Friday, 12 January 2007


Well, it’s back. All over UK the personal programming for Thursday night TV has the one fixed point around which all else must adjust. ER has returned. The onward march continues strong. Though, I have to say, IMHO not as strong as it used to be. For me, the last really good season was the one where we lost Doc Green. He held one’s attention whenever he was in view.
I did once read some learned treatise along the lines that no show maintains it’s initial drive beyond the third season. Certainly, they do change. The writers learn what switches us on and concentrate on those ideas. ER used to have as many plots and sub-plots as there were characters but now we have the one continuing theme (currently Abby, Kovac and the baby) with two or three other threads which arise and are settled within the one hour time frame.
For me, the American series idea started with Bonanza. One of my sons seemed to have the firm idea that he had been abducted from the Bonanza ranch by aliens and transported to be left with us. He used to mount-up astride the back of the sofa and gallop into action with (his) Uncle Buck. MASH came along just as I had left the service and reminded me of my spell in Korea and other associations with the American Army. The Tannoy announcements with their surreal messages never failed to get a laugh from me. The mix of poignant and comedy was perfect to the extent that I always thought the series could have been adopted by the anti-war brigade as propaganda. MASH was one where I thought the level went right through to that final episode. The Col Potter years were vintage. Henry and Hotlips were a constant joy. Radar and Klinger were company clerks from hell.
MASH led us into Hill Street Blues. The action on and off duty between Furillo and his DA girlfriend was a solid base for the zany Fay whilst Belker and the SWAT guy could always be relied upon for solid plotting and performance. I think I can close my eyes and watch a rerun of the alligator in the sewer episode. It followed the style where it featured a number of intertwined storylines in each episode, and pioneered depiction of the conflicts between the work and private lives of officers on which the police procedural was centered. The show had a deliberate "documentary" style, depicting officers who were flawed and human, and dealt openly with the gray areas of morality between right and wrong. NYPD followed. Here again, tremendous stuff at first but I lost interest when Sipowitz got married. Nudity and profanity gained a TV footing from this show.
I can remember the earliiest American shows that came over. Peyton Place, Dragnet, Untouchables. There must have been some differences here as I cannot recall plots or characters with any clarity.
Some shows took off and changed format. Law and Order as I recall it started with the law firm run by a very large guy. It has become the Law and Order of today. This has overtones of Dragnet for me.
Another thing I got from these shows was the music. Great stuff.
I can only remember a very few British TV dramas. That is, aside from Blackadder which must be amongst the very best matched only by Porridge. Upstairs Downstairs, Forsythe Saga, Onedin Line all seemed to be written for export more than home consumption. I’m told the supremacy of the American product is a cost thing. We can buy many more hours from them that we can make here.

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