Do US imports really work on British TV?

Lost - Series 1I’ve been thinking about the success of US imports on British TV a lot recently and various other bloggers have given me food for thought.

Clair mentions the derivative nature of some of C4’s new programming, while Andrew Collins recently bemoaned the pitiful figures that Curb Your Enthusiasm got for the first episode of its new series.

Hell, even I’ve moaned about all the US shows on our TV screens in the past fortnight.

What I’ve started wondering, though, is if it’s actually worth paying big money for some of these fantastically successful shows.

Series 4 of Lost premiered on Sky One at the weekend with an audience of 1.1 million – a good showing for a non-terrestrial channel, but still some way short of the likes of EastEnders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

The likes of CSI and its spin-offs do well for Five, but don’t pull in the same numbers that The Bill or Holby Blue manages, similarly the current series of Mistresses is getting more viewers than Sex & The City ever did.

Even Heroes for all its puff and hype looks puny in comparison to Doctor Who, and ER, even in its heyday, never came close to toppling Casualty.

Comedies fare no better. Larry Sanders and Seinfeld may be some of the most influential comedies ever, but Ricky Gervais has achieved far high ratings with both The Office and Extras.

Sure, some of these programmes were shunted into terrible time-slots (Larry Sanders and Seinfeld being two obvious examples), but even if they’d gone head-to-head, I doubt they’d have won the battle.

It seems that most channels are far too keen to spend their budgets on US ‘hits’, rather than invest in original homegrown programming, even if the ratings don’t necessarily do that well.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching a lot of US imports – in fact, they make up more than 70% of my Sky+ viewing.

And do you know why? Because for every Harry Hill, Mistresses or Torchwood (three shows I’m watching currently), there are at least twice the number of US shows that are its equal being shown.

Let’s hope UK homegrown comedy and drama doesn’t disappear because TV execs can’t find the money, or indeed are too scared to commission it.

One thought on “Do US imports really work on British TV?

  1. Say it quietly, but I don’t actually watch much telly any more..

    Anyhoo, the problem with imports is, I think, is that it’s very,very difficult to get the majority of the audience away from the four (two?) main channels. That, and the Freeview audience is so fragmented.

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