So it looks like we’re all a bunch of drama Queens. Or Kings. Well, Danny Cohen, head of BBC television, thinks so. According to him, British drama is the best in the world – but it’s not the impression that you get from the media.
“A trope has developed, a cultural meme that asserts that American drama is far superior to drama produced in the UK and at the BBC,” he said. “It's an argument driven by box-set consumers who have a louder voice in Britain's cultural dialogue than the average family who sit down at night in Britain's towns and villages to decide which drama they want to watch.”
You can almost hear the wailing and gnashing of Netflix subscribers, HBO addicts, and dodgy online streamers. “Nothing’s better than The Wire! Although, have you been watching Breaking Bad? We think it’s the best thing we’ve seen since The Wire. Have you seen The Wire?”
Shut up. Literally everyone in the world who wants to see The Wire has seen it. No-one’s still umm-ing and aah-ing. We’ve all made our choice. And now we just one to flub down in front of BBC One and watch some well-spoken (well, mostly) actors deliver complex storylines with great lighting and scathing social commentary. Because you know what? British TV is better.
In the last year alone we’ve had the fandom-busting Sherlock, Doctor Who’s 50th burning a trail across the globe, harrowing dramas like Happy Valley, twisty thrillers like Line of Duty, and poignant allegories like In the Flesh.
British TV is understated, novelistic rather than episodic and makes decisions for creative rather than financial reasons.
Yes, the US have got Game of Thrones, but they basically nicked that off us anyway (our actors, our historical basis, even Victor Meldrew’s voice for Tyrion). And yes it gets a million viewers, but a much lower-budget show like Doctor Who can easily get ten times that many (and to be fair once you take away all the actors watching Game of Thrones because they’re in it, that number would halve).
In fact, despite a media bias in their favour, the viewing figures of overseas shows as a whole are considerably lower than home-grown efforts. And though some might denounce the millions watching British shows as philistines or uncultured, they’re not - The Killing peaked at 599,000 viewers here, while Broadchurch drew in 10 million. Broadchurch isn’t a trashy show, playing to the lowest common denominator, and it’s not worse than The Killing, or any other bleak European shows.
Meet the cast of Broadchurch 2
Meet the cast of Broadchurch 2
1/12 Broadchurch 2 cast
The Broadchurch 2 cast read through Chris Chibnall's 'brilliant' new script ahead of shooting
2/12 David Tennant
He's been making the US version of Broadchurch (Gracepoint) but Tennant has been confirmed to return for the second series in Dorset. The former Doctor Who star plays DI Alec Hardy in the crime drama - but will his troubling heart problems get the better of him this time around?
3/12 James D'Arcy
James D'Arcy, known for Cloud Atlas and Hitchcock, is another new face for Broadchurch series 2. Executive producer Jane Featherstone has promised he will be a 'thrilling and important' addition
4/12 Olivia Colman
Fresh from her Best Actress win at the 2014 TV Baftas, Colman will be back as DS Ellie Miller for the second series of Broadchurch. Her character has been re-invented by Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn but Colman insists she is not 'really cross' at her stateside replacement. Colman has read the first few scripts of Broadchurch 2 and says they are 'brilliant'
5/12 Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Black British actress Jean-Baptiste, pictured here in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, is a new arrival on Broadchurch. Creator Chris Chibnall said he would have 'wept for months' if she had turned down a role that was specifically written with her in mind. Jean-Baptiste is set to make an 'indelible impact' on the show, apparently
6/12 Charlotte Rampling
Veteran film and TV actress Charlotte Rampling will play a new character in Broadchurch, with details being kept as hushed as possible, bar that her role will be 'integral'. 'There's none more exceptional than Charlotte' said creator Chris Chibnall
7/12 Jodie Whittaker
Whittaker will reprise her role as Beth Latimer, mother to murdered 11-year-old schoolboy Danny and friend of Ellie Miller. She was in attendance at the 2014 TV Baftas to receive the award for Best Drama Series for Broadchurch
8/12 Eve Myles
Torchwood and Frankie star Eve Myles is set for a central role in Broadchurch 2 but once again, details are being kept heavily under wraps
9/12 Arthur Darvill
Arthur Darvill will be back as local vicar and recovering alcoholic Reverend Paul Coates
10/12 Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is known for her work in several acclaimed stage productions and is described as being 'on the way to superstardom' by Broadchurch's Chris Chibnall
11/12 Andrew Buchan
Andrew Buchan will return for Broadchurch series 2 as Danny's father Mark Latimer. Mark was one of the first suspects in the hunt for Danny's killer
12/12 Meera Syal
Meera Syal, who is renowned as a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me, will have a "pivotal" role in series 2
The Bridge is great and everything, but it only seems sophisticated because Scandinavia is grey, which makes it seem like noir, and everyone has nice furniture. If you actually look at the plotline it’s batshit crazy, weirder than an episode of Bonekickers (remember Bonekickers?) and the characterisation is actually a little backward.
The way that the show plays (supposedly) autistic cop Saga’s condition mainly for laughs is a little unsettling, and it’s hard to believe that anyone would get away with it over here. It’s not better – it’s just fresh. And freshness fades, whereas solid quality does not.
When it comes down to it, we get a warped view of overseas shows in the UK. Unless something is pretty successful in the first place, we’re unlikely to get wind of it, and unless it comes highly recommended we’re not going to bother checking it out.
So by the time Breaking Bad was on everyone’s lips, it had been through a dual screening process. Helped along by all the hype from America and online, this not only makes us all want to see what the fuss is about, but also makes it much harder for the show not to be good. When was the last time we heard endless rave reviews about a BBC show before we had got round to seeing it?
Of course, great TV can and should come from anywhere. It adds depth and variety to our viewing, and inspires new creative trends that enrich the medium as a whole.
But if suddenly all overseas TV were to disappear without a trace, it’d be less of a tragedy than somebody taking a blowtorch to the BBC archive. We shouldn’t just be proud, like Danny Cohen says – we should be evangelical.Reuse content