Hare Wants More TV Drama

27th August 2008

In a recent article in The Times the playwright David Hare has criticised the BBC for its abandonment of the single television play.

Even in the days when single plays were allowed on majority channels, drama was identified as a conspicuous source of mischief and expense. How could anything which cost so much be so infuriatingly unpredictable in quality? Little wonder, then, that controllers chose to steer their investment away from individual stories that could never be repeated into long-running series with familiar characters and cliff-edge endings that would keep the ratings ticking over nicely.

It is, of course, for these same sour commercial reasons that fiction has responded to its own demotion by increasingly choosing to pass itself off as fact. More and more single films, if they happen at all, seem merely to reconstruct events about which we have already read. Figures such as Margaret Thatcher, Christine Keeler, Frankie Howerd and Lord Longford are mimicked and lent motives in a stuttering flow of biopics, behind which lies some depressingly tame thinking: “Oh, they’ll be interested in this; they already know about it.”

Hare does point out that the BBC is airing two theatre adaptations of his work: My Zinc Bed (tonight on BBC 2 at 9pm) and A Number (next week). Despite this he feels these small gestures towards original drama are not enough in a period when the BBC is under continued pressure to justify its funding from television license money.

Write a Comment