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While there’s some pretty decent British TV around at the mo (ref. aforementioned Property Porn, the occasional QuizCom and, err, I dunno, Doctor Who? Life On Mars?) the sad fact is that, in general, Yanquis do it better. Of course, this is aided by far, far bigger budgets and a distinctly larger pool of talent, but over the past decades, the likes of The West Wing, Battlestar Galactica, The US version of The Office (seriously, check it out, it’s differently brilliant), Heroes, 24, Alias, Lost etc., etc. have massively outclassed any British efforts in scope if not class.

The one area that they’ve not been quite as far ahead is the sitcom – Friends is good, but not exactly edgy, Frasier was a one-joke show, and how anyone watched a whole episode of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ let alone the full 210 of its run is beyond me. Recently, there have been a couple of decent shows (‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, Scrubs…) – but they can only just keep pace with the likes of Spaced, Black Books, Father Ted from these isles.

Anyway, back to the title of this piece, with the current Writers Strike going on in the States, there’ve been very few new episodes of some of my favourite American shows to watch. As a result, I’ve spread my net slightly further and come across 30 Rock. It starts slow but picks up quickly and continuously improves. So much praise should go to Tina Fey for her performance and her writing, but it’s Alec Baldwin that makes it – and here we come to the crux. No British show (be it sitcom or drama) can afford the likes of a Baldwin, Sutherland, Sheen, or hell, even Edward James Olmos. Simon Pegg made Big Train and Spaced and guest starred in Black Books, but what are the chances of him ever returning to sitcom in the UK since Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz?

So where’s the future in the UK? Well the one small advantage is we tend to make short seasons (8 episodes rather than 22-26). At least you can then get 2-3 years out of people before they move on. But quality drama/sitcoms? I just can’t see anything lasting beyond 3 years without major cast changes – because there just isn’t the money to keep people in TV in the UK.

My middle-aged, middle-class existence is complete. Between Channel4, E4 and More 4 I can watch vague combinations of Property Ladder, Relocation, Relocation and Grand Designs non-stop from about 7pm till 11 almost every night.

The only remaining question is – Kill, Marry, Fuck? on:

Sarah Beeny
Kirstie Allsopp
Kevin McCloud

What Has Gone Before

July 2022
i miss your disposition and your strength to see the best in everyone