In last week’s episode of the ground-breaking new drama “Left of Centre”, the Guardian published a lament about the state of BBC drama by veteran producer Tony Garnett. The BBC’s drama commissioning controller Ben Stephenson responded, using the word “passionate” four times and – controversially – saying that the BBC ought to promote “left of centre” thinking. (The Biased BBC specials dealing with this story are to be found below.) But his was not the only defence of the BBC. The Guardian also published “TV writers in support of BBC drama” in which
Along with Ben Stephenson’s blog, the BBC passed on the following comments from a selection of TV writers
Someone ought to fire the scriptwriter for this one. They were so exactly like you’d expect BBC writers to be that I began to wonder whether they weren’t parodies. Here’s Tony Jordan (EastEnders, Holby Blue, Hustle, Life On Mars) (Emphasis added by me in both excerpts):
Do I prostitute my vision for a fast buck or do I stop the process and put my beloved script back in the drawer and wait for its time to come? As I write this, my bottom drawer is bulging with scripts that saw the light of day briefly and came under sustained attack before being rescued from the brink of whoredom.
Why? Because I’m an artist, not a fucking arse licker.
During my time at EastEnders, I wrote almost two hundred episodes. My chest still bulges with pride at every single one of them, reaching out to an audience of 20 million-plus in its heyday still gives me a hard on.
Guardian commenter “acme” suggested Viagra. Equally stereotypical in a different mode was Billy Ivory (Common as Muck)*:
Because television has changed massively. There is no longer the solid block of white, middle-class, metropolitan, male viewers sitting in their droves, waiting to lap up a certain kind of programme once it is put before them. The TV demographic has changed and misty-eyed remembrance of times past is inadequate as TV tries to shake itself up to compete with the new media to capture the current audience for TV drama.
At the same time one has to acknowledge that there IS less cash around and the BBC is a public service broadcaster, which must cater for a broad church (not just that white, middle-class, male, heterosexual one … am I going on about that? Well, that’s because it’s such a critical point and one which MUST be considered in remembering the good old days of drama; who was the audience?) so of course it’s going to be hands on in how it develops its output. It can’t just chuck cash at it.
Finally, one has to be aware that the arts in this country have always been prey to the most awful snobbery. Remember the 1970s and the time when certain cinemas were called FILM THEATRES?
Why? Because the middle classes always want to claim the good art, the thoughtful art, the liberal art, for themselves.
That mention of “liberal” art is just the same sort of Freudian slip as Stephenson’s “left of centre” thinking.
*That’s a credit, not a comment.