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Is British TV too childish?

13:44 UK time, Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Broadcaster Stephen Fry has criticised British TV saying it is "shocking" how "infantilised" adult programmes have become. What is your reaction?

Speaking at the annual Bafta Television Lecture in London, the comedian and writer said: "Merlin and Doctor Who are fine but they're children's programmes. It's children's television, it's entirely infantilised. It's not grown up."

He added: "If you are an adult you want something surprising, savoury, sharp, unusual, cosmopolitan, alien, challenging, complex, ambiguous, possibly even slightly disturbing and wrong," he said. "You want to try those things, because that's what being adult means."

What do you think of Stephen Fry's comments? Has British television become infantilised? Are there enough "complex" programmes on TV?

 

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    I agree with Mr Fry and I am so pleased that someone has finally been brave enough to say it. When the 'height' of programming is X Factor, reality shows, Big Brother and a whole host of inane game shows where you are expected to prove that you're marginally more intelligent than a 5 year old, what hope is there for those of us that want quality, intellectual programming?

    There has been far too much 'dumbing down' of programmes, it's high time there was a shake-up so that instead of plonking yourself down in front of the gogglebox to have your brains turned to mush, you should actually be able to sit there and find yourself mentally stimulated and challenged.

    Good on you, Stephen Fry!

  • Comment number 2.

    I have Sky and have plenty of choice and am happy with what I get.
    I am sure Stephen Fry can afford Sky as well and there are plenty of stimulating programmes to watch for his intellectual needs.
    I cannot see why he has to assume everyone in the UK is the same as him.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Has anyone watched QI?

    Surely that is Stephen calling the kettle black!

  • Comment number 5.

    BBC/OU history/science documentaries are fantastic!
    Suits all people young and old.
    Shakespear drama made with Billie Piper was really good.

    Soap drama aren't so good. What do we learn from them?


  • Comment number 6.

    He's right. Most TV is written for morons, the undereducated, spoon-fed masses. TV SHOULD challenge and provoke and educate but all we get is endless reality shows, 'talent' shows, shallow comedies, soap operas. The greatest communication medium the world has ever known is used for utter tripe 99.9% of the time.

  • Comment number 7.

    There should be something for everyone on telly.

    Yet usually at the weekends I struggle to find anything remotely challenging or educational to watch and end up reading a book.

    I think More4 was supposed to be aimed at people with similar tastes to me, but averaging just 30 minutes of original programming a day ( and thats an import) its pretty much turned out to be a waste of space.

    BBc4 is better ,but probably has a little bit too much emphasis on 'high' art for me.

    I don't resent the brainless entertainment that makes up most British telly, I just think with the number of channels we have, everyone should be catered for.

  • Comment number 8.

    Stephen Fry is usually quite a clever, versatile performer. But even he can be infantile at times. QI is usually excellent - but his information is sometimes inaccurate. Dr Who certainly isn't for children only. It is family viewing, for all ages. As I don't see any U S TV that isn't shown over here, I can only say that in general the British programmes are superior to the American. Life on Mars, Hustle, Silent Witness and Lark Rise to Candleford are just a few of many excellent recent productions.

  • Comment number 9.

    For some of the programming - OK, for MOST of the programming - he is absolutely correct.

    We are drip-fed reality shows and serial dramas to fill up the viewing slots, and when we actually get something interesting to get our teeth into it is presented to us in bite-size chunks of single-syllable nannying. Everything is made simple for everyone to understand, rather than assuming that we are intelligent people who want to take our learning further. This is great for children and teenagers, but not once we reach adulthood.

    Easy TV gives easy comedy - a series of reworked jokes that are filed out for each news event, quickly before it fades from our minds. It's a sad indictment when arguably the most grown-up programme being shown mid-evening is "The Simpsons". Prof Brian Cox had a good little run, in the mold of others like David Attenburgh, but these programmes are nearly as rare as the subject matter of them, and a real endangered species.

    The upside of it, though, is that I have been getting out a lot more, walking and hiking, and that's doing me the world of good. Maybe I should offer my story to reality TV.......

  • Comment number 10.

    Fry may enjoy having "a pop" at Dr Who, but who agrees that the picture of him looks like a young Jon Pertwee?

  • Comment number 11.

    Yes I think so. Even some of the documentarys and investigative programmes seem to talk down as if we are all children.

    TV is turning into more of a pantomime type media "now then children", and unfortunately I find this just as much with the BBC as with other stations.


    I think what the media forgets, especially tv media, is that there are MORE older people watching it than younger people.

    I am dreading getting much older because already I have seen so many SAME things re-hashed for a supposidly new audience, the older you get the more times you see new programmes of old items. Its just so boring and costing me a fortune in worn out remotes from channel hopping.

    Best programme I think in a long while was BBC 2s Wonders of the Universe, it got the balance right for all ages and mixed up what many knew with much we didnt know.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes it is utterly hopeless. We need more challenging programmes in drama and general entertainment.

    The problem is that once a formula is seen as successful it is otimised to destruction to bore the populous to death.

  • Comment number 13.

    Too many 'reality' shows, not enough original drama, current affairs shunted off to the outer limits of the schedule, nothing but Hollywood output where film is concerned.
    IO don't want the BBC to emulate the commercial stations, neither do I want to become staid. The long arm of the Burt era is still with us and now the coalition(after a private deal with Murdoch by the Tories) are eyeing up the BBC's future.

