TV’s Overkill

It's getting so you can't turn on the TV anymore without seeing yet another police file re-opened, regurgitated, re-enacted, rinsed and repeated.

What’s happening to our TV landscape?

Call me crazy but I’m just a litle bit over all these crime docos, re-enactments and profiles of killers, drug runners and gangs every second night.

I thought we already had Underbelly? Who are all these other baddies? They’re really doing my head in….

It’s getting so that I can’t turn on my TV anymore without seeing yet another police file re-opened, regurgitated, re-enacted, rinsed and repeated.

In the last 12 months we’ve been bombarded with a parade of documentaries, factuals and hybrids in-between. Australian Families of Crime, Australian Druglords, Gangs of Oz, Crime Investigation Australia, Beyond the Darklands and next week something called Police Under Fire: Mad Max (it’s a case from 1986 for goodness sake). They come on top of other cop factuals including The Force, Recruits and assorted imports featuring cops with dogs.

I have no issue with drama being driven by the cop / crime genre. It’s a story generator, it puts our central characters into heroic roles, it even makes economic sense. They give our actors and writers jobs and when they get it right, they really deliver (Underbelly season 1, East West 101, Rush).

But ever since Underbelly we’re seeing not just a flood of copycat drama (Underbelly movies, Killing Time, Wicked Love: The Maria Korp Story and more on the way) but docos that showcase shock-and-awe cases. This notorious killer. That underworld family. Maybe we need a new law that says television networks shouldn’t profit from the proceeds of crime either.

Last night’s Australian Druglords narrated by Gary Sweet made the most of police footage of a sting of convicted drug trafficker Richard Buttrose. Yes the footage was too good not to utilise. Five years ago it probably would have made a meaty story on 60 Minutes. These days that kind of footage winds its way to an edit suite, and is linked together with a few re-enactments, a forensic psychologist and a celebrity actor.

On top of that these cases infiltrate our other shows. A Current Affair devoted a segment to the same show last night. Getaway recently profiled King’s Cross. Heaven forbid if turning on Two and a Half Men becomes the only crime-free safe zone left to us (hmm, so thats why it rates)….

Some argue that networks are even “glorifying” criminals. I don’t subscribe to that theory. Many of the principal characters in the Underbelly series wound up dead, behind bars, bereaved or as hollow shells of their former selves. Sure the production is sexy, but the moral lessons are considerable.

I’m guessing the answer from a Programmer will be “this stuff rates”. Sure. Gordon Ramsay used to rate too, before he flooded our schedules. A some point we will no doubt reach saturation point and the impact of all of these shows could see them implode. Personally, I’m at that point already.

Excuse me while I go and find my old DVDs of Dallas and have a bit of fun again.

40 Responses

  1. Well i would rather watch these that are based on real crime in australia rather then the constant onslaught of fictional american crime shows.
    Every channel you put it on its either csi criminal minds and so on, thats what i am really sick and tired of more of aussie doccos the better it’s a shame there is not more aussie crime shows on tv since that seems to be the rage i am really over american tv shows.

  2. I really like this show, as well as Gangs of Oz, Dark lands, Australian Crime Families – Druglords etc.. Many have real police footage, which If nothing else, interestingly show the accuracy of Underbelly and other dramas. So spare a thought for the people who have no interest in Biggest Loser, Master Chef, Survivor and the many other 100’s of shows that flood our televisions that people like myself have no interest in whatsoever.

  3. David wrote: “What’s happening to our TV landscape?

    Call me crazy but I’m just a litle bit over all these crime docos, re-enactments and profiles of killers, drug runners and gangs every second night.”

    Sickening isn’t it, I gave up on the commercial networks years ago

    I note some support for UK drama, try Chris Ryan’s Strike Back (Richard Armatige), 6 nights or weeks of no AU commercials, lovely, plenty of folks over there ready to send us poor folks in the Colonies good TV

    AU commercials are finished in my book

  4. @ ernie – The fact is US shows rate better than UK shows. My tv schedule is about 50% UK shows, 25% US and 25% Australian, but I understand that for many Australians it would be more 50-60% US, 40-50% Australian and less than 10% UK. People just seem to prefer US shows over UK. I don’t see any problem with that, different people have different tastes.

