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BBC boss: UK drama matches US fare

Danny CohenThe director of television at UK pubcaster the BBC has claimed the notion that US dramas like Breaking Bad and Mad Men are superior to British series is an argument “driven by box-set consumers”.

In a blog post, Cohen said dramas originating at the BBC and the wider British television sector should be saluted by viewers in the same way US series thanks to its “creative culture that is comfortable with failure”.

“A trope has developed, a cultural meme that asserts that American drama is far superior to drama produced in the UK and at the BBC,” he said. “It’s an argument driven by box-set consumers who have a louder voice in Britain’s cultural dialogue than the average family who sit down at night in Britain’s towns and villages to decide which drama they want to watch.”

Cohen last month attended the US studios’ LA Screenings events, where he said he was congratulated on the “huge success” of recent BBC One drama Happy Valley, which had the received the “highest ever quality score from audiences”.

He also pointed to BBC dramas such as Top of the Lake, Line of Duty and The Fall, along with ITV’s Broadchurch and Downton Abbey, as signs of British drama talent.

“Setting aside the occasional primetime miss suffered by every television network in the world, I believe we should more confidently raise the flag for British drama which – beyond these shores – has huge respect and kudos,” he added.

He claimed some viewers also believed the longer runs of US studio series meant they were superior. “I would argue that the right length for a series is the one that most effectively and creatively fits the story being told,” he countered.

He also noted the trend for shorter-run straight-to-series commissions and event miniseries by the likes of CBS, Fox and ABC as a sign the networks had “clocked the creative limitations of the 24- or 13-part series”.