Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ugly is beautiful, where the heart isn't

ITV has announced its pulling the plug on long-running Sunday night drama staple Where the Heart Is. 8pm on Sundays is known as the Golden Hour on Britain's leading commercial network, a place where warm and fuzzy, positive tales are told. In recent years this slot has been home to nostalgia fests like Heartbeat [1960s cops] and its spin-off, The Royal [1960s docs]. Where the Heart Is had a contemporary setting and tackled contemporary issues, but in a way that didn't challenge its audience too strongly - classic pre-watershed telly. But the end has come after nine series, sending the show out into the ether forever.

ITV is slowly stripping away many of its returning drama series, most of them born in the 1990s or the early part of this decade. Footballers' Wives, Rosemary & Thyme, Where the Heart Is have all been culled, while prison drama Bad Girls is also apparently coming to the end of its sentence. But where are the replacments? Vets in Africa show Wild at Heart was a hit back in January, so we can expect further series of that. Presumably ITV has other series up its sleeve to fill the gaps left by this drama cull.

Bringing back the likes of Prime Suspect and Cracker for a last hurrah grabs headlines, but doesn't solve longer term problems. Even spinning Inspector Morse into Lewis, as successful as that was, will only beget the channel three new episodes for 2007. That's Sunday night at 9pm sorted for most of January - but what will the channel be running the other 49 Sundays of the year? Let's hope drama doesn't go the same way as comedy on ITV.

Across the Atlantic, Ugly Betty has been picked up for a full season, along with post-apocalyse drama Jericho. The basic premise of Ugly Betty was enough to see it through two episodes, but the third episodes showed the programme has legs. Initial efforts felt like a 22-minute sitcom stretched to 42 minutes of screentime. But the writers have begun to reveal hiddens depths to the cast, exploring interlinked plotlines that have thematic resonances, like the fathers and children relationship issues tackled last week. Good stuff, carried off with panache.

Having ripped through season two of Grey's Anatomy on DVD, we're now on to season seven of The West Wing. After that, it's choice between season one of The Wire or some Spooks spy-fi action. Plus I've still got the revived Cracker sat on the DVD recorder hard drive, waiting for time and inclination to watch it. Didn't bother recording Robin Hood last Saturday. If we're in this weekend, will try to give Paul Cornell's episode a go, see if it can improve on the opening effort. But this is the show's last chance for me, so fingers crossed.


Useless Man said...

Don't tell anyone, but I found myself hooked on Ugly Betty as well.

Very well done.

Good Dog said...

'After that, it's choice between season one of The Wire or some Spooks spy-fi action.'

Oh man, go with The Wire. Not only is the first season an abosulte masterpiece, but the first season of episode one is a real winner.

And then comes a scene midway through episode four that is simply the best.

Don't delay.

Finally got Spooks series one on DVD. Could there be a more irritating menu?

Also, Foyle's War seems to be getting the cold shoulder from ITV. I know it's obviously expensive, but it's a solid show.