Thursday, 11 November 2010

TV Drama needs more reality?

Jimmy McGovern isnt happy with British drama. He says

Commenting on the high viewing figures for costume dramas such as ITV's Downton Abbey and the popularity of arch adventure shows such as Dr Who, McGovern said he believed the best writing took itself seriously, as well as taking its audience seriously.
He goes on to say
Television drama should say more about the world we live in today and not rely on costumes, irony and pastiche.

The only way to tell stories on TV is to convince people that what they are seeing is actually happening now and is real. I just can't handle the tongue-in-cheek approach, the kind of thing you see on Dr Who. Though there are millions who can, I know
Now I do actually understand that way of thinking. My mother is very much like Jimmy McGovern and looks to real life for her entertainment. She only reads biographies or true crime and she watches true crime documentaries or crime drama's. The last science fiction film she watched was Star Wars in 1977, the year I was born. She accepts that I have very different tastes but she will not watch anything that couldn't be real.

I think however, that Jimmy McGovern misses the point of drama. Sure, some of it can tell real life tales and be relevant to the working man or womans life.

The trouble is, a lot of life is tough. Bloody tough. If he wants to spend his free time wallowing in more of the same misery (lets face it, his work is hardly a laugh fest) then he can do that.

Me? I want some escapist fun. I want to forget about my worries for a while and just enjoy a damn good story. I don't want to watch something that what will reminded me the prejudices I face, the bills I cant pay, the hopelessness of a dead end job, the misery of having been betrayed, the heartache of never being understood or the grief of losing a loved one.

What's more, I don't think that makes me a bad person or makes my views any less important than his.

I look to the news and the papers for real life. I look to the TV to be entertained.

I personally think my mother is obsessed with crime as a way to understand her violent father, and more power to her but she's 60 now and still doesn't seem to have come to terms with her past. I think Jimmy's obsession might also show he has unresolved issues regarding his upbringing and a lot of bitterness about being working class but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to wallow in our issues. Some of us like to deal with them, let go and move on.

But even assuming he's right, who's reality are we talking about? As a friend said

whose reality, exactly? Because mine, while not privileged, bears no resemblance to his. Would he write a drama about a quiet street where almost everyone is white and apparently comfortable, where if people are suffering discrimination, bereavement, fear and poverty - and I know they are - they are doing it politely behind closed doors and not talking about it? Where 20% of the teenage population walks to the station every day in smart Grammar School uniforms and everyone shops in Waitrose?

Thought not. But that doesn't make it any less real.
No. Reality is very subjective and issues vary greatly. There is a place for real life, gritty drams, and there is just as big a place for pure entertainment.

For the record, I chose to watch Single Father over Downton Abbey, but I somehow doubt many widowed fathers chose to relive their trauma.

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