  • Comment number 14.

    The majority of "UK" TV is puerile at best. But I think that most UK viewers would object if you made them think to hard. Xfactor, Strictly Come Dancing and Britain's Got Talent just about says everything there is to say about our television.

    Rubbish!

  • Comment number 15.

    I think that TV is pretty much boring and I have all but given up watching most of it, I listen to Radio 4 or Radio 7 which are both informative, interesting, educational and hilarious. The only thing I watch on the tv is I have Got News For You, I used to watch tv endlessly when I was younger but whether the standard has slipped or whether I just grew away from it I don't know.

  • Comment number 16.

    British TV has undoubtable dumbed down. With the commercial channels this has been because falling revenue has led to cheaper programs such as reality TV. I am not sure what the BBCs excuse is but they seem to have boldly followed where others have alrady been..

  • Comment number 17.

    Fry is absolutely right, British TV has with a very few exceptions become aimed primarily at the hard of thinking. Most evening prime time TV seems to be basically chewing gum for the mind. Very few programmes seem to tell me anything I didn't already know, a good example might be the wonderful phone-in quizzes on most live TV shows now. Q. "Who wrote Hamlet? Was it A) Shakin' Stevens, B) Vanilla Shake or C) William Shakespeare".... I wonder if anyone actually get's this wrong or whether the British public are just being patronised?

  • Comment number 18.

    I totally agree with Stephen Fry's comments. There is some good adult TV, I recently saw an excelent Ben Fogle documentary on Noma, a face eating disease prevelant in Africa. However much of the entertainment is so dumbed down and so scared of being offensive that it becomes bland drivel.

    Good TV shows should challenge, shock, inspire or have any number of other lasting emotional effects

  • Comment number 19.

    Who is this guy and why do we care what he thinks? He is not renowm for grown up TV, QI is all bottom and penis jokes and if you watch Blackadder, Jeeves and Wooster and Fry and Laurie its all childish comedy and it was good. If i want serious, education or dramatic TV i have plenty of choice.

    Is Fry preening himself for dictator general of the BBC or something?

  • Comment number 20.

    No it's not. And if Stephen Fry thinks so, then he's just a big stinky brains!

  • Comment number 21.

    A bit rich from someone so obsessed with frequent use of infantile names for body parts and functions.

  • Comment number 22.

    I totally agree with Stephen Fry. The media have, like a lot of UK society, dumbed down everything to a very immature (childish) level. All in the name of 'equality' and political correctness we pander to the lowest denominator. I fear its too late to halt, we are on a declining spiral of low levels of education and therefore awareness – the Blind leading the Blind. We are in the realms and world of the socialist. God help us.....

  • Comment number 23.

    I could not agree with Stephen Fry more. British television is listing under the degeneration of intelligent discourse. People seem to have become very lazy in how they seek to be stimulated; the proliferation of unintelligent and predictable 'reality' TV, celebrity voyeurism, and special-effects-for-the-sake-of-it-fantasy, point to basic standards that are failing to drive the kind of quality entertainment that a more demanding consumer market enjoyed 10-20 years ago. It is thoroughly depressing

  • Comment number 24.

    I think that Stephen Fry has a valid point...I'm sure we all remember the good TV programmes prior to the Sky Channels and Cable...
    Britain produced quality programmes from Children's to Adult Drama and this was from the BBC and all the individual ITV franchises...
    Now we have BBC1/BBC2/ITV1/C4/C5/more ITV channels digitally and SKY, Discovery and the rest...and sometimes its hard to obtain a good days viewing from all these channels...
    The contents of many programmes are really boring...even many find the 'Reality' programmes boring and childish...
    Eventually there are some really good programmes on many channels, but not many channels producing good programmes...
    I note that Rupert Murdoch now wants to take over BSkyB 100%...the majority of SKY's programmes are bought in and many are trash...seems to be showing what may come next...after all he also bought 'The Times' and 'The SUN'...speaks volumes...
    Lets hope Auntie Beeb will come to the rescue and more factual programmes come our way...here's hoping ITV can restart making good programmes and put the reality shows where they belong...in the BIN...

  • Comment number 25.

    Personally, I blame all the so-called "reality TV" programs for dumbing down TV so much that it is now only suitable for complete idiots.

    And now that I think about, the only TV I really watch are programs that are imported from other countries, primarily the US.

    A shame it has become like this. Time to ditch all the Instant Fame!!!! programs, BBC.

    Maybe the adaption of George R R Martin's A Game of Thrones (a BBC + HBO collaboration) will help to turn things around. Sadly, I have a feeling that since it won't star some freak from Big Brother, people won't bother with it.

  • Comment number 26.

    I agree to an extent. Merlin is certainly a children's programme. From my understanding of it, it doesn't really pretend to be anything else.
    To be fair to the BBC neither does Dr Who. If you watch it, its clearly a children's show. Its just that there are some adults who are obsessed with it too. I hate to use the word "geeks"... but if the cap fits.

    The BBC doesn't really do adult shows and when it tries - generally fails. The abomination that is Torchwood springs to mind. Marketed as "adult" but really it was just tacky and seedy.
    Unfortunately that's what the Beeb seems to think adult means.
    There have been a few exceptions, the recent (and quite excellent) Luther springs to mind, but they are too few and far between and too short lived.

