I suspected I'd exhausted that seam, but Matt came up with three excellent lessons that I thought I should share. Here they are:
"Things TV should learn from London 2012: (1) we like watching people who are actually talented, doing things they've worked at for years."
"Things TV should learn from London 2012: (2) we like seeing people compete with peers, not being judged by 'celebs' in gaudy chairs."
"Things TV should learn from London 2012: (3) the best drama happens through honest competition, not 'structured reality'."
Interesting and provocative, don't you think? And nicely framed at a time when TV turns its attention back to reality and singing competitions and shiny floors. It's also an angle on a sentiment that I heard expressed a lot during the Paralympics: "The sob stories on The X Factor et al will be a lot less impressive when compared with the stuff these people have been through." You heard the same anxiety from the football pundits: "How are our ill-behaved prima donnas going to compare to athletes as heroes?"
Of course, a lot of these comparisons are unreasonable and "structured reality" et al aren't going away any time soon, but maybe one thing to think about is the value of specialness. One reason the Olympics were so interesting is that they're rare. We don't watch that stuff very often; many of these people were new to us, fresh; we've only seen them competing at the highest level; we've not seen them week in, week out, sometimes losing, sometimes being petulant, sometimes being dull. And that specialness stays rare because, however successful the Games are, no media channel can just call someone up and order an extra season and stick it on again next year. The specialness is structural, it's built in, like it used to be in football. The changing face of football is well-explained by this. With the advent of Sky, it has morphed from a rare and unusual media event to something with the texture of soap opera or "structured reality". I suppose you get the same with "quality drama". It starts off special, gets successful, gets recommissioned and soon becomes a soap.
The best brands understand the value of this sort of specialness. Sometimes, when something works, they have the discipline to just let it be - to leave it alone and try for something else that is different and special. Not to endlessly repeat every little idea that seems to work. Anyway, Matt is always having these useful thoughts about the media - you should follow him on Twitter. He's @matlock.