BBC Drama: Where Are The One-Offs?

I don’t know what to think about producer Tony Garnett‘s attack on the BBC’s management of drama output.  On the one hand, it comes the week after the BBC broadcast one of the best dramas I’ve seen in years, and scores of great writers are trotting out to shout down his comments.  On the other hand, he was the executive producer behind Between the Lines and Cardiac Arrest; where are the shows like that now?

I note one thing though.  Children of Earth may have been excellent, but there’s not doubt part of the reason it got made was because it was part of a huge franchise and written by one of TV’s biggest hitters, with an enviable track record of high quality dramas.  One of the writers to speak out in support of the BBC is also part of that franchise.  Though I love (another of those writers) Tony Jordan’s series, some of which are peerless exemplars of crafted and polished entertainment, none have had the punch of Garnett’s best, or Edge of Darkness, or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

What’s missing, or at least rarer, are those one-off plays and mini-series.  Poliakoff still gets them made, and occasionally we get an adaptation of a novel on BBC 2, but there’s nothing like the A Foreign Field, or even Ghostwatch from the Screen One and Screen Two strands anymore.  The BBC needs to put plays back on, to put out a volume of new work that allows for some failures so they can really start to take risks. Because although I believe these great writers that BBC Drama is thriving, they’re all well established and I’d be very interested to know whether those who don’t write TV for a living can get their projects made.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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