Monday, February 05, 2007

ITV Three

Back when I was a kiddie ITV showed lots of big bright American dramas. Their schedule was littered with the likes of Hawaii Five-O, The Six Million Dollar Man and Magnum PI.

While not the kind of shows I’d care to watch now – except perhaps Magnum PI, which displayed the same easy charm The Rockford Files had in spades – they did provide colour and entertainment to a dour, overcast England. Then over the years with the arrival of new channels, beginning with Channel 4, ITV stopped looking to the West Coast for new programming.

It was surprising to read in today’s Media Guardian that LA Law had been the last American import ITV had screened in primetime. Sure they went on to buy David E Kelley’s The Practice and Millennium – which I can only imagine they had paid for sight unseen – but both were buried in late-night slots as were the more recent Numbers and Supernatural.

It was more surprising to discover that ITV’s director of acquisitions had recently taken the company chequebook over to LA and picked up a selection of new dramas. Then again with four channels to feed, ITV can’t carry on repeating what appears to be all the old US dramas the BBC used to broadcast in the 1970s and 80s.

Perhaps not having the same budget to pick and choose as Channel 4, who, having lost Lost to Sky, are apparently having to cough up £1m an episode to keep Desperate Housewives from suffering the same fate, the woman from ITV still came back through customs with three new shows to place amongst the quartet of channels.

Unfortunately one of the picks, Six Degrees from Lost’s JJ Abrams, lasted only six episodes after it premiered on ABC so it’s fate in the UK is now uncertain. Friday Night Lights may be critically acclaimed but it hasn’t scored big in the ratings and may not go another season. While I like the occasional, sometimes quirky, small town dramas like Northern Exposure, one set in the Great Plains and centred around high school football didn’t do it for me. I watched the pilot and really couldn’t have cared less.

That leaves The Black Donnellys, the story of four Irish American brothers caught up in New York’s organised crime scene, which comes from Paul Haggis who made the incredibly pretentious Oscar-winning Crash. Whether it’s a success or not remains to be seen, as the show doesn’t debut in the US until early March.

I liked Haggis’ short-lived, morally ambiguous EZ Streets, but I’m in two minds about whether I want The Black Donnellys to be a success. NBC are broadcasting it Monday nights in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’s time slot, which, according to the press release “will return later this season on a date to be determined.”

That sounds a little too vague for my liking. If The Black Donnellys succeeds it’s just the excuse the network needs to blow Studio 60 off.


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