Saturday, January 16, 2010

Great news for original TV writing

I found the glad tidings on Media Guardian (this by Maggie Brown):

Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC drama commissioning, is poised to cull a number of BBC1's long-running dramas in order to free funds and airtime to commission new shows.

Speaking as he unveiled the BBC's winter and spring drama lineup, Stephenson said the strategy was a "huge risk ... a bloody terrifying decision" but it was the only way to change what was considered mainstream.

Though the BBC was unwilling to be drawn on what might be cut, Holby City, Casualty, Waterloo Road and New Tricks are thought to be safe.

Investment in period/costume drama will be sparing, and shows such as Bleak House or Little Dorrit are unlikely to be commissioned for the 8pm slot.

A ninth series of Spooks is underway, but there are no firm plans for a third run of Criminal Justice. BBC2 is also on the cusp of change, after receiving extra funds. Ambitious new BBC2 dramas, including one about the Medicis, with an Italian partner, are in development.

Stephenson said there had to be a way in future to evaluate the success of BBC drama that did not rely on the size of audiences. "Success at the BBC is much more complex," he added.

These comments must be set in the context of criticism from the BBC Trust, whose members are pushing for more distinctive pieces and authored works.

New dramas scheduled for 2010 include A Passionate Woman, starring Billie Piper and Sue Johnston, written and produced by Kay Mellor; Luther, a new police drama; and a further series of Doctor Who, with Matt Smith replacing David Tennant.

The BBC is also currently completing a three-part drama, Five Daughters, written by Stephen Butchard, about the young women lured into prostitution by drug addiction and then murdered in Ipswich by Steve Wright.

BBC2 is running an 80s-themed season of one-off dramas ranging from Money, an adaptation of Martin Amis's novel; to Abi Morgan's Royal Wedding, about life in a Welsh village at the time of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer's wedding; and Dominic Savage's first scripted drama, Dive, featuring Olympic hopefuls.

A third series of hit BBC3 drama Being Human has been commissioned for the autumn, after the second series debuted this week with an audience of 1.4 million, double that of the first run.

BBC3 also will screen Lip Service, made by Kudos, featuring the lives of four young lesbians in Glasgow.

Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh, which completes its three-part second run on Sunday on BBC1, has been recommissioned for a third series.

Stephenson said he was guided by the fact that the keynote dramas of 2009 had included Iraq film Occupation which, though it averaged a modest 3.5 million viewers, had dealt with a key contemporary subject; and Small Island, the adaptation of Andrea Levy's novel about the experience of West Indians coming to the UK during the second world war and its aftermath.

He added that the BBC now had a very clear positioning for its output, "as the home of Britain's most creative and exciting dramas", compared with the commercially driven ITV, while Channel 4 and Sky One were turning to adaptations of successful novels.

Key drama producers supplying the BBC, including Kudos and Left Bank Pictures, are concerned, however, about the comparatively low tariffs the BBC is prepared to pay. There are also reports that cash-rich Sky1 is now starting to outbid BBC1 for new dramas.

Plenty to look forward to there, then.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

US take on 3D TV

This from Brad Stelter and Brad Stone in the January 5 2010 New York Times:

"...For most consumers, 3-D is still far in the distance. With the announcement this week [various corporate initiatives and new 3D channels], the media companies are trying to place themselves at the forefront of an emerging technology, much as they did for HDTV a decade ago.
"It took high-definition television about a decade to catch on — to the point where it has become part of the entertainment mainstream, with an adequate stock of HD programming and the sets now cheap enough to entice middle-class buyers. Analysts expect 3-D television to go through the same curve, initially attracting first adopters for whom price is little or no object and gradually moving out to other affluent and then middle-class homes as sets become cheaper and programmers create enough 3-D fare.

"Or, of course, the technology could be a total flop.

"For decades 3-D was a gimmick for B-movies and occasionally on television (in bad quality with flimsy paper glasses), but newer technology has largely erased those memories. Peter M. Fannon, a vice president at Panasonic, called the new sets “totally different than what one had seen over the last 20 to 30 years.”

"In 3-D, television makers see an opportunity to persuade households that have already bought HDTVs to return to the electronics store. Though television sales jumped 17 percent in 2009, the industry needs new innovations to keep the cash register ringing."

"Television begins a push into the 3rd dimension"

All fine and dandy, guys, but I still need to wear the stupid specs, right? Spec-free 3D is a way off, right? Let me know when it happens. And how people without 20/20 vision cope.

Friday, January 01, 2010

P D James tells Mark Thompson a self-evident truth

John Plunkett in today's Guardian quotes Baroness James, a former BBC governor and guest editor on the Today programme, telling the self-important failed DG the basic truth, describing the Corporation as a "large and unwieldy ship ... with a crew that was somewhat discontented and a little mutinous, the ship sinking close to the Plimsoll line and the customers feeling they have paid too much for their journey, and not quite sure where they are going or who is the captain."

Lady James is a dyed-in-the-wool old Tory; nevertheless, with great age comes great wisdom.

Thompson, the only DG to suffer a cut in licence-fee income and who gave up all pretence of independence to get it, lamely offered the Controller of BBC1 in defence. She was earning and could earn more in the private sector, he said. Good - let her return - because the BBC1 hits were all commissioned by her predecessor whilst her choices are all rubbish. Let her go try and sell a second series of Big Top to C4.