Monday, March 01, 2010

In Praise of the BBC (1): 'minority' and targeted TV channels

The BBC comes in for a lot of flack, and stupidly is taking too much notice of some of it.

So I'd like to praise the BBC.

By way of praising both the BBC4 drama 'On Expenses' and the recent BBC3 season of 'Being Human', I'd like to give some cheers to the BBC for its efforts in trying to accommodate all manner of audiences.

Should BBC4 exist? Arguably, BBC2 used to do much of its work in showing foreign and older classic films; broadcasting and creating adventurous arts documentaries; creating challenging new dramas; and broadcasting (live) plays.

For a variety of reasons, BBC2's raison d'etre seems to have changed, with many of these traits now 'sidelined' to BBC4.

Whilst I wish that the programming that had previously been well catered for on terrestrial TV was still so cherished there, I do nevertheless recognise that this is a digital age and the analogue signal is going SOON (some are still not quite dealing with this). Given that digital is here and will soon be ALL THERE IS, we all need to recognise that channels and their purposes are changing.

So, providing someone can clarify for me exactly what BBC2 now IS for, I'm relatively happy to accept BBC4 as the new place where such things happen. I'm less thrilled it has such limited hours of broadcast, and more especially that it recycles - aka repeats - certain of its products so regularly and easily. But I like what it does. 'On Expenses' was typical of the quality of its output: sharp, topical (given the time it takes to make drama, remarkably topical) and with a fabulous cast. Bravo.

BBC3 is a more tricky proposition; but, since 'Being Human' is such an astoundingly good programme, it is worth unpicking how and why we probably needed BBC3 to be there to garner this triumphant drama.

In the current round of BBC bashing and potential cuts (save 6Music and the AsianNetwork!), many have cited the pointlessness of BBC3, usually in the same breath as mentioning the words 'lager' 'packets' 'crisps'.

It's an easy target, not least because BBC3 was intentionally developed to attract those 'valuable' audiences of under 25s. And apart from Doctor Who repeats, it's hard to think of much that would appeal outside of that demographic - hell, perhaps even WITHIN that demographic since the BBC patently misunderstands that under 25s are not really watching TV in the way the Corporation has previously recognised.

But then there is 'Being Human'.

'Being Human' is everything that Torchwood (pre-Children of Earth, which rocked) should have consistently been from the start.

It's funny, it's adult, it's violent, it's thoughtful. It has sex and blood and a great soundtrack.

Would BBC1 or 2 have felt able to commission BH? I'm not sure. Interestingly, in seeking to create something that worked for a younger - but still ADULT - audience - it actually came up with something that worked more broadly. Excellent. And there are Doctor Who alumni at the heart of the show, proving further that for all his faults we do still have a lot to thank the RTD era for, not least bringing fantasy TV back in fashion in the UK.

So here I am, praising the BBC for two of its least watched channels. But I still think they deserve recognition, and without both we'd certainly be a lot poorer.


Jane Henry said...

I totally agree with you on all this. As you know I love Being Human, but there was a really really good pilot shown alongside the pilot of BH which never got made into a series, which could have been fab (forget the name, it was the one about the children who were adopted by their uncle turned aunt), it was funny, sad, moving and quite brilliant.

BBC 3 also brought us Pulling, not to everyone's taste but I loved it. And I am an unashamed fan of Three Pints too. Alot of the stuff on it is drivel (Snog, Marry Avoid), but then I am 20 years older then their target audience.

Point is BBC3 has been a place for new writers to flourish and grow, and that HAS to be a good thing, and to be encouraged.

jams o donnell said...

Being Human justified the television licence alone. I would happily selo my house and all of its contents... But leaving aside a paraphrase of an old Not the Nine O Clock News sketch, Both BBC3 and BBC 4 have some excellent stuff.... and great imports in Heroes and Mad Men too!