    Think it's unfair to compare it to American TV though. Bear in mind for every excellent drama or whatever we get from the States there are 50 pieces of absolute dross we never get to see.

  • Comment number 27.

    He's quite right in many instances. But British made terrestrial TV is on the whole dumbing down. I watched a lottery "quiz" In it to win or something and it was torturous watching contestants spin out l e n g t h y reasons for their eventual answer to mostly very simple basic questions, which if done with out this boring element of the programme, it could have just been on the air for ten minutes, including all the draws! Comedies tend to rely on childish use of bad coarse language, current affairs relegated to 30 minutes sometime whenever. Far too may exploitative "reality" programmes and so on.

  • Comment number 28.

    Stephen Fry is absolutely spot on!

    But in a funny way I am actually pleased about this as it means that I don't spend so much time in front of the TV and am out and about doing things.

    Gone are the days where I would rush home to catch something on TV.

    Though my hats is of to the BBC (I think it was the BBC). The adaptation of Little Dorrit was just brilliant and I found myself cancelling plans out, to watch it.


    There is not enough linguistic twists and invention used in English anymore on TV, its all simplified street talk which takes "dull" to new stratospheres of understanding.

  • Comment number 29.

    I agree completely. If ITV wishes to pander to an infantile audience then they can, there advertisers are paying for it. But the BBC is paid for by the UK licence payer and note of their views and opinions should be taken into account. Currently they are completely ignored. The BBC is celebrity obsessed and so politically correct many of its news type programmes are a joke. Ask your viewers and listeners what they want to see and hear and then your programmes will improved.

  • Comment number 30.

    Adult tv is utter rubbish at the moment, TV for the brain-dead. I prefer CBBC, horrible histories is about the best TV on at the moment, and I don't mind a bit of OOglies.

  • Comment number 31.

    Totally agree

  • Comment number 32.

    Isn't this the bloke who presents a tv quiz programme and seems to fall in love with every new technology toy that comes on the market?

  • Comment number 33.

    BBC does show some adult friendly programmes as well. I'm pretty sure the recent drama series Luther wasn't suitable for children, and there are vast amounts of documentary programmes for adults. Programmes such as Doctor Who and Merlin may appeal to children, but they also appeal to adults who want to relax on a Saturday evening. TV doesn't always have to be about learning, sometimes it just has be entertaining.

  • Comment number 34.

    Fry's clearly forgotten about shows such as Ashes to Ashes. As much as I love him, this just strikes me as wrong, publicity baiting nonsense.

  • Comment number 35.

    Stephen Fry has hit the nail pretty much on the head. I don't have any thing against Dr Who, actually I quite enjoy it for what it is but he is definately right.

    In fact he could have gone even futher and damn the Rash of "celeb/reality/talent-less shows" that just wont go away like an untreated infection.

  • Comment number 36.

    Make a drama based on the lives of the futurists. that would be both challenging because they were close to the Italian fascists, and would be entertaining as most of there antics were hilarious and usually ended with them having to leave the towns they had just insulted with great haste.

  • Comment number 37.

    This is definately the case. BBC1, and in some cases BBC2, has dumbed down its output. Its prime time viewing consists of boring soaps, or the tired strained format of the Strictly Come Maria Dancing On Oliver On Ice genre, tepid chat shows with Ross / Norton, or even worse, anything with Richard Hammond in.

    Even the mainstream documentaries, such as Wonders Of The Solar System, contain less real content. Simply replaced with more flashy camera shots, which is visually stunning, but thats about as far as it goes.

    For anything remotely challenging I have to rely on BBC4. (which has some fantastic programmes).

    Its hardly suprising TV is referred to as the idiot box. We would be a much better nation if we didnt have the BBC and its mainstream programming acting like a big brain slug sitting in the corner of our living rooms.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think Fry has a point but I regard the majority of TV in this country as '' dumbed down ''. I mean how can one possibly consider Graham Norton and Jonathon Ross as top entertainers. Regretably TV seems to pander to the lower levels of society.

  • Comment number 39.

    Tv has to provide programmes for everyone not just Steven Fry, which does mean that you have to provide some infantile programmes. Given the number of channels we now have there is usually something on one TV station that will be suitable for every taste.
    There are as many, if not more wonderful adult programmes on TV today, than there ever was, and it should be remembered that programmes made in the past are usually still available on one format or another. Earlier this year I brought 'State of play' which was first broadcasted in 2003, and watched it when there wasn't anything on the TV which I fancied watching.
    I personally want a broad range of programmes, as sometimes I want to watch a serious thought provoking programme, but at other times I want something that just makes me laugh, and could be considered infantile.

  • Comment number 40.

    The last excellent drama on British TV was Edge of Darkness followed by GBH and preceded by Boys from the Blackstuff. British TV is like most things in UK sub-standard now but that does not need to be spelled out. We all know it thank you.
    As for Fry he ought not to bite the hand that feeds him and when did he ever appear in a drama ? I think the last time was on stage and that ended ignominiously. If he wants good drama he should look to his friends Kenneth Branagh and Hugh Lawrie.

  • Comment number 41.