  5. Yeah this obsession with crime is really quite pathetic. People like to buy into this ludicrous hysteria over how crime is supposedly ruining our society, which is really only an excuse for them to lash out at supposed enemies like ethnic minorities, young people, motorcyclists and recreational drug users etc… This irrational hysteria doesn’t just fill our television screens with mindless crap, it also has a real world impact on a lot of innocent groups people (see above) who have mean spirited and draconian legislation forced down their throats.

  6. @aznfratboy
    You’re obsessed with American television and America. You even spell the American way. Why do we have to be like America anyway? I watch hardly any American shows at all. I prefer Australian and British programs by far and only watch a couple of American ones. I would rather watch Aussie factuals, docos and scripted series over any American show.

  7. totally agree!! Austar/Foxtel created the CI network for this s**t! Its about time the networks looked at their American similar free air channels and figured out what their doing wrong!

  8. Agree David.Shows like Rush,Underbelly,The Force,The Recruits etc are great shows.But to have these documentaries as well is just to much.How are the ratings for them anyway i wouldn’t have thought they are setting the world on fire,just cheap to make

  9. It would appear to me that TV producers are lemmings. If something works once, they all rush in and do more of the same until it begins to fail. They then move onto the new next shinny thing.

    I generally record these types of shows and zip through it in about a quarter of the time. I don’t know what % of tapes were actual police tape, but I suspect less than 10%.

    My beef was more that it started 20 mins behind the scheduled time. Just once I would like to see the printed TV guide put in all sorts of weird starting times, because it would be just as accurate as the fantasy the TV stations provide at present.

  10. And here goes Part 2:

    With the telemovies we shove out there, they aren’t too bad, I mean, especially if networks fast track shows, and need to co-incide with the sweeps in the US, a telemovie is a good replacement instead of a repeat, but no amount of promotion will get it the viewership that Roots, or Thorn Birds or anything like that….

    With the scripted shows Australia provides, (know I’m not slamming them or anything here), lack the level of sophistication that the US ones have. It’s like a book, or a newspaper, they’re not written as if they’ve literally taken transcript from someone, they’ve made the language a bit smarter, that’s why for the life of me I just can’t get into Underbelly, City Homicide or Rush or anything like that, and as for Underbelly, what’s with the “will he/she live or die?!?!?!” promos? Google John Ibrahim and you have his entire life story, along with the entire Underbelly story with it.

    Now I don’t expect to like absolutely everything on TV, but all I’m asking for is a variety, of comedies, dramas, both US and Australian, some reality and maybe an hour or two of factuals to keep costs down, is that really too much to ask for? Look at the schedules that the US networks have, there is alot less unscripted television compared to Australia…

  11. Well put and absolutely true. Our tv networks see a genre of television that rates high and so they jump on the bandwagon and trash the heck out of the genre, to the point where people end up hating the original high-rating shows that started it all!

    I for one am completely over crime-related shows and whenever I see an ad for one my mind literly switches off.

  12. This will be one long ass post, so Imma go and split it into a couple of parts…

    Part 1: Oh Thank God! I’ve been lobbying to get these shows off the air forever…!

    I don’t mind channels having a mix of all types of shows, heavily serialized shows (Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, V, etc etc) and shows that have repeat power (CSI, NCIS, Two and a Half Men), but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. This is where TV falls down, one channel finds a high viewership show, every other channel makes 10,000 rip-offs of it.

    I understand that shows like Border Security are supremely cheap, stick a camera behind a customs officer, and let it roll, 2 hours of editing and it’s ready-to-go, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, where does it stop? Essentially this is a COPS rip-off, and FOX over in the US at least has the decency to air it on a Saturday night, out of the way.

  13. It’s a shame Commercial channels can’t take a risk with new shows, shows with some sort of imagination. All the good Aussie made stuff is on Pay-TV, hmm where’s that Foxtel brochure.

Leave a Reply