By: Twitter Buttons

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Britannia Low

Miley Cirus, Corbin Bleu, Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers - just a few of the names making millions from the 'Tween' market in the States. Everyone's on a high with High School Musical and can't seem to get enough of Zac and Vanessa.

And then came the UK with their own attempt of annoying cheese and 'you can do it/follow your dream' cliches. It should have been good. It should have been the one programme to revive children's TV, with Arlene Phillips in production and Gary Barlow doing what he does best in the musical chair. So why did a couple of tin mugs from 1870, that Margaret found in a cardboard box in the loft, blow Britania High off the ratings radar?

Its debut only managed to secure 3.3million viewers. 'Only' I hear you cry, "why, 3.3million viewers is a lot, especially in these days of digital TV and multiple choice". Yes, it is a lot but compared to the Antiques Roadshow's 8.6million, it's a tiny drop in the ocean. With viewing figures dropping every week (2.5million by the 3rd episode), I doubt this bundle of sickly joy will be on our screens for a second series. At least then, Arlene can go back to her day job - coming up with the most complicated, long-winded, aliteration-littered compliments and put downs ever known to man on Strictly Come Dancing: "You were like a leopard leaping across the luxurios Lagos landscape, lothariously and lovingly licking his lady lioness. That Cha Cha Cha was magnificent!" Wow, the lady makes me laugh.

But what is the problem here? Why didn't it work? Despite the significant marketing investment, why are people switiching off? One of my arguments would be that children in the UK are much more cynical than kids in the US. Our ideologies are a far cry from 'the American Dream'. In America Billy Bob from Arkansas actually believes that he can be anything he wants to be; yes, even the President of the United States, because it has been drummed into him since the day he was born - that America is the land where dreams come true. In the UK, little Charlie is told to keep his expectations low, get his head down and maybe one day, if he works really hard, he might become head of the Soups and Sauces ailse at Tesco (no offence to Soups and Sauce heads at Tesco). Ok, maybe I'm going too far but the point I'm making is that even as kids, UK children are extremely clued up as to what the real world for the majority of us is like. They understand that it's hard out there and that we can't all be rich and famous, spending our lives doing only the things we like to do. This cynicism, and sadly loss of childhood innocence and optimism, may be why BB and the gang should maybe take a hop and a skip to their local job centre pretty sharpish...just in case.

Grange Hill, Byker Grove, Children's Ward. These were gritty, realistic and my favourite word - relatable. They brought in the numbers and I think that even though Britannia High was a good idea on paper when you look at the success High School Musical had in the States, the producers missed a big trick here. Trying to create a carbon copy to serve an audience that is so different may have been the reason why "This could be the start of something good" wasn't.

"I cannae see man, I cannae see" (PJ from Byker Grove blinded by a paintball pellet - classic)


  1. I would like to think it less about culture and more about the content. Ultimately it is a bad rip off High School Musical.

    You might point to the similarities between Britain's Got Talent, X Factor and How do you solve a problem like Maria, and say look they managed it.

    These shows differ as they add something to a tried and trusted format. These shows are simple variations on talent shows like Stars in their Eyes. (I know this was not the first 'talent' contest - but the one your thinking of probably is not either). The key to their success, is they push the boundaries of existing formats, reinventing the wheel so to speak. In some cases they are just good interpretations of the original.

    This clearly is not the case with this junk. It is filled with poor storylines, cringeworthy actors and low production values. In fairness this show is not on a channel doing spectacularly well at the moment, so it has to work harder to attract new viewers, and apart from the reality shows does not really cater to the youth 'market'. Unlike Disney Channel does in the US.

    Getting to your main point about aspirations. I believe it is less about culture, which obviously plays some part, and more about circumstance. I sure the audition numbers for X-Factor, Big Brother and The Apprentice would highlight a large aspirational culture and some might say a lack of hard work culture.

    For example, the optimism about Britain's performance in the Olympics i am sure has given people alot of energy. Just like the feel good factor after the Rugby World Cup success. Similarly in America i am in no doubt that all those marginalised African Americans and probably a few "Afro (insert as appropriate)" over here too will be energised by the Obama victory.

  2. I've been trying for a while to make a comment after JMPOV but he or she has pretty much nailed it on the head.

    I think what we can all agree with is that it sucks. I dont even need to see it to know. I saw my little cousin skip the channel when it was on and that was all the verification I needed.

  3. Thanks for your comment guys.
    I do stand by my argument that a 'different and more cynical audience' is one of the reasons why this hasn't work but agree with you both that content and quality has been a significant contribution.

    I actually watched more of it last week, tried to give it a second chance and what I picked up on was the confusion as to who exactly their target audience is. Triggered by JMPOV's Disney comment, I realised that the content does not give a clear indication. They have the singing and dancing of HSM and cheesiness seen on children's TV but some of the themes covered (child abuse-not physical, just one of the characters feeling hated and unloved by her mother as a child, student - teacher relationship, BB's brother getting shot, the two love birds ON THE BED kissing and rolling around- Troy and Gabriella of HSM hardley ever kiss) - it just left me thinking - who is this actually for? It wouldn't be suitable for the youth audience who watch the Disney channel and the Skins, T4 audience are hardley going to download the online 'Learn this jazz dance" tutorials. I think it back to th drawing board for this one.



yasmin lawsuit