The rise and rise of british tv

Following last weekend’s shock ending to the Line of Duty, media platforms have been buzzing all week with the brouhaha from disappointed viewers, voicing their opinions. But by my reckoning it’s obvious with 13 million viewers, you will never be able to please them all.  

Jed Mercurio said, “I knew the finale wouldn’t appeal to everyone.” He defended his decision to make the villain of the show dimwit DS Ian Buckells – the bumbling copper who slowly but surely rose through the ranks throughout the duration of the 6 series. Jed insisted he wanted H to be someone who was there from the start, who had been in the background, insidiously wreaking havoc. Of course, because Buckells was such a blithering idiot nobody ever dreamt it was him, so at Mercurio got that spot on. Buckells must now surely be the least bad-ass baddie ever, in the history of tv baddies. 

There’s been much LOD talk about town where I live in Cornwall too. When I asked local shopkeeper Evelyn from Saltash what she’d thought about the show’s conclusion, she said “I definitely don’t think that was the end. There were far too many ‘no comments’ and questions which were left unanswered, I’m sure there’s more yet to come”. 

Jed also refused to confirm whether a 7th series will be made, but judging from the number of loose ends and questions which needing answering, clearly these need addressing before we can feel truly satisfied. So my guess is yes it could be the end, but I doubt it. 

British television has produced such a colourful backlog of fantastic dramas and comedies they are sold worldwide because their quality is held in such high esteem. Somehow, the idea that Aussies are watching Corrie down under doesn’t quite seem believable, yet I’m assured by my antipodean ‘rellies’ that it’s true. 

The multi award winning Downton Abbey was not only a huge favourite here in the UK, regularly drawing over 10 million viewers, but was also bought by over 100 countries worldwide. It became a massive success in the US with PBS reporting over 24 million viewers – the channel’s highest rated drama of all time, making me wonder whether those gullible yanks think we actually live like that over here.

The second Downton film is currently in the making, after the first was such a huge box office hit and grossed over $194milion. And for anyone who ever watched Downton, I dare you to deny having wished you could be a part of their wonderful world, or spent entire minutes wondering if you would be in the upstairs or downstairs family? 

Drama shows which generated almost as much hype as Downton and LOD include The Bodyguard (another Jed creation), Broadchurch, Peaky Blinders, Killing Eve, Sherlock, Silent Witness, Morse, Skins and more recently Russel T Davies It’s a Sin, which was literally must-see viewing and watched by over 6.5 million, making it Channel 4’s biggest drama to date. And who could possibly forget the phenomenon that was Game of Thrones? Personally, it passed me by, but was watched in 207 countries, so maybe I missed out. 

Netflix has also produced some new classics like the steamy Bridgerton. It was the first period piece to include people of colour, then triumphantly hailed as a roaring success. The Crown has become notorious for its inaccuracies about our royal family, yet has also become an unmissable piece of television. Netflix now boasts that The Crown has been watched by 73 million households worldwide. 

Looking back over the last 30 years, British television has also undoubtedly produced some of the finest comedies ever. The third series of Ricky Gervais’s After Life is currently in the making, with each series better than the last. The programme’s perfection lies in its ability to have you laughing one minute and crying into your cup-a-soup the next. Victoria Wood’s Dinner Ladies, The Royle Family, Outnumbered and re-runs of Vicar of Dibley are all eminently funny to watch even now, as is pretty much everything made by our very own Richard Curtis.

Gavin and Stacey is a classic that can be revisited repeatedly ad infinitum, and the comedy jewel Fawlty Towers still has followers today and was sold to over 45 different stations in 17 countries over 40 years ago. 

In my humble opinion, Netflix is now, rather unfortunately, swamped by an inordinately large amount of American dross which, in my household, remains mostly unwatched. Yet they have also produced some fantastic stuff over the years. Due to the number of cable channels available on a multitude of platforms, we can still see things which were good back in their day. Mash is more than worth a watch, with my youngest son eagerly keen to view a daily episode before bedtime from the age of 8, and Friends must have been viewed by almost everyone on the planet by now. 

The US also gave us the quite brilliant House, Greys Anatomy, The Sopranos, Desperate Housewives and more recently Breaking Bad and the cult-followed Stranger Things. But going back a few years they also produced some wonderfully quirky gems like Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure and Fargo. These programmes appealed to us brits who prefer something a little less formulaic than the standard romance/drama/comedy/violence intertwined storyline, which the US usually throw our way. 

We now have so many available options for our daily tv viewing, on catch up and whenever we desire. So, when a series like Line of Duty comes along and becomes a major topic of conversation, spanning several ages, it leaves us little choice but to watch when it’s aired or take the risk of hearing plot spoilers. We feel united in our adoration of the show and revel in its escapism. It has the capacity to take us away from the often-dreary dullness of our mundane lives, even if only for an hour. I think this is partly why it has become such a success story and why, if they do make a 7th series, I’ll be there ready and waiting fella!  

P.S. It’s not always all about the ending, enjoying the journey along the way is equally as important. 

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