Monday, February 16, 2009

Getting Saturday nights

I didn't like the look of Demons, the recent ITV series. I don't know if it was Mackenzie Crook's bird mask, the synopsis that made the show sound like it had been made ten years ago (probably after someone watched a bit too much Buffy) and slipped through a time hole, the idea of getting a Brit to play an American (I mean in this day and age!), or the fact that Phil Glenister appeared to be wearing his Gene Hunt costume.

Whatever it was I thought, "This looks dire, I'll give it a miss and if the reviews are good I'll catch up." It's a lazy technique but it's served me well before, and I don't have time to catch up on the shows that ARE worth watching never mind soiling my eyes with stuff I know I'm going to hate. I might as well watch The One Show, or paint drying, if there is a difference.

The reviews weren't good. They were scathing.

OK. So I made a good call. Go me! No down side. Except...

They were really scathing. So scathing that I hear they've postponed the third series of Primeval so people can forget about Demons first. You know, because the idiots that watch ITV programmes might not be able to tell the difference between two different TV shows. Or something.

This is proper, card carrying, hitting your own head with a mallet, nuts. Primeval is great. It's imaginative, original, exciting, varied, fresh, but most importantly of all it's the only Doctor Who stand in so far that actually gets Saturday Night/Family drama.

When I was a kid Saturday night TV was all about Doctor Who, Robin of Sherwood, The Tripods, The A team, Knight Rider, Manimal, Automan, etc., etc. Where is the variety now? It's no good just cloning shows about legendary characters or ripping off successful series from the nineties! We need some actual ideas.

Let's think about this for a second. Since Doctor Who did what they said couldn't be done and proved that British society hadn't slipped so far into some Anthony Burgess vision of the future that the whole family couldn't watch television together on a Saturday night without Graham Norton, Cilla Black, Noel Edmonds or Dale Winton staring dead-eyed back out at them there have been several further attempts at Saturday Night Family Drama.

Robin Hood. OK on the one hand this was the first effort, thrown into production as soon as Saturday night was resuscitated. On the other hand it was made by the BBC who might be expected to get it? In fairness I didn't mind Robin Hood. Most people though seemed to be a bit hung up on the non-period costumes and language but I liked it's Xena-ish tone and thought it was good enough fun. It's no substitute for Who though. The third series has been so long coming now that I wonder if anyone will even notice when they follow up killing Marion off by having Robin leave the show.

Primeval. We'll come back to this.

Merlin. Putting aside my previously mentioned issues with the retelling of the Merlin story (or rebooting of Arthurian legend), Merlin worries me for a number of reasons. It's another BBC effort. It's another period set show. It's another myth/legend poured onto our screens for family viewing. It's Robin Hood 2 isn't it? It's 'Here's what we learned from making Robin Hood by the BBC: We took out the anachronistic costumes'. Bit lazy isn't it? Isn't there any more imagination than this planning our TV schedules? What next? Beowulf? William Tell? Jack the Giant Killer? People in forests with swords volume 3?

Demons. I can't really comment on this as I didn't watch it. The fact that it appears to have failed says enough though. Clearly it didn't get Saturday nights.

What has Primeval got that these other shows haven't? I'll tell you. It mixes the every day with the fantastic. It has a different setting every week. It has a strong sense of humour. It doesn't take itself too seriously. Remind you of anything else?

But what this post is really about though is this; There are massive opportunities for people who do get it to create fresh, exciting family drama for Saturday nights. Just thinking of BBC1 and ITV there are 104 potential slots per year. At present only a fraction are occupied. The powers that be may not know this yet but if they get enough fresh, exciting ideas for family drama from talented new writers maybe they'll look at one and say, 'Hey, the eight million or so people who watch Doctor Who every Saturday night would watch this!"

Whatever you do don't tell any other writers though or they'll all be at it. Must dash, I've a family drama script to finish. You'd love it, it's period set...


  1. It wasn't so much Demons not getting "Saturday Night TV" - more, not getting "how to make any sense at all". Plot-driven character, bad direction, no tension, and plot holes you could drive ten buses through side by side.

    It was car-crash drama. I couldn't look away.

    Things I said about it:

  2. I did watch Demons. I really wanted to like it (I love Primeval - it still maintains a sense of humour) but it just seemed malformed and hugely unsatisfying. Mackenzie Crook looks like he's having a blast, but he's about the only one.

    Ahh Tripods - now THAT was great!

  3. I also hate Demons with a vengeance and have ranted on about its downfalls in previous posts.

    I haven't actually checked out Primeval yet, though, due to being in Aus when it was last on... I shall be sure to take a gander...

  4. Adadd - Yes, I enjoyed your Demons updates as they went up. Very entertaining and part of the reason I felt I'd made the right choice not watching.

    MJ - Tripods was great. Finally getting a proper DVD release this year I believe.

    Michelle - Yes, Primeval is well worth a look. Great fun. Also, Being Human is going from strength to strength isn't it? TV highpoint of the week for me, no contest.

  5. Being Human simply blows me away. Each and every episode has seen the characters grow stronger, the emotions more intense, the humour funnier... I am absolutely in awe of it and my fiance can vouch for the fact that I say nothing but "wow" after each episode...

    I aspire to write drama as amazing as that!

    Hopefully the BBC will realise what a gem it is and move it in to replace Demons on prime time... he he...