The Radio Times has fallen out of love with Casualty I notice. No more warm fuzzy write ups in the 'Today's Choice' section. Now the reviewers seem hell bent on out doing each other with ever more verbose maulings of the Saturday night staple. Maybe I could start a column here reviewing their reviews - I have to confess to rushing out and buying the RT recently, just to see what amusing turns of phrase they're employing for Casualty.
But why use the 'Today's Choice' page of a TV listings mag to tell the audience you simply must watch this episode because, in their opinion, it's the worst thing on TV at the moment? Odd.
I was at the Casualty Story conference this week - and if viewing statistics are anything to go by, Joe and Joanne public are still watching, still very much in love with Charlie, Maggie et al.
Story Conferences are held several times a year in order to help the story department plan out the lives of the regular characters over the season. I could go along and pitch an idea about Big Mac marrying Tess say, suggest a few untimely deaths - that sort of thing, it's all bandied about and discussed in small focus groups over a couple of days.
A true imaginative melt down you may think - all those creatives in one room over two days. Actually I find it exhausting, but I could put that down to too much coffee (on tap) and no air (corporate board room in a hotel like a multi-storey car park).
I wonder if the Conference makers have put much thought into what environment best facilitates creativity? Does it matter? I think it probably does.
I once attended a Science and the Arts Conference at the state of the art Science Learning Centre - pretty apt and pretty fabulous, lots of toys to play with - multi media stuff etc. And there was an emphasis on exploration and play (see 'Let's Pretend', previous post).
Maybe medical drama Story Conferences should be held in hospitals? In deserted hospitals? But then we'd all be writing like Stephen King and us pampered writers would be up in arms at the lack of Spa facilities and corporate nibbles every half hour.
In 2000 I was lucky enough to be invited onto a Performing Arts Lab residency for 10 Days 'Writing for the Younger Audience'. It was held on a relatively isolated Organic Farm in Kent. We had a chef who served up the most fantastic organic food, but we still had to set the tables and fill the dishwasher ourselves...
When we weren't writing we could wander over the fields and mud to bring back things for the nature table, lounge about on sagging antique sofas that had seen better days, play a tune on the aging grand piano ... make our own coffee.
We had at our disposal a drama studio, a handful of actors and directors, IT technicians and a writing mentor. Again, we were invited to play. It felt, dare I say, very organic. I got a lot of ideas very fast.
Part of me also knows I can write anywhere and I'm not at all precious about writing (have kids and try and be precious about writing times and venues). I always have a pen and paper to hand to jot down ideas and can just about edit scripts with Tracy Beaker playing full pelt in the background - and funnily enough I've just written a food fight into this episode of Casualty.
Working on Continuing Drama shows - the one luxury we don't have is time. Time first to attune, time then to play about - with ideas. The one drawback (or not, depending on how you feel about it) about my Organic Farm experience, was only being able to get a mobile phone signal in the top field whilst standing on one leg with your phone held in the air.
The field would simply be awash with Blackberrys wouldn't it...