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Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Cull of Male Detectives

I've just read this article about the BBC. In a nutshell, it says that BBC One controller, Danny Cohen, aims to limit the number of male detectives on television and, possibly, the number of crime dramas full-stop. Zen (something I admit I haven't watched) was axed due to this new policy. Apparently there are enough male detectives on television already.

I'm all for female-led drama. I covet it. I think it's true to say that I would be more inclined to give a programme a shot if it had a prominent female character BUT if I hear good things about something I don't avoid it simply because it has a male lead. There are so few good returning dramas around these days that I cling on to a good script or an innovative idea like a child clutching a prized toy. Zen attracted 5.7 million viewers on average for its three-episode run. In the current climate that is pretty damn good. Why should it be axed merely for some political correctness stunt which the BBC should be above?

Their remit is to be a public service. Yes, they have a duty to offer equal opportunities and to portray as many sides to our society as possible. But to axe a popular programme because it's another show with a man in it? Can you imagine if that was the other way round? David Cameron's 'calm down, dear' would be lost in the amount of mud Westminster would be slinging at the BBC.

Of course we need more female-led programmes on television. But, as with most things, if you try and force something into a box it just doesn't work. I don't know if the BBC are running around telling scriptwriters they must work on female characters but, if they are, they're shooting themselves in the foot. I hate television by numbers. I hate the inclusion of a token gay character or a disabled character or anything that reeks of people wanting to tick a box. As soon as you start doing that you lose the organic element of a narrative, the thing that popped into your head the moment you started playing 'what if'. I can tell you something; if a character pops into your head and he's fully formed with a family you can identify, flaws you can exploit and a firm story you can tell, it's not just a case of swirling him around, popping a bra on him and having the character be a woman instead. That works the other way too: characters cannot and should not be manipulated for the sake of political correctness.

So, my wish for the BBC? I'd like to see the main channels take a gamble on some of those fantastic programmes relegated to BBC3 and 4 where you have to be clairvoyant to find them. I'd like to see better scripts, tighter drama and riveting television. I'd like see fantastically-acted characters, male AND female. I don't want to see apparently good dramas tossed into the rubbish bin because they don't fit a perceived image.

That's what I want.

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