Grantchester and The Durrells return on Sunday night
Thursday 20th April 2017

The millennium - or the turn of the century - was a marker for many including the broadcasting industry. It was a moment in time, when it became apparent that with digital and satellite technology there was going to be an explosion of TV channels and subsequently increased competition for viewers. 

In order to fill, and fund, the vast landscape of airwaves, producers turned to the fresh concept of Reality TV. On the back of the success of Big Brother, formats were drawn up which involved the public and most importantly were cheap to produce.

Subsequently, there has been a proliferation of Reality TV shows from Geordie Shore to the X Factor and the rest is history. However, it seems the tide is turning.

Whilst there is absolutely no doubt that a whole industry has developed around the genre, and appearing on these shows has become a career choice for many - like Ferne McCann or Spencer Matthews - there has always been a question mark over their quality and integrity.

Accusations have been rife over the years that, while popular, that these shows really dumb down TV schedules. Of course, it is far more expensive to put on a drama series. Actors, technicians, writers, costumiers and villages of creatives are required for that sort of enterprise but currently both commercial channels and the BBC appear to be seriously committed to the endeavour.

After Broadchurch pulled in an incredible 12 million viewers, a figure that no reality TV show has achieved in the past two years it is no surprise that producers have readjusted their focus.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, Auntie launched its new series of Doctor Who and continued its Line of Duty series and together with Broadchurch, ITV dedicated two hours to their Maigret drama featuring Rowan Atkinson.

Similarly this coming weekend, whilst Britain’s Got Talent will entice many on Saturday night, there will be the return of Grantchester and the charming drama The Durrells on Sunday.

Perhaps with the extraordinary global success of Downton Abbey, ITV are buoyant with confidence that Auntie is not the natural home of a costume drama and that the cost of making them can be easily compensated by global sales.

Sunday night’s schedules, in particular, are being competed for with the same aggression as the X Factor/Strictly autumnal battles albeit with gloved hands and tweed cuffs.

This is all, of course, great news for the viewer who will benefit from Reality and Drama productions of increasing excellence.

While an ‘X’ on your ballot paper on June 8 can determine your prime minister, pushing the button on your remote can control boardrooms of broadcasting magnates. Good eh?

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