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G325 b has e4 cracked the formula for youth drama-


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G325 b has e4 cracked the formula for youth drama-

  1. 1. 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 youth drama? 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. Photograph: E4 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 Of Age
  2. 2. • 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 stinkers. • 360 degree commissioning is still secondary. The first series of Skins surfed the then current MySpace zeitgeist, and Misfits is already tweeting ( - 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.