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All in the ratings game

I’m sick of websites and newspapers enthusing about The Wire. Partly because it’s cliquey – this is a programme watched by exactly one-millionth* of the number of people who tune in to Hollyoaks, but it gets huge amounts of attention. More importantly, though, because I’ve developed an unhealthy addiction to the stupid thing, and reading about it when I’m trying to concentrate on other matters doesn’t help.

After steadfastly refusing to watch the show for months (I was sick of reading Charlie Brooker explaining how good it was, so for some reason I decided to ignore it – don’t ask how this logic works) I bought season one on DVD then watched all 12 hours of it in about three sleep-deprived days. I’m now half way though season four, and pondering the ways to get hold of the final, fifth series before it comes out on UK DVD in about a decade.

So, it’s the best thing on television, blah blah.

What annoys me even more than reading about The Wire, though, is the drek that takes its place in the UK TV schedules. Channel Four has picked up loads of HBO programmes – The Sopranos (which is good, but pales by comparison) and even the hardly populist Six Feet Under – but The Wire is left to languish on the cable/Sky only FX. Instead, tonight’s C4 schedule includes the aforementioned Hollyoaks, some godawful film and, er, Sex Change Hospital. Even Sky, which can’t be short of money and which ran HBO’s own Deadwood on Sky One, has decided instead to spend what appears to be about half of its budget on promoting the mindboggling Ross Kemp in Afghanistan, in which a former soap opera actor gets filmed in a warzone with Our Boys ((c) The Sun).

It makes you wonder: what would be necessary to get serious, intelligent TV programmes shown in the UK. Possible solutions:

1) Get a former Eastender to overdub the voice of Stringer Bell, then re-show The Wire as Ross Kemp in Baltimore.

2) Introduce text voting and run the political subplots as a reality competition show: who wants to be a massively corrupt major. Maybe some sort of X-factor thing for crack dealers.

3) Run the whole show again, from the start of series one through to S5 when it finally crosses the Atlantic, on BBC4 or More4. Please. If more people actually see good television, they might ask for more of it in future. And that could only be a good thing.

* Statistic may be fabricated nonsense

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