Monday 28 December 2009

Calling all TV Companies - Give new scriptwriters a break

"There's nothing on the telly... again!"

Christmas TV viewing was once as eagerly awaited as Santa's night-time visit. Not so this year. This Christmas our family had real problems trying to decide what to watch. It wasn't that we couldn't choose between the many and varied offerings. It was that we couldn't find anything worth watching - apart from Dr Who and Strictly Come Dancing. On Boxing Day the only programme to get the whole family sitting and laughing together was The Morecombe and Wise Christmas Show 1973. Yes that was 1973 and not a typo. It's not exactly up-to-the-minute programming. What happened to new scheduling, new ideas, new writing?

Today's television is as stale as a mince pie on New Year's Day but it wasn't always like that. In the 1950s and 60s television programmes were cutting edge and fresh with such offerings as:
  • The Avengers - flashily slick clothes and outlandishly hilarious fights
  • Bonanza - remember Hoss and Little Joe?
  • The Sweeney - our first taste of grit and realism
  • The Man from UNCLE - Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin fighting the International enemy THRUSH. Life didn't get any cooler than that. Check them out on

Some programmes were iconic. They were ingenious examples of scriptwriting which we can now recite almost in their entirety because we've seen each episode of each series so many times. These include:
  • Fawlty Towers - Don't mention the war!
  • Porridge - Fletch and Godber getting the better of Slade's screw, Mr Mackay
  • Only Fools and Horses - What a plonker!
  • Steptoe and Son - with the original dirty old man
  • Hancock's Half Hour - especially the unforgettable Blood Donor episode
Even Soaps were better in 'the olden days'. Today's Soaps are either far-fetched, harrowing or both. When Soaps were first shown they were warm and entertaining with just a touch of reality. And now that I'm on the subject of Reality TV, how many more 'real-life' scenarios can they think up? I admit it was a novelty to watch the first series of Big Brother but I have had enough of seeing ordinary people on my television screen. I want to be entertained by personalities who deserve to be personalities. I want to watch stars with charisma, talent and an original script.

Why can't the TV Companies give new scriptwriters a break, if not for us then for our children? With so many repeats being shown now, what will be available to watch in 20 years' time? We need imaginative scripts and exciting new programmes so that there can be iconic repeats for future viewers. It's not as if creative writing skills were better in the days of early television... quite the opposite. We now have creative writing courses, including degrees and masters degrees, which specialise in scriptwriting. If you Google 'scriptwriting courses' you get over a million hits.

So, come on TV Companies, give new writing talent a chance. Lay repeats to rest, abandon reality and give us something new and entertaining, something worth switching the computer off for.