    Stephen is absolutely correct. His very own QI and the unmissable HIGNFY are the only programmes worth watching. You ask if there are enough "complex" programmes on TV? There aren't any that I'm aware of, not British ones anyhow. I stopped watching Brit TV because the shows are created for, and one suspects by, the banal, the boring, the ignorant and the stupid. Where is our equivalent to Boston Legal, an ostensibly comic show which gets right down to the bone of many a subject British producers wouldn't touch with an extended barge pole.

  • Comment number 42.

    Stephen Fry did not say the BBC was too childish. He said that its best dramas were programmes made for children and that the adult ones were not very adventurous or challenging.
    I agree with this. Political correctness has infected the BBC for some time now. If any channel has a remit to be provocative and challenging it is the BBC and it certainly used to be more like this.
    I think he is getting at programmes such as the Wire which were ground breaking. Lets have a few of these, and if they upset as many people as they please then they are probably on the money.

  • Comment number 43.

    Stephen Fry is absolutely correct.
    TV is continually being dumbed down. Its as if producers don't think we can take anything with any depth; everything needs to be explained in the most basic terms. To be fair to the BBC, they do put more challenging content on BBC3 and BBC4, but the majority of programming is aimed at the lowest common denominator; treating the public like idiots.
    The news is more and more like Blue Peter. Doctor Who is a just awful exploitation of a great legacy.

  • Comment number 44.

    As a frequent visitor to the US on business, I can't agree with Stephen Fry that US TV is better. The incessant advertising drives makes it difficult to follow the thread of a programme and the news programmes are generally inferior in my opinion. On the other hand, there are some excellent US dramas, but there are also some excellent dramas on UK television. The recent "The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister" shown on the BBC particularly stands out. I would say many of the adjectives Mr Fry uses above would apply to this really excellent drama.

  • Comment number 45.

    Apart from the news and a few documentaries on science and current affairs; most of it seems to be soap opera pantomimes, song & dance competitions and the puerile ribbing of other people to attempt to look humorous or intelligent.

    Making the viewers in to overly dramatic, desperately competitive, obnoxious... well - I'd love to use a few words here, but I can't.


    So, it's perfect for the average UK viewer, really.




    Thank me very much!

  • Comment number 46.

    Infantile and inane. The fact that some programmes are good does not make up for some pretty appalling junk.

    Noel Edmunds with Deal or No Deal - watched it once - excruciatingly embarrassing.

    Reality shows watched by highly impressionable people who then believe that is the way to behave.

    Many quiz shows.

    The way to help children develop is to be at their level and up a step to encourage them.

    Now for television aimed at any age, a lot of it seems to be down a step.

    Recommend posts 1 and 6.

  • Comment number 47.

    I am no doubt a very childish adult, but Doctor Who and Merlin are among the only things I watch on the BBC and I think they're fantastic. They are light hearted, entertaining escapism, which is what I want on TV after a hard week at work!

  • Comment number 48.

    Is British TV too childish? Well, I don't know about that, but what I do know the quality is dire, so dire, I seldom watch TV these days. This is not surprising because I have no interest in soaps, reality tv, cooking shows or crappy home improvements programs. The past few days is the most I've watched TV in ages and that's only been because of the world cup. I can't think the last time I watched anything on C4 or C5.

  • Comment number 49.

    Not just childish but full of uncontrolled noise bursting into your home in between every programme, where you clap your hands to your ears and turn the sound off and why do we have all these women announcers whose voices, in my opinion, resemble a buzz saw. And how is it that the standards of Offcom are also so low and childish that they permit this endless stream of filthy language-its as if the regulator permanently lives in a world of where children have just learned a rude word and keep saying it over and over. Television does now seem to be a failing medium, we watch less and less and there seem to be so many stations that there will never again be enough money to go round in order to make quality programmes so we will probably dispense with the TV all together and do something more interesting.

  • Comment number 50.

    I can see where he's coming from. It seems nowadays a lot of the recent comedy shows have sacrificed good tasteful humour for cheap laughs.

    Mind you I don't think this is a recent problem, some areas of TV have been going down for years.

  • Comment number 51.

    Andrew Lye - "I have Sky and have plenty of choice and am happy with what I get.
    I am sure Stephen Fry can afford Sky as well and there are plenty of stimulating programmes to watch for his intellectual needs."

    Yes, you're right, many Sky channels do cater for all sorts of tastes. However, we ALL have to pay for BBC TV throguh the license fee - surely we have a right to demand the kind of programming we want, being that we're customers of the BBC?

    I know Stephen Fry is talking about British television in general, but at the moment if you want anything more intellectual than BGT you have to pay through the nose for it, via Sky etc.. Even then, from my own experience, a lot of what's available is imported and not actually homegrown British television.

  • Comment number 52.

    Take a look at the titles of some of these BBC3 programmes: 'Dog Borstal'; 'Snog, Marry, Avoid'; 'The World's Strictest Parents'. It doesn't take a genius to work out what these shows are about. It doesn't even take an adult. I mean, what happened to subtlety?
    Stephen Fry is right in many respects, but he forgot one word - 'Americanisation' (or should that be, 'Americanization'?) - because that's what is happening to British TV.

  • Comment number 53.

    Stephen Fry is absolutely right. The one word missing from his list is INTELLIGENT! I trawl through the TV guide every day in the hope of finding something worth watching and am constantly disappointed. There are hours and hours of soaps, reality TV, sport, cooking, decorating etc progs that I DO NOT WANT TO WATCH! Even chat shows, discussion programmes, politics shows and documentaries are so dumbed down that I can't bear to watch them. Why do documentaries have to have a recap every 10 minutes on what we have already seen? I do have quite a good attention span!

