I’ve been wading my way through quite a bit of TV drama of late, spurred on by positive reviews in the press of all the new things like New Tricks, Hustle, Kingdom et al, and have found myself almost constantly disappointed.
There’s just something terribly formulaic and dull about British TV drama where it pales in comparison to even the most ropey of American TV product. There’s just a slickness and a freshness to the US output which I find myself yearning for whenever I park myself in front of the telly for the new “best thing” on our screens.
So thank goodness for David Suchet, Craig Warner and Colin Barr – the star, writer and director respectively behind Maxwell, last night’s dramatisation of the last days of the life of Robert Maxwell.
Not only was it brilliantly scripted and performed with a tour de force from Suchet, Barr’s direction and the immaculate and very filmic camera work really set the whole thing apart from the usual hour-and-a-half one-offs that we get over here, and puts it in a whole different league to the dull, lifeless weekly dramas we get over here.
I don’t know if it’s to do with the time constraints imposed by low budgets, or a dirth of creativity within the industry at the moment, but every drama programme seems to follow the same visual formula and the same stodgy editing techniques which seem to be turning a very visual medium into a close-up-ridden copy-cat of a good night at the theatre, but sadly lacking the good scripts and – all too often – the performances.
I yearn for a bit of directorial freedom, to see talented people take the scripts that are there (which must be dramatically improved, if you’ll excuse the pun) and turn them into their own films, not the cookie-cutter rehash of last week’s episode.
I understand that within a series there has to be continuity, and that there’s an accepted way of going about doing things, but when anything artistic reaches a status quo it rapidly loses merit.
It doesn’t seem any wonder to me that Channel 4 and ITV and Five are tripping over each other to buy up American drama for over here – and apparently making big mistakes while doing it, according to the press this week – because they simple can’t rely on this country turning out enough drama of quality to fill their schedules.
If we could only produce drama good enough to entice and intrigue and audience, perhaps we would see broadcasters relying on hideous grotesques in “reality TV” to fill their schedules and boost their ratings.
It’s about time we had something to shout about, and Maxwell is certainly a stonking start.
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- Nope, we got nada!