Friday, August 25, 2006

The dog days of TV drama

Summer is not known as a great season for watching TV drama. In the US most shows are screened from September to May, often with blocks of reruns to spread the 22 episodes of a season across seven or eight months. That wasn't such a problem in the days when most shows featured predominantly done-in-one stories, even if there were plotline sor character arcs that last longer. The popularity of serials like 24 and Lost make reruns especially vexing for regular viewers. Fox gets around this by screening 24 in one, long block from January to May. After two bitsy seasons of Lost the third season is apparently being screened in blocks, to stop the show losing momentum and viewers losing the will to watch.

British TV is far less rigid in its definition of the drama season, but summer is still low tide when it comes to new drama. Audiences are shrunken by warm weather, longer days and taking their holidays. Understandably, broadcasters want their best shows to have the greatest possible chance to getting a big audience. It may be sweeping generalisation, but any new drama launched in summer is probably not the world's greatest show. You may also get the bizarre experience of watching a series like Where The Heart Is, a programme filmed in the depths of winter but often broadcast in summer. The cast are wrapped up like Eskimos, their breath hanging in the air as a vapour, while the viewer is slowly melting in glorious summer sunshine on the sofa. Odd.

Anyways, the last few months have mostly been spent watching TV on DVD, in the absence of their being much to get excited about on air. We've just finished Season 3 on NYPD Blue - I'd forgotten how good that show was - and are contemplating a re-watch of Boomtown. are sending Season 2 of both Veronica Mars and House across the Atlantic, so they'll take top priority upon arrival. I've got the DVD recorder to help me keep track of River City, since I never manage to be in when the show is on and always miss the Sunday omnibus edition. After the gangsters and gunplay of recent weeks, the Scottish soap is settling back into its more usual groove of domestic goings-on. The scramble is always to hit the subtitles button when Roisin comes on screen. That woman could read a nursery rhyme and I still wouldn't understand a word she said.

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