Wednesday, September 02, 2009

BBC America, Hear Our Plea

Regular readers will know that I'm a hardcore fan of British media -- especially comedy. Here's an American who knows which radio sitcoms are airing on BBC4 most weeks -- and often who wrote them. BBC (radio and TV and even their website) is a world treasure. So much great stuff.

But even for those not so involved, if you asked most Americans what entertainment forms you think of when prompted with "British," it's worth a wager that in the top five responses would be "comedy" (even higher if you eliminate music and musical groups).

This is to point out that BBC America for the past few weeks has aired no comedies -- no sketch shows, no sitcoms, no Monty Python, no comedy quizzes no news parodies, no historical comedy-dramas. There are a couple talk shows with comedy caulking (Graham Norton and Jeremy Ross), but no straight comedy. Here's a paste of the lineup for today:

BBC America Schedule, Wed. Sept 2
01:00:00 AM  You Are What You Eat
02:00:00 AM Dragons' Den
03:00:00 AM The Graham Norton Show
04:00:00 AM How Clean Is Your House?
04:30:00 AM How Clean Is Your House?
05:00:00 AM BBC World News
06:00:00 AM BBC World News
06:30:00 AM BBC World News
07:00:00 AM BBC World News
08:00:00 AM Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares Revisited
09:00:00 AM Cash in the Attic
10:00:00 AM Antiques Roadshow
11:00:00 AM Bargain Hunt
11:30:00 AM Bargain Hunt
12:00:00 PM You Are What You Eat
12:30:00 PM You Are What You Eat
01:00:00 PM How Clean Is Your House?
01:30:00 PM How Clean Is Your House?
02:00:00 PM Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares Revisited
03:00:00 PM Gordon Ramsay's F Word
04:00:00 PM Hotel Inspector
05:00:00 PM Gordon Ramsay's F Word
06:00:00 PM Kitchen Nightmares
07:00:00 PM BBC World News America
08:00:00 PM Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
09:00:00 PM Gordon Ramsay's F Word
10:00:00 PM BBC World News America
11:00:00 PM Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
BBC News is great, and I'm glad they expanded it. Some of the other shows are okay timewasters, but there's nothing there which would make me say "I have got to see that." Much of it is just dross of the drossiest sort.

On other days they have more interesting programs in the evening, and I don't hate Gordon Ramsay -- I'm just not that interested and he's on every day it seems.

There's tons of great entertainment on BBC and other UK stations: please, BBC America, air some of it in America.

One example is QI, which is Stephen Fry's entertaining, bizarre, and interesting (Quite Interesting) comic quiz show. There's a bit of a push to get it aired somewhere on US TV, and that's a cause to get behind. Here's a Facebook page devoted to getting QI aired in the USA. Go pitch in and read about the program. It's great that John Hodgman will be a panelist this season!

I'd love to see QI on BBC America, but there's a lot of other stuff that would be wonderful to see, too. I've often wondered if some shows they are airing (e.g. How Clean is your House?, You Are What You Eat?, and The Hotel Inspector) get much viewership, or if they're just nearly free to license.

I'd be extremely interested -- and, of course, surprised -- to see ratings for BBC America's various programs, but there is no way their current strategy is the strongest lineup they could put forward, even giving viewership, licensing, and pecuniary issues. If IFC can air The IT Crowd and Graham Duff's wonderful pot-dealer sitcom Ideal, with those Mancunian accents that regularly cause even an anglophile like me to use Closed Captions (I love you Johnny Vegas, but Moz's slurred rasp can be a bit hard to decipher), then surely BBC America can run some of the many great shows that are on offer on UK TV nowadays.

Adult Swim is airing The Mighty Boosh, fer chrissakes, which is as funkily British as Melton Mowbry pies with gooseberries, jellied eels, Stilton, and HP sauce.

[I'm sure competition from stations like IFC and Adult Swim--and of course PBS for the tonier productions-- is a challenge to BBC America. But BBC A weren't airing Ideal anyway and it's been years since they aired The Boosh, so that can't be the driving force behind their odd programming choices.]



DanProject76 said...

Oh dear, bad daytime shows all day long! What makes your list even worse is that most of them are not even BBC shows in the UK. Bah!

riffle said...

Yes, it's gotten really bad in the past few months.

And that Wednesday I picked just happened to be partcularly horrid. It's not 100 percent terrible, of course. Scattered throughout the week are few more recent UK productions, currently including Almost Human (the ghost/vampire/werewolf 20-somethings); Doctor Who gets some airtime, and Top Gear has a regular Monday slot.

None of those are my cup of tea, however, and there really hasn't been any comedy in weeks. Better is the fact that Skins runs late some nights (with hard-coded subttles, no less. BTW, I heard one of our lesser cable stations was making a US version of Skins, which will probably be leprous.)

In past years they tried to loosen up programming in Friday overight, with a themed set for the cool young people, including one series of That Mitchell and Web Look, which was great, and some other comedy. They even befouled that with Catherine Tate, however.

I'm sure they can do better.

Web Analytics