    Even the weeks of football coverage we are currently inflicted with is irrelevant to me. It is not disrupting my TV viewing at all, because I am not likely to be watching anything anyway.

    My local bookshop does well out of me though. I have bought 6 new books this week. What a treat.

  • Comment number 54.

    While I fully agree with Mr. Fry, I think he misses the point.

    He says that what adults want is "something surprising, savoury, sharp, unusual, cosmopolitan, alien, challenging, complex, ambiguous, possibly even slightly disturbing and wrong" but I can name at least 5 (admittedly US) tv shows which were most, if not all of these things and had loyal viewers but which were cancelled because of low ratings.

    I don't see why Britain is any different. If a tv show requires a person to think then more often that person will just turn over and watch a soap opera or some reality tv.

    Too many people are afraid of taking chances. If a tv executive was to stand up and say "we're going to make this kind of program" I doubt it would even get off the ground. Sad, but probably true.

    Or as The Simpsons put it, "we're going to need something new and bold here people so start watching tv until you find something good!"

  • Comment number 55.

    It's so refreshing to hear some intelligent comment, especially as some will find it disagreeable, thus fomenting lively debate, the lifeblood of exciting media!

  • Comment number 56.

    This is something i too have noticed, & the BBC are not immune from this.
    In my youth it was standard practice for t.v. companies to employ experienced entertainers to entertain the public, these days however t.v. companies are quite happy to let the pubic (amateurs) to entertain themselves, i.e. Big Brother, X Factor, etc. & i'm heartily sick of it.

  • Comment number 57.

    I agree with Steven. I never turn the television on anymore, I find it insulting to watch. Watching television should be entertaining and challenging, not patronising. HBO is the only commercial free TV station in America and they often produce intelligent, funny and entertaining shows, why not the BBC? A good example of how poor entertainment has become is how excited everyone got when James Corden had negative words with Patrick Stewart on stage, it was neither intelligent entertaining or funny. Bring back the good old days when Quatermass and The Pit (which is still as entertaining now as it was in 1958) was number one. Most importantly we need excellent actors and writers not just good looking ones.

  • Comment number 58.

    Mr Fry is too full of himself for me to take him seriously.

  • Comment number 59.

    He should know all about this subject - being the front-man for one of the most juvenile programs ever to be transmitted; i.e. Q.I.

  • Comment number 60.

    Yep! Most of it is infantile.

  • Comment number 61.

    I agree with what Steven Fry has said, and it is true , some of his programs can be infantile as well but then he has to earn a living, and with the state of UK TV at the moment, the only way he can do this is to go with the flow. As a decade long Dr Who fan I realise that it is a bit childish but I like it anyway, but then I am also a QI fan and have , on the odd occasion, noticed mistakes on the program, but I watch it for the comedy value not the educational value. Luckily I have a Virgin plus box so I can watch all the documentaries I like. I also agree with the comments about X Factor, Britains got talent (no it doesn't a dancing dog made it to the finals), Big Brother, Celebs in the Jungle etc
    all rubbish and all dumbed down.

  • Comment number 62.

    #2 - we all pay for the BBC, so why should we have to pay extra for Sky to see some decent programmes?

    I for one hardly ever watch TV now, as it's full of property/garden renovation programmes, or silly people being ridiculed for their attempts to be 'famous'. I'm sure brain cells die every time I accidentally see a bit of those idiotic 'talent' shows!

  • Comment number 63.

    If you read the article properly Stephen Fry singles out Dr Who and Merlin. These ARE made with children in mind. "Stephen Fry says childrens who is childish" doesn't quite have the same impact.

    Much as I liked him in Jeeves & Wooster and Blackadder they were pretty childish too. This sounds like slightly sour grapes from a man who's documentary on Wagner was relegated to digital....... I note he didn't mention Rome/Band of Brothers/Spooks/Life on Mars either.

    #17 "Very few programmes seem to tell me anything I didn't already know, a good example might be the wonderful phone-in quizzes on most live TV shows now. Q. "Who wrote Hamlet? Was it A) Shakin' Stevens, B) Vanilla Shake or C) William Shakespeare".... I wonder if anyone actually get's this wrong or whether the British public are just being patronised?"

    They do this to be legally classed as a quiz. If it was just a random draw of people who had paid £1+ for the chance to win it would fall under gambling laws. Its not dumbing down, just side stepping laws on lotteries.

  • Comment number 64.

    The comment is redundant

    Demand TV!

    Watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it.

    Been around for some time now and i'm never short of things to watch.

  • Comment number 65.

    I was dismayed to hear of the Doctor Who's assistant who thinks all girls of 21 wear miniskirts and this was justification for the wearing of them on the programme. I think she was supposed to be a member of the police force in the first programme.

    There's porn and there's cheap porn.... freely available on children's programmes.
    Why ??

    Hmm. New writer seeks to sell programme to big audience.
    Gets the dad's watching apparently.

    Mr Fry is right in a sense, that is children's and adult programmes have ''merged''.

  • Comment number 66.

    Yes, I agree. This is part of the reason why I choose not to have a TV Licence. The BBC don't get any of my money until they provide Television output that I find useful.

