3. Shorter Seasons
Let’s face it, series runs of American television shows can seem unbearably long. Twenty-two episodes (or more) can be
quite a commitment. As big a fan of 24 as I am, there were plenty of times when, in the middle of the season, I’d find myself saying, “Wait — what started this crisis?”
On the other hand, British series generally run six episodes a season. This phenomenon can be attributed to the smaller creative teams working on programs in the UK, as well as the longer length of shows, since British television series are not sponsored.
For the viewer, a short series run means that most episodes are packed with more drama, comedy, or action in a smaller span, or what one writer calls “satisfyingly concentrated quality.” The Hour can wrap up its espionage plot and love triangle in half a dozen episodes, while a comedy like Friday Night Dinner can guard against wearing its premise thin thanks to a shorter season.
A six episode season also eliminates some of the problems that many American series have: midseason periods that drag and become less interesting, high concept premises that stretch too much over 22 episodes, and bloated budgets that include high salaries.
When they’re done right, six episode seasons can be satisfying, yet at the same time leave the viewers wanting more. BBC America proves this with the best of their programs.
2. A Sampling Of The Best In British Entertainment In One Place
Imagine the top series, the brightest talent, the most intriguing miniseries all on one network. For me, such a channel would broadcast Friday Night Lights, 24, Seinfeld, Lost, and other series like them, along with classic Disney pictures, Alfred Hitchcock films, and James Bond movies (minus the Timothy Dalton ones). I’m sure you have you favorites you’d handpick too. In a lot of ways, BBC America is like that.
BBC America handpicks the best programming from Britain’s top networks — the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, and others — along with a couple of American gems thrown in. A few of the shows have American versions, such as Top Gear and Free Agents, while other programs like Doctor Who have had rabid cult followings for years.
The network offers programming blocks that cater to just about every taste. Wednesday night’s Dramaville block, hosted by Idris Elba, runs hour-long dramatic series. The Hour has already finished its run, and Elba’s own Luther is currently showing in that time slot. (State Of Play is coming in December! Woohoo!) A late Saturday night block called Ministry Of Laughs offers British stand up acts and comedy series like Friday Night Dinner and Outnumbered. Another block, Supernatural Saturday, delivers shows like Doctor Who, Being Human, and Bedlam.
Outside these blocks, of course, are other great shows like Law & Order: UK and the documentary series BBC America Reveals. The BBC even offers a nightly newscast on BBC America. Needless to say, the network offers something for just about everyone if you’re willing to look for it.
Finally: How is British culture different than America?