Time for a rant about my industry (haven’t done one of these for a while!)
Tonight sees the return of W1A. For anyone who didn’t catch the first season of this a year ago, you should check it out. It’s very funny. To the normal viewer (and by normal I mean anyone who has never worked in television) it’s just a humorous take on the workings of a global public company (especially poignant in this current period of Jeremy Clarkson sacking/Sue Perkins bullying/hardcore fans throwing themselves under buses that will never feature on Top Gear). Everyone can relate to interoffice politics and lunacy. Go on, have a chuckle whilst you dip your soldiers into your hard boiled egg tonight because it’s nearly the weekend and you can’t be bothered to do anything more exhaustive for dinner…
For those of us who have worked in TV, W1A is still seen as a clever and often hilarious take on our industry. But I find myself watching it with tears of laughter that are actually masking tears of bleak empathy. TV, as portrayed in W1A, is actually like that. Only you’re not allowed to laugh at it, you’ve got to basically play by the same game as the people around you and be equally as ludicrous.
I won’t go too in depth here, and I won’t even give real life examples, lest someone on LinkedIn sees this article and reports me to the Head of the Broadcasting Standards Commission (last year I was slapped on the wrist for advertising things on a show that was about selling things). I will just comment that the stupid meetings you see on W1A, along with the flippant dismissing of people’s ideas and the seemingly pointless titles people are given is actually a reality.
Whatever. I love it. I love lunacy and I love creatives and eccentrics and I love the media.
However – here’s my real beef. Last year I wrote the pilot for a TV show which was set behind the scenes of a fictitious structured reality show. It was damn funny, damn it. I sent it to the commissioners, to some script agents and to some contacts I have at comedy production companies. All of them said the same thing to me: “No one is commissioning TV shows about TV anymore. There’s W1A but that’s just a one off. This concept isn’t well received.”
Okay, then why was W1A re-commissioned? And why are the BBC happy to tout a hilarious sitcom (which is a rarity at the BBC as it is) that essentially highlights the demotivating attitudes that these channels have towards new ideas, varied programming and aspiring writers. My show is about a made-up TV show, not an actual channel. My show pokes fun at a genre that we all love/hate and that loves/hates itself. W1A basically demonstrates the kind of head-against-a-brick-wall situation that I as a creative find myself in so often which is actually rather dire. And by it’s re-commission, the industry is disproving the theory that the insiders think they got right last year when dealing with my script. People obviously do want to watch this type of show, because it’s back for more.
I suppose this post is a creative’s frustrated outpour. And that’s what writers and producers can do now – take to the net and make their views public, without the say so from someone in a glass office at the top of New Broadcasting House. When you watch W1A – and do watch it, it’s excellent – spare a thought when you view scenes where some stressed producer who is lucky to possess a laniard is being fobbed off by wide-eyed, straight-mouthed executives who are too afraid to spend money on a commission because it doesn’t have the words “Bake” or “Off” in the title.
I’m not bitter, promise.