  • Comment number 67.

    In answer to Mr Lye, not everyone has his taste in television either! Most of what I find worth watching are repeats. Many of the programmes from the USA seem to rely on violence in some way or other, so however well made, and many are, they offer a very restricted diet. Bring back Play for Today, the BBC Sunday evening drama, and high quality documentaries which depend on a concentration span in the viewer of more than 10 minutes.

  • Comment number 68.

    A lot of channels, a lot of dross. With so many options it is difficult to hunt out programmes that engage the brain. I suppose the problem is that more programmes means less cash per production, and more channels means less ad revenue. We used to scorn the US tv, but now?

  • Comment number 69.

    We still make good documentaries in this country but that's about it. Our sitcoms are terrible and almost all the good drama is American. Stephen Fry is correct, TV has become infantalised but it has also become feminised, most commissioning editors being women. Even when the formats of the shows are good we have to suffer presenters who are either puerile (Graham Norton), egomaniacal (Jonathan Ross, Chris Evans) or completely out of their depth (Rishi Persad, James Corden). And don't get me started on our newsreaders and their comedy ties. I know I sound like an old man but I'm actually quite young!

  • Comment number 70.

    Stephen Fry criticises 'childish' British TV

    He is right of course but as he seems only to help create the most trivial content himself he need only resign and things would improve overnight.

    BBC Four now carries all the weight, albeit art biased, as the major BBC One and Two channels are now pretty much unwatchable in their head on in the race downmarket with ITV.

    I find I actually watch Quest (usual disclaimers) for access to global forefronts in architecture, engineering, building and other technologies none of which sadly are taking place in the UK and presumably thus ignored by the BBC?

    Any UK austerity plan might usefully cull all TV hours back to just 6pm to midnight…


  • Comment number 71.


    Stephen, as ever, is absolutely spot-on.

    He was talking about Dr. Who - I programme that I used to love because even though it was a children's tv programme it didn't talk down to them so that adults were able to enjoy it. Now it is just an anaemic shadow of what it used to be with dull, unimaginative scripts (all set on Earth for obvious low budget reasons) with hyperactive characters over-excitedly shouting great chunks of exposition at each other. Calling it infantile really doesn't do it justice.

    Generally, one only has to compare British TV (the US now has the best TV in the world with the Simpsons, South Park, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, The Wire, True Blood, House, Sons of Anarchy, etc) with what is used to be in the past to see that there has been a consistent dumbing down to the lowest common denominator. Hence all the cheap reality TV shows, cheap cookery programmes, cheap quiz shows, Total Wipeout, etc.

    As there is no more justification for a TV Licence (anymore than there would be for a "PC Licence" or "Mobile Telephone Licence" or any other medium where TV can be watched) it is time that this archaic method was scrapped and the BBC became a subscription only channel like HBO. Only then will it start making the high quality shows (with no commercial breaks) that they make there.


  • Comment number 72.

    Is British TV too childish'? Is the HYS question. A question that relates to comments made by Mr Fry to an exclusive audience at a BAFTA lecture, thus far, full speech unavailable - so are Mr Fry's comments out of context?

    Have mixed views on this as our family are 'fans' of Mr Fry's entertaining QI and his documentaries plus BBC Radio contributions.

    Will mention the BBC 'Merlin' as Stephen did - as our family, of all ages, watch this together - as we do 'Lark Rise to Candleford' and classic Ealing Comedy and serious documentaries/Question Time/ Newsnight/ Live from the Apollo/Have I got News for You and Mock the Week.

    We all enjoy a suspension of belief - it's good for the brain. In fact all 'classic' literature produced and filmed well - is extremely good - and all the nonesence broadcasted is hyped by the broadcasters not the end user.

    The BBC should stop competing with commercial pap and concentrate on it's known and highly valued strengths - more now than ever, with the rise and rise of Murdoch et al?




  • Comment number 73.

    He's right. That's why so many of us are watching Wallander in Swedish on BBC4. We'll put up with the subtitles for subtlety of plot and characterisation.

    Gavin and Stacey also good, but balkanisation lead me to think it was not for me until well into series 3, so it actually loses viewers. That can't be right.

    And the monoculture of football is very tedious. There is so much more to life than that.

  • Comment number 74.

    I think there's room for an argument over the category for Merlin and Doctor Who. Neither, I think, is just for Children.

    Don't forget that we tend to see the "good bits" version of US TV. We see the ones which impress the decision-makers here. There's so much TV made in the USA that there's room for the exceptional. How often, here, do we get something as challenging as Life On Mars and its sequel?

    I suppose Mr. Fry expects some obscure literary allusions here. I shall do nothing. It's safer.

  • Comment number 75.

    A bit rich coming from the host of QI !

  • Comment number 76.

    One of the major problems with even some of the more intelligent programmes is the background music. The recent series on the Universe with Stephen Hawking looked as though it may be interesting but after trying to listen to what was being said over the extremely loud and intrusive music we gave up and watched something else. Why do programme makers think we need non-stop music through everything, the narrative should be interesting enough to be engaging.

  • Comment number 77.

    It's a bit rich for Fry to bemoan infantilised television when he and his friend, Hugh, pioneered the genre with their juvenile sketch shows, full of the kind of stuff which would get booed off stage at a (posh) university entertainment night.

