I was viewing the new series of Sherlock, written by the fantastic Steven Moffat (Coupling, Dr Who, Jekyl), when a thought occurred to me; would the deli be open to sell me an ice cream at this hour? Sadly it wasn’t, which gave me plenty of time to think about how various countries differ in the way they do TV shows and movies.
I present my musings and gross generalities about TV shows around the world.
UK - Talkies.
|The best Dr Who – Tom Baker a close second.
When I think of UK TV in general I think very little action but a lot of dialogue. Not much happens in any one episode of UK TV, but all the characters have a lot to say. The best shows – often written by the aforementioned Steven Moffat et al. – are also witty and intelligent.
A great example of this is Dr Who, the David Tennant version. The Doctor is stuck in a life or death situation – lets say its Darleks about to shoot him – and yet he talks his way out of it. Any other country would have him ducking for cover. Another example is the crime drama Luther. This is more an exploration of the main character and his strained relationships and his commitment to solving crimes.
Example: Sherlock, Luther.
Outlier: The Bill (cookie cutter).
USA - Explosions and cookie cutter formats.
|Cookie-Cutter was a term invented for this franchise.
The Americans are terrific at doing formulaic shows. Their crime shows follow the same patterns each episode, the dramas have a list of top topics – also used for identifying when they have jumped the shark – and all their comedies gradually morph into dramas. They also do gun fights and explosions. More bullets are fired in one episode of US TV than in the entire year of all TV shows from the UK and Australia (NB: made up statistic that is possibly true but I’d have no idea).
As a result they can attract audiences in large numbers to watch things go bang. The longer the show runs the less ideas are used in any one episode as the formulae takes over. In fairness, compared to UK TV, series in the US produce a lot more episodes, so writers would have a harder time coming up with fresh material.
Example: CSI whatever.
Outlier: Justified, The Wire.
Australia - Soapies.
|Neighbours, the long running steaming pile of dog droppings.
Aussies can’t produce a TV show that isn’t a soapie. We have tried many times, failing miserably to make the show not morph into a soapie. Sometimes we start off with a great premise and even a few episodes that show promise, but it doesn’t take long before we have just another soapie.
I don’t watch Aussie TV any more.
Example: We don’t do anything other than soapies.
Outlier: The little watched Good Guys, Bad Guys.
Western Europe - Gritty and noir.
|Unit One making you squirm.
Americans have recently started (re)making European shows with more explosions. They have realised that there are so many well written shows there that they just had to copy them. Since Americans can’t handle accents and subtitles they need to redo the lot. Of course the Americans are then surprised when there is something lacking in their version.
I don’t know why, but gritty seems like a default position in every drama produced in Europe (Inspector Rex doesn’t count). As a result shows can become very dark, but at the same time are generally more substantive.
Example: The Elephant, The Killing, Unit One.
Outlier: All the same soaps and reality TV that they produce like every other country/region.
Canada - USA shows
|We’re in Canada Scully; it’s a conspiracy!
If it is a US TV show, it is likely to be made in Vancouver. My theory for this phenomenon is that American actors and stuntmen on TV shows generally aren’t making enough money to afford decent health care. As a result they like to locate themselves in a country that has proper health care available. Just a theory.
One of the ways to spot an Canadian TV show versus an American TV show is how much shooting and explosions occur during any one episode. At one end you have American shows, at the other end you have Canadian shows, and right in the middle are the Canadian produced American shows.
Example: Stargate, Supernatural.
Outlier: Any show that looks kinda American but hasn’t got people shooting someone every 2 minutes.
Eastern Europe, South America & Asia
I’d like to know more as Australians don’t have many of them on our screens.
NB: I’ve tried to be as intentionally insulting to the various countries with my observations as possible. There is a lot of great TV out there, Australia makes virtually none of it, so I’m bitter, resentful and ultimately jealous.