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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Are there too many crime dramas on TV?

The BBC’s highly rated crime drama Zen, which starred Rufus Sewell as a cop in Italy, was recently cancelled for a reason that struck me as surprising. From UKPA via Google:

[BBC Controller Danny Cohen] said today: “I felt that we risked having too many male detectives and arguably we had maybe too much crime.

“I want to broaden the range and make sure we’ve got enough that wasn’t detectives and crime.”

He added: “Detectives and crime is the real staple of quite a lot of BBC, but also a huge amount of ITV drama, and one of the things I want to do is to broaden the palette a bit.”

He said the channel would still retain a number of quality crime shows: “We’ve got Sherlock, we’ve got Wallander.”

Cohen added that some programmes had to go if the channel was to commission any new series. “You can’t keep doing everything if you want to bring in new things,” he said.

His comments about male detectives come just weeks after actress Caroline Quentin raised concerns about the number of male-led dramas on UK TV

Wow. I think he’s exactly right: too much of our TV fiction revolves around crime, and there are far too many shows headed up by male characters. But for a high-up figure at a TV network to admit that, and to cancel a show that was getting a big audience, because of it, is astonishing.

Of course, the BBC is not as driven by ratings as commercial networks are, so it’s hard to imagine anything similar happening on American TV, which is also dominated by crime and men. But we can still talk about it. So:

Are there too many crime dramas on TV? (The same American crime shows that dominate in the U.S. are all over TV in the U.K., too: in pretty much the same way that you can always find a rerun of one of the many Law and Orders on American TV, it’s almost impossible to avoid reruns of the man CSIs here.) Are there too many shows revolving primarily around male characters? (This is becoming less of an issue on American TV these days — strong, complex female characters are flourishing on cable series… though many of them are still heading up crime shows.)

Have at it…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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