  • Comment number 78.

    The main channels are dumbed down, no doubt about it, they have to be when Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women get the highest ratings on daytime TV. But there are plenty of channels for those looking for something more intelligent - the Military Channel, Discovery, Knowledge, National Geographic, BBC4 amongst them.

  • Comment number 79.

    Yes it is infantilised. It has to be so because of changes in society. Education has been 'dumbed down' and so has politics which is reduced to beauty contests involving 'Leaders' and 'Leaders wives'. Party political broadcasts reflect this decline. Broadcasting now seeks the attention of viewers and listeners having the lowest common denominator requirements. Reality shows are popular and prove that the viewing masses can grow to adore the scum of the Earth when it has been painstakingly selected for cheap entertainment. Providing the screen continues to flicker and there is lots of nodding and smiling all is well. The BBC competes to cram as much irrelevant jocular idiocy into its programmes as possible, even into 'Spring Watch'. Presenters, like those on the 'One Show' have difficulty understanding any serious topic that comes up and Ms Bleakley can all too often only perform her 'noddy dog act' thus appearing to reinforce the opinion of her co-presenter. At an annual salary of £100 000 this says much about the downward direction the BBC is heading.

  • Comment number 80.

    British TV could never produce something of the calibre of The Wire.

    The Beeb are far too scared of upsetting minorities, moaners and the PC brigade, ITV are skint, and channel 4 are nothing more than exploitive cretins.

  • Comment number 81.

    And not just TV. Does anyone listen to Radio 2 anymore? Full of puerile presenters drivelling on - Steve Wright and Chris Evans are the worst offenders. Only in the world of music would a presenter prattle on all over the instrumental introduction to a song and think it was clever. The BBC simply lacks standards.

  • Comment number 82.

    I notice that last night and again tonight there is a programme called Tribal Wives. Last night's was in Africa and tonight's is set in Mexico. I guess it is a sort of reality show but I can't help wondering how much it costs to send a film crew out to these countries, keeping them all accommodated, fed and watered for the duration. I note that Jonathan Dimbleby has recently been swanning round Africa - at what cost?

    Another bugbear is shows like Masterchef and Britain's Best Chef (or something like that) where the tension has to be constantly racked up culminating with...."and the winner is......"...pause, pause, pause pause. Well I never do find out who the winner is because I have switched off long before then.

    The original Masterchef with Loyd Grossman was an interesting, enjoyable, harmless programme to watch on a summer Sunday evening. It probably reached its sell by date as most things do and should just have been shelved. I hate the format of the replacement programme.

  • Comment number 83.

    Sounds to me like manic depression talking. Adults need play too, and there's nothing wrong with adults getting lost in fantasies either.

    Stop being so low and down and out, Fry!

  • Comment number 84.

    65. At 3:29pm on 16 Jun 2010, SSnotbanned wrote:
    I was dismayed to hear of the Doctor Who's assistant who thinks all girls of 21 wear miniskirts and this was justification for the wearing of them on the programme. I think she was supposed to be a member of the police force in the first programme.

    A) She was a kissergram in the first episode WEARING a very short policewomans uniform.

    B) She looked damn good in it and was the least childish thing about the whole episode! Karen Gillian in a very short skirt is probably the most attractive thing on BBC on a Sat night. Certainly infinitely better than Andrew Lloyd Webber or Graham Norton.

  • Comment number 85.

    Fry is absolutely right.

    The worst thing is that the programmes which should be serious are incredibly childish.

    The documentaries, news, even the weather forecasts, are all horribly dumbed down.

    Documentaries almost invariably feature the presenter meeting people, going places, looking surprised when they are told something they know, because it was in the script, looking pensively at books or buildings...

    Radio news is beset by childish sound effects. Why do presenters feel they need to play background noise, then tell us where they are, like some demented 8 year old up a tree?

    I listen to podcasts from a variety of broadcasters ,and the BBC sounds very childish indeed compared to its French, Quebecois, Dutch, German and Swedish counterparts.

  • Comment number 86.

    Stephen Fry for the 12th Doctor ?

  • Comment number 87.

    Stephen is, as so often, right. As someone who came to adulthood in the 60s and 70s, I was spoilt with writers like John Osborne, Alan Parker, Dennis Potter, Stephen Poliakoff, David Hare, Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale, Alan Plater, and John Hopkins. Even the continuing series were more adult - remember The Newcomers? - and the then courageous BBC encouraged intelligently written plays and documentaries with themes of adjusting to a changing Britain. Some of we diehards were worried when colour came in that we would see a dumbing down of television, colour being key to engaging children, and we could now say that we were proved right. (I don't actually think that colour was causal, but it certainly exacerbated the process).

    What now? Where are the good writers? If they exist, why aren't they on television?

    As licence payers, we don't understand the BBC's avid pursuance of ratings. The BBC is supposed to educate and inform, as well as entertain, and I don't see that happening. Why, for Reith's sake, do we need the constant insertion of tiny news bulletins, formated in the American style, when there is rolling news so readily available. And the constant, oft-repeated trailers for upcoming shows feel so like commercial TV's ads, that we might as well watch those channels.

    Does the BBC know something we don't? Is it preparing itself for commercialisation? If that happens, I hope that it will remain a voluntary subscribed service, like Sky, with those of us who want a smaller, more adult BBC, able to subscribe and so influence content and style.

