Hidden Down The TV Guide # 4 - killing great TV...one series at a time
Let's use a footballing metaphor, it's hard being Newcastle United. Comfortably out of the battle to avoid relegation, possessing cheap but limited British players and importing quality from overseas that may not bring instant results. Their owner is universally loathed, their middle managers included his mates and incompetents and their counterparts constantly overshadow them with the way they have grown from similar resources but with the kind of support their cost cutting owner doesn't want to offer. The fans can look forward to unassuming safety with no thrills unless Mike Ashley hands the reigns to a more ambitious owner.Mr Ashley did bring prudence and fiscal stability though and in that sense he compares favourably with Richard Desmond. Desmond took over Channel 5 in 2010, and since then he has cut costs, pursued a multi channel strategy with the likes of 5 USA and 5 Star and ditched the title Five for the old moniker of Channel 5. A thorough re-branding later, we have lots of cheapish uk productions of reality shows, a few foreign imports bought cheaply and the dregs of Big Brother.
This has gone some way to managing costs and it has been rumoured that the channel may be put up for sale again with its new increased profitability. Yet, audience numbers remain low for the main channel and the critical reputation of the channel has bitten the big one. Tabloid TV, news programmes remodelled into lifestyle shows and an endless tacky approach to celebrity misery and mortality (Autopsy - a series about celebrity fatalities, for instance).Additionally, the desire for audience share and a lack of courage in scheduling has resulted in Channel 5 being the place that great programmes come to die. Breaking Bad only got two seasons before it was judged too much of a risk. Breaking Bad, the show that you guys love, that won every award going in the last year and the performance that Sir Anthony Hopkins called "the best acting I have seen - ever". Channel 5 gave up as its following got going.
Exhibit #2, The Walking Dead. The largest audience of any TV show in the states at the moment. A worldwide following of millions, again beloved of you all that read this website. What did Channel 5 do? Well they bought it to show well after the US showings, even well after FOX in the UK. They tried it on a decent slot and then shuffled it later and later on before relegating it to Five Star, and eventually announcing in January that they have given up the ghost and won't bother with season four. Most recently, this lack of patience and lack of commitment has been exhibited with Helix. The channel trumpeted its purchase and gave it a decent 10pm slot for the opening episode, five episodes later Helix is now showing in the early hours and about to disappear to a digital outpost after a short break. Five weeks, really, five weeks to build an audience for a show from the pedigree of Ron Moore. Someone, somewhere has spent too long commissioning Ben Fogle's dreadful efforts and lost all sense of proportion.
So here's what we advise anyone who has made a good TV show. Don't sell it to Channel 5, don't do this as they will kill your programme. They truly don't care about challenging or inventive TV, they want more of Eddie Stobart (two different programmes already), serial killers and celebrity trivia and freakshows. These people are making Netflix and Amazon's rise all the more easy by refusing to take chances or show diversity. But like long suffering Newcastle fans, we, the viewers, want more quality and thrills wherever it comes from and can only hope that fiscal conservatism is superceded by creative people who have a vision. Desmond/Ashley need to name their price find the right next owner and leave before they do more damage...