actor who is featured on a television show will tend to be extremely attractive. On the other hand, British actors tend to be hired for, surprisingly enough, actual talent. It is unfortunate to see how American television always tends to lean towards sheer quantity and sex appeal instead of the things that really matter in acting: quality and ability. British television tends to be based more on the quality of the writing than American shows, which are made to have much longer running time. This leaves most shows on the BBC having six or seven good episodes in a season instead of many bad ones which inevitably leads to better quality. A prime example of this is the NBC show Prime Suspects, which was based of a British show of the same name. Over its seven years of running, the show had 15 episodes, each of which had a long development time to ensure the writers and actors could make a good program. The American version had almost as many episodes in its first year. Whenever American production companies try recreating the success of British TV shows, they usually fall flat on their face. Take, for example, the popular British teen drama Skins. England’s lenient censorship laws allow for TV shows to be as a realistic and gritty as they want, as long as the show is aired after 10 p.m. Skins won numerous awards for it’s true-to-life writing and accurate depictions of teen issues like anorexia and pregnancy. When MTV tried to remake the show for American audiences, the show failed miserably; the writing suffered from MTV’s undue creative influence, and advertisers pulled out because of supposed depictions of “child pornography.” This slower model gives a lot more freedom to writers to create quality work instead of merely pleasing sponsors by giving massive amounts of air time. The culture in American media is to merely throw out as much content as possible and hope that something works. This is a shame because it causes a lot of possibly good American television to be ruined by rapid deadlines and fast-paced production schedules.