G325 b has e4 cracked the formula for youth drama-
Use this article alongside the ‘e4.doc’ and ‘Teenage Kicks.doc’ to examine how e4 are
creating a sense of collective identity amongst young people, and consider why they are doing
this. To what extent are collective identities/ group really just artificial target markets?
Has E4 cracked the formula for
Skins, Inbetweeners - and now Misfits. E4 is producing
some brilliant drama. So why can't BBC3 do the same?
Misfits: like Vicky Pollard meets Heroes.
On Thursday night E4's latest bit of
homegrown programming, Asbo sci-fi
drama Misfits, debuts on Channel 4's
yoof channel. The premise sounds
ridiculous – a load of grotty kids doing
community service get hit by an electrical storm and obtain superpowers
(think Heroes meets Vicky Pollard) – but the first episode is very good. Like
E4's other two big successes Skins and The Inbetweeners, Misfits strikes the
right notes visually and in its dialogue. The direction is as good, if not better
than, most terrestrial dramas – and the banter between the characters is
raucous enough for teenagers to get that they're being talked to rather than at.
Compare and contrast with BBC3. The channel's breakout shows since Skins
first aired in 2007 have been Gavin and Stacey, and Being Human. While liked
by youngish audiences, neither are necessarily youth shows – and when BBC3
has tried specifically younger sitcoms, such as Coming Of Age or the recent
Lunch Monkeys, the results have been a mindless pandering to the grotesque
and the bawdy. And if The Inbetweeners has proved anything, it's that if
you're going to do grotesque and bawdy, you'd better do it right.
So what key things E4 have got right? Here's my list: feel free to add /disagree
vehemently with it.
• Teenagers don't know everything.
But they do know a stinky script when they hear one. Skins made great use of
young writers, but only by teaming them up with seasoned telly veterans such
as the father and son team Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain, who created it. In
the same way The Inbetweeners and Misfits are both written by relatively
older writers who conciously imitate their own youthful voices (rather than
today's slang) so that the dialogue isn't strained and, like, really obviously
aimed at today's kids, bruv.
• Teenagers are filthy.
There are characters in Skins, Misfits and The Inbetweeners that are both
morally reprehensible and, yet, quite lovable. Like a lot of real teenagers.
Finding that balance without it sounding exaggerated and crude (or, as is
often the case, outright Joey Tribbiani-stupid) is the first step in getting young
audiences to believe that a show is for them. Take note, Two Pints and Coming
• Less is more.
Both Skins and Misfits look like they've had the luxury of time and budget. E4
can of course fill most of its schedule with cheap syndicated repeats and
concentrate on the occasional homemade hit, while BBC3 has to keep
churning it out. But when it comes to digital TV it's much better to have a few
good shows than a handful of alright ones sitting alongside some complete
• 360 degree commissioning is still secondary.
The first series of Skins surfed the then current MySpace zeitgeist, and Misfits
is already tweeting (twitter.com/e4Misfits) - but who's going to sign up to the
fictional Twitter account of a character from a show they hate.
• Great youth telly is just great telly.
It might be obvious, but E4's current roster of new shows are/might be adored
by teenagers but they're more than enjoyable for adults too. Making funny,
sad, believable programming for those with tiny attention spans is difficult.
But if you make it, and make it well, viewers will come to you regardless.