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Alan takes a close look at the problem with British TV…

August 14th, 2012 by Al Keenan the Bald Gamer Dude 2 Comments

I recently started watching Breaking Bad on Netflix and it got me thinking why I’d never picked it up before. The reason was simple – there was no exposure to it. I never really knew it existed until last year and it was already on Season 3 and I couldn’t be bothered picking up something that had been running for a while, so I decided to leave it. Thank heavens for Netflix though, it is a service that reminds me of great TV that I haven’t had the time to watch.

I looked up what channel in the UK Season 4 would be shown on but got nowhere. On a few of the Digital Spy forums people were complaining about the lack of Season 4 considering the fact that Season 5 was just around the corner. I did a bit of research and found that from Season 1 – 3 it had been shown firstly on FX and then on Channel 5 USA, but neither channel wanted to pick it up for the fourth season. This left the show in limbo – with nowhere to go and no distribution deal the people in the UK would have to resort to piracy or illegal websites to get their Breaking Bad fix.

This got me thinking about all the TV shows I’ve either loved over the years or downright never heard of because of badly timed/promoted TV here in the UK.

It’s safe to say that the days of the free UK TV channels picking up a network programme like Breaking Bad are gone, chances are it would be on one of Sky TV or Virgin’s many channels – for those of you not in the UK, Sky and Virgin are the satellite and cable companies we buy TV from.

I remember Lost being shown on Channel 4 and was shocked, their shows were usually reserved for paid channels like Sky 1. Needless to say, the next year it was picked up by Sky 1 and if you were a fan then you’d have to purchase their deal to continue watching.

Some of the greatest shows being shown today have never seen the light of day in the UK or have been abruptly moved or just cancelled. For instance, Mad Men, the multi-award winning programme that everyone raves about wasn’t picked up over here until a year after it aired. When it did, it was on BBC 4, a free but somewhat obscure channel, it never found its footing and this year it will be shown on Sky Atlantic – essentially our answer to HBO.

Rescue Me, a fantastic show about New York fire fighters starring Denis Leary, was shown on Sky 1 for a couple of seasons, dropped and then FX picked it up. It came to their last season and FX decided not to renew because of bad ratings. Unless you were happy to read spoiler boards or illegally watch it, you would have missed the final conclusion to the story. But worse than that was the fact there was no distribution deal after Season 3 meaning even if you wanted to see it you could only purchase the first 3 seasons.

Chuck was another wonderful programme that I was never aware of. I watched it back-to-back in one month until reaching Season 5, when I got excited and checked when it would be shown/released in the UK. I got a resounding shrug of the shoulders. Sky Living had dropped it and again no distribution deal was in place. I fortunately got to see the outcome of the fifth and final season but no thanks to UK TV.

There’s also a highly acclaimed show in the US called Parks and Recreation. I’ve not caught it yet but have heard nothing but good things and the fourth season has finished stateside,  but it has yet to be picked up by a UK broadcaster.

Now the sad thing is I looked at the statistics for the most watched UK shows from last year and the top five are as follows:

5. I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here
4. Britain’s Got Talent
3. Strictly Come Dancing
2. The Royal Wedding
1. The X-Factor Results Show

Am I mental, or have I just not got my finger on the pulse of the UK? Not one drama! I mean I can understand the Royal Wedding as it only happens once, but come on people.

Something needs to change, even people paying through the nose for a specific service still aren’t getting to see the awesome TV shows that are airing Stateside, and even when they do it’s so badly promoted that no one watches it, hence it getting cancelled.

Then there are the distribution deals. So even if I do love a show and it gets cancelled I’ll just pick it up in the shop… nope not a chance, these shows having never aired will usually have no UK distributer meaning we the people may never get to see the show, unless obtained through other means.

I think it’s high time this changed, I’m not expecting the free channels to pick up great shows and for all I care the UK can keep its eyes glued to reality TV, but people like me and you – the reader – want to see good TV, and on the same schedule as the US, so we don’t have to dodge spoilers left right and centre. If they can’t change this, then rules governing distribution deals need to change so we can at least get our hands on the DVDs.
This frustration leads to piracy, which leads to ratings being cut then suddenly your new favourite TV show is cancelled. Something shown in the USA might not hit it off with their viewers, but here in Europe we may love it, I believe we should all get to see it at the same time. It is possible, so why doesn’t it happen?

We need to stand up and fight for our good TV, we need to march to the broadcasters and demand a change, we need to crash through the doors and sit down until they change their minds… or we could just write a strong worded letter. So in the immortal words of Jerry Maguire ‘Who’s with me?’…

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I'm Al The Bald Gamer Dude, as you can tell by the name, I'm bald, I play games and I'm a dude. I also do Tattoos, comics, Movies and TV... You can usually find me quoting obscure film references and geeking out when someone understands them. If you have an Xbox360 and fancy a game add my Gamertag below: GT: baldgamerdude Follow me on twitter @baldgamerdude YouTube:

  • Andrew

    I mentioned in a posting i did looking at upcoming US shows that Person Of Interest, a GREAT drama from Jonathan Nolan (The writer of his brother Christopher’s Batman trilogy) and JJ Abrams (of Lost and Fringe fame) is one of those shows that started last year but had not made it’s way over here yet. Thankfully one of the channels has picked it up, Channel 5 has the show and had been advertising it. It starts tonight with the pilot episode airing, unfortunately in favor of Celebrity Big Brother it’s been shifted to 5USA, so reality TV strikes again, but at least it’s being aired and it’s being aired on a free to view channel. Hopefully it finds a good audience here as it’s a great show and already has a second season deal in the states so looks to be around for a while!

  • thetvking

    A couple of the shows you mentioned, Breaking Bad and Rescue Me, have been saved somewhat by Netflix. With the entire series of Rescue Me available on Netflix and many un-broadcast episodes available on iTunes. Since Netflix launch in the UK & Ireland they have acquired quite a few TV series and reading their statements, seem to be setting their sites on Sky by acquiring first to air UK rights. At £6 a month if Netflix can pick up a few new and un-seen series. We could have a very real challenger to Sky. Especially if they could, say add new episodes each week instead of adding an entire season.

    While I agree it is frustrating that TV shows can take ages, and in some cases never air in the UK.Money talks and if a show doesn’t get the viewing figures (even if they aren’t great at measuring true viewers) they drop it. The market needs shaking up however, most of the TV industry seems happy to maintain the status quo and spend millions chasing pirates instead of developing a business model and distribution network. Which would make the pirates irrelevant. This will require big risks to be taken and advertising revenues to be modified. Which would mean a short term reduction in revenues.

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