Uncharted Territory

November 19, 2009

Defying Gravity Lost in Space?

Filed under: BBC, Media — Tim Joslin @ 7:03 pm

It’s said that, despite twin obsessions with central planning and the economies of scale, the Soviet Union would always build at least two facilities to produce any given product. Otherwise they had no benchmark for efficiency. With two plants they could at least tell which set of factory managers was diverting more goods to the black market.

The UK would have been well advised to have followed a similar approach when it set up its national broadcaster. Because, with the guy in charge of the stationery cupboard earning more than the country’s Prime Minister, the BBC just might possibly be hideously inefficient.

What I want to know today is what’s happened to Defying Gravity?

I watched last week’s episode on video last night, so could swear it was on after The Restaurant, which incidentally is racing The Apprentice downhill as the BBC seemingly chooses candidates not on the basis of any aptitude, but because they fill its criteria for diversity and supposed entertainment value. Not only would I rather see the best candidates who applied to be on these programmes, I would also have thought the BBC’s funding method was intended to ensure chasing ratings took second place to preserving objectivity. I guess they’ll be applying the same policy to Mastermind soon.

Anyway, I would have thought it would be simple and obvious for the BBC to put a web page for each programme so that when I type for instance “Defyi” into Google I am at most two clicks away from a clearly expressed summary of when the series is screened. Instead, I find this mess of a page, which tells me only that episode 7, Fear is coming up on Saturday at 22:50 on BBC 2. Nothing to warn me that I might not yet have seen episode 6. I could easily have failed to discover on a poor data-driven rather than hand-crafted web-page that I have 4 days left to watch the 6th episode, Bacon on iPlayer or could catch it at 01:25 on 24th November, whatever day of the week that is.

The Beeb has obviously spent a fortune of our money on Defying Gravity. You’d think the overpaid wallies would at least make sure we can quickly and easily find out when we can watch it.

Trawling the rest of the web, I find a suggestion that the series has been quietly moved from its sensible midweek slot.

Wikipedia tells us that the series was halted after 8 (of 13) episodes on ABC before it even began on the BBC. But the fact that ratings declined doesn’t mean it’s rubbish. The history of TV shows that series like Defying Gravity can have a small but dedicated audience, and sometimes a growing cult following years later. And, if the BBC knew the series was going to lose its appeal to a mass audience, why didn’t they put it on at an obscure time from the start? Then at least those of us who are interested might have had the benefit of a regular slot.

Is Defying Gravity going to drift aimlessly in space? Or will it keep my interest? I’d like the opportunity to find out. Better fire up that iPlayer…

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