    And please, please, dear Auntie, bring back a mixed sex BBC - many of us (especially women like me) are fed up of the hectoring tone of so many programmes. I'm sure it is the influence of so many feminist women in power in the BBC, and much of the dumbing down is due to political correctness.

    And that brings me full circle back to Stephen - there is a reason QI is so popular. PC it is not, thank heavens. Intelligent, amusing, informative, it is the exemplar of adult entertainment.

  • Comment number 88.

    If it wasn't for dumbed-down TV they'd just be wandering about.

  • Comment number 89.



    I also agree with Steven Fry. I actually watched 5 minutes of big brother last night and it was puerile. TV has been dumbed down and in large part the blame for this must be laid at the door of Sky, Rupert Murdoch and a Tory party who for years have laid siege to the BBC.
    I must also take issue with Peter Sym (comment 63) "....Blackadder they were pretty childish too.". This was a brilliantly funny series but it was never childish and particular "Blackadder goes Forth" set in World War 1 was anything but childish.
    Society is consumed with celebrity and wealth and sadly many celebrities have more homes than IQ points. Footballers, reality TV nobodies have anything to offer society but we are bombarded with them daily and if they have a nice body, preferable one man made, then so much the better. We lavish praise and adulation for being able to kick a ball but not for being able to treat the sick, teach or simply be a good human being.
    There are beacons of hope and just this morning there was a great piece on the work of Bill Gates in Africa and his attempt to eradicate polio. It is wonderful what he is doing with his wealth but a radio 4 interview is hardly selling it to the masses.....but then the masses do not really care.

  • Comment number 90.

    53. At 3:18pm on 16 Jun 2010, Virtualvalkyrie wrote:

    Even the weeks of football coverage we are currently inflicted with is irrelevant to me. It is not disrupting my TV viewing at all, because I am not likely to be watching anything anyway."

    Good point - I used to hate 'sports season' because it would upset TV viewing, but now I just don't notice... If anything, football is actually better than what it's replacing - and I never thought I'd say that!

    I do watch a fair bit of TV, but most is on Sky, and the rest is on Channel 4.

    Even when my daughter watches iCarly, that's better than most of the stuff on BBC1 or ITV!

  • Comment number 91.

    There's a world out there. Time to take a look.

    Thanks Stephen.

  • Comment number 92.

    I completely agree with Stephen Fry's comments. I rarely watch TV any more as it seems to be directed at a "microwave" audience. If you don't beleive me, try Watchdog. It's disturbing to think that I pay good money to watch TV when 90% (not actual statistics of course) is for want of a better word, rubbish.

  • Comment number 93.

    Totally Agree with Stephen Fry,

    aside from the recent 'Luther' British TV hasn't come anywhere near producing something as good as The Wire or The Sopranos to name but 2. All we are left with is dross like Eastenders but whilst people watch this rubbish it's going to carry on being made. Sadly it won't change so i'll stick to watching my DVD boxed sets thanks.

  • Comment number 94.

    I love and loathe Stephen Fry in equal measures, such is the duality of his personality. On this topic, I understand where he is coming from and, to an extent, I agree, but I know too much about his own body of work to take anything he says at face value.

    It can be hard to find the stimuli for intellectual curiosity, but then there is an arguement that curiosity is is a playful, childlike trait. I remember being vastly under-stimulated by TV as a child (not that long ago!) and it certainly does nothing for me as an adult. Did Stephen watch Doctor Who as a child, I wonder?

    To me (and I may be wrong), it sounds like this lecture is borne out of frustration at a problem that is far greater than TV. It is very hard for a curious mind to find any kind of engaging activity when the populace, as a whole, are so grown-up and boring. In fact, isn't that what Stephen's first novel was all about?

  • Comment number 95.

    There are no adult programmes on British TV, they all seem to be made for children up to the age of 15.

  • Comment number 96.

    Not quite. More Chavish than infantile (if there's a difference). So much TV is a bloodless version of the Roman Games. Talent shows are poular because people like to see others fail. Big brother's much the same.

    God knows how many channels I've got on my TV but I spend less time watching now than I ever did.

  • Comment number 97.

    If Doctor Who is childish, I don't want to grow up.

    And to whoever said that Amy Pond was a policewoman - she was actually a kissogram.

  • Comment number 98.

    Yes I agree, but to cite American TV as better?? I don’t think so,it’s there influence that is the root cause, inane formulaic bilge that’s churned out on the cheap.

  • Comment number 99.

    Stephen Fry, is quite correct, QI is one of the programs in question..

  • Comment number 100.

    17. At 2:46pm on 16 Jun 2010, Witchfinder wrote:
    Fry is absolutely right, British TV has with a very few exceptions become aimed primarily at the hard of thinking. Most evening prime time TV seems to be basically chewing gum for the mind. Very few programmes seem to tell me anything I didn't already know, a good example might be the wonderful phone-in quizzes on most live TV shows now. Q. "Who wrote Hamlet? Was it A) Shakin' Stevens, B) Vanilla Shake or C) William Shakespeare".... I wonder if anyone actually get's this wrong or whether the British public are just being patronised?
    =====================
    The reason is if they make the questions so that thickos can't answer them, they may not be join the 200,000 who pay a quid to win £1,000

 

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