Entertainment & Arts

Stephen Fry criticises 'childish' British TV

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry praised US television

Broadcaster Stephen Fry has said it is "shocking" how "infantilised" adult programmes have become on British TV.

"I'm not saying TV should be pompous and academic, but it should surprise and astonish," he said.

The QI host said BBC shows Merlin and Doctor Who were "wonderfully written" but "not for adults".

Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat defended the show, saying it was "very high quality" and aimed at a family audience of both adults and children.

Fry, who is both a comedian and a writer, made his comments at the annual Bafta Television Lecture in London on Tuesday night.

He said: "The only drama the BBC will boast about are Merlin and Doctor Who, which are fine but they're children's programmes. They're not for adults.

"And they're very good children's programmes, don't get me wrong, they're wonderfully written... but they are not for adults.

"They are like a chicken nugget. Every now and again we all like it. Every now and again."

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.

"It's children's television, it's entirely infantilised. It's not grown up."

Asked about Fry's comments, Moffat said Fry was a big Doctor Who fan and joked he was trying to sound "grown up".

He said of Doctor Who: "It was designed specifically to be a family programme, that's what it's for.

"It's the junction between the children's programmes and the adults' programmes.

"It's the one that everybody sits and watches. So it is for adults, it is for children, it's a rather brilliant idea - why don't we make a television programme that everybody wants to watch, very, very specifically."

Referring to Fry's mention of chicken nuggets, Moffat said: "This is very, very high end, a very high quality show. There is absolutely no comparison to junk food at all and he knows it.

"That's Twitter he's thinking about."

Moffat, speaking on Wednesday at a screening of the first part of the grand finale of this series of Doctor Who, said: "I love Stephen and Stephen loves Doctor Who."

In his speech, Fry praised US TV, which he said provided "surprise and shock and adulthood".

He also said BBC's comedy shows such as Gavin and Stacey and Little Britain were "very successful", also "unbelievably Balkanised".

"They are set into a particular demographic. This is what I mean by television not being the nation's fireplace. It's just all parcelled and I don't know that there's a solution to it," he added.

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