Different Systems, and What it Means

Throughout the semester, what always stuck out to me was how much of an auteur’s medium British television is compared to American television. Television in general is considered a writer’s medium compared to film, but it is still a very collaborative process in America thanks to the writers’ room process. Before taking this class, I knew British shows usually had shorter runs and fewer seasons, but I didn’t know that it was usually one or two writers putting together each episode. This creative freedom really showed with programs like One Day, which simply wouldn’t be possible on American television.

At the same time, I honestly can’t say that I think this method of creating television is necessarily better. To me, it seems like having other people there to point out flaws in your script can lead to tighter episodes. Many criticized season two of Downton Abbey, saying that Julian Fellows wasn’t able to put together as good of a product as season one. Perhaps if he had had other writers to help him put together the season, it would have been much less uneven. On the other hand, there are so many American shows that are uneven and poorly written, where perhaps a singular creative vision might worked out better.

Finally, one interesting by-product of this system is how much control writers have in ending their shows. I found it fascinating to learn that show creators can just end their shows when they feel it’s right, like Russell Davies with Queer As Folk. That would be unthinkable here; if a show is a hit and the creator wants to move on, the network will just replace him or her. In the end, I can’t say which system is better, but I’m glad they both exist as a point of comparison. As someone who loves the business and industry related aspects of television, it was great to be able to look at an environment different from ours.

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