Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why TV Is The Pits

I am increasingly distressed by, and unhappy with, BBC Canada. And BBC America isn’t any better, based on the programme schedule on its website.

When BBC Canada launched as a stand-alone, speciality channel by subscription service several years ago, it offered a truly remarkable array of programmes. Now that it is established as part of a multi-channel, want-one-take-'em-all, package, it has become a warmed over re-hash of inexpensive British reality shows, cooking programmes, DIY makeovers, middle aged men driving cars, and bizarre housewife swapping extravaganzas.

What happened to the network that once offered a solid line-up of crime drama’s every Monday night? Cutting edge Britcoms on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Experimental drama’s on Fridays? Always interesting, sometimes weird, little films on Sundays?

Now, every weeknight, BBC Canada wedges just one prime time drama series it’s aired countless times before between episodes of profane, abusive chefs and dysfunctional, irritating families. It sometimes tops off the night with a talk show hosted by someone who is famous only for being famous who keeps his audience and guests tittering with anal sex references.

BBC America offers viewers even less.

The real BBC doesn't own either the American or Canadian networks. So, without much say-so from London, it seems evident that owners of the two North American networks main goal is to spend as little money as possible on programming and churn as much cash as possible from commercials. Worse, the network shows little regard for its “social contract” with viewers or its license agreement with federal regulators. Just because hosts speak with a British dialect and many have bad teeth does not mean it is showing “The best and boldest of British television” as it advertises.

Far from it.

BBC Canada and BBC America are living examples of the decline of network television; explanatory proof of what is wrong with so much of TV today. It explains why the medium continues to lose viewers to DVDs, the web and – for as much entertainment value as BBC Canada and BBC America offers these days – playing a game of Whist with a lonely, aging and incontinent auntie who smells of mothballs, feral cats and too much cheap perfume.

What it doesn’t explain is why my cable bill keeps rising.

Yes, the economy plays a role in television’s business problems. But idiotic and unfathomable programming decisions are playing as great, if not greater, role.

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