To be or not to be?

To be or not to be?

Posted March 20th, 2012 by debritz

Many years ago, I interviewed Mel Gibson, and I asked him how hard it was to get the green light in Hollywood to make non-mainstream films. He told me an anecdote that went something like this:

When Kenneth Branagh pitched the idea of Henry V, one potential backer asked him: "Henry Five, eh? How did Henrys One to Four do at the box office?"

I suspect it's an apocryphal story, but it illustrates a point not only about the American movie industry, but about the current state of Australian television.

When I look at the endless promos on the commercial channels for their new and upcoming local product, one thing is clear: everything is derivative.

Every show is either a reboot (Young Talent Time, Big Brother), a franchise (The Voice, Big Brother [again], Australia's Got Talent, Celebrity Apprentice) or a clone (The Shire is tipped to be our answer to Jersey Shore, for example).

Nothing on the commercial channels strikes me as being truly original, because nobody's game to back a hunch. Better to copy something else and hope it clicks (bad luck about Excess Baggage, which was a mashup of Biggest Loser and Celebrity Whatever) than to take a risk on innovation.

After all, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Oh, wait a minute ...

When the commercial networks do look for something "new", they almost always fall back on the same relatively small and intertwined cliques of "creatives" who've produced everything we've seen on television for the past 20 or 30 years.

I've written before about how free-to-air television networks' only chance of long-term survival is if they seriously invest in content creation. If they're going to succeed, they will have to take some real risks and seek out ideas from people other than the usual suspects.

Update: Last night's ratings go some way to illustrating how bad things are for Channels 9 and 10. They both, again, got blitzed in the overall figures by Seven, but they also failed to win their "preferred demographics", which must make it very hard to pitch to advertisers. I also find it's interesting that repeats of Big Bang Theory on 9 are doing better than new episodes of Two Broke Girls and Two and a Half Men.