Each new year brings with it reflection, hope and resolutions. For us in media, it also heralds an end to the festive season of December's parties and Christmas celebrations, as we start January's detox, and begin to place advertising into the new 2003 television schedules.
Viewers of TV were greeted in the new year with ITV's refocused efforts to bring fresh ideas to create new mass appeal drama. Following straight on the heels of New Year's Day's Polly-anna, Serious and Organised was aired the following evening.
Up against stiff opposition in the form of Independence Day, Little Voice and The Horse Whisperer, this new Martin Kemp police drama delivered a cocktail of infidelity, guns, drugs and murder. With Kemp's character, Jack Finn, headbutting his brother and showing signs of lust for his brother's wife, the ingredients for some gritty storylines in the future appear evident. The producers even threw in a few art directed moments that may remind some viewers, albeit fleetingly, of the original flying squad cop show of the 70s, The Sweeney.
Although uninspiring with its rating achievement (5.5 million viewers, with 2.2 million for the Saturday late-night repeat), Serious and Organised offered hope for forthcoming episodes considering the keen programming on the other channels. In the multi-channel TV environment, where choice is so vast, viewers are all too ready to vote with their handsets if the programme they've chosen doesn't meet their requirements. Serious and Organised met this challenge, with the viewing share and size of rating remaining relatively constant throughout.
Serious and Organised marks the first in a line of Martin Kemp dramas this year, with Dracula and Family also due to be aired. As the housewives' choice (as my wife tells me) playing male viewer attracting roles, it would appear ITV may have an actor able to help Robson Green shoulder the responsibility of delivering quality drama.
In the transfer market of TV talent, ITV signed two of EastEnders' biggest stars - Ross and Martin Kemp. But if EastEnders is to become the breeding ground for ITV's future drama talent, can I ask that we draw the line at Robbie Jackson?
As the BBC turns the screws with its competitive output, advertisers demand an equally competitive commercial TV sector. Commercial TV in turn needs a strong ITV leading the fight for ratings. This needs to be led with new, fresh and regular "must watch" programming rather than a reliance on the "old favourites" of "Soap, Soap, Seen it, Soap". To this end ITV's new drama line-up should be applauded.
As we start this new year, let us hope Serious and Organised marks both the start of a new and refreshing season of ITV drama and of a serious and organised ITV.
Richard Baker, the TV manager at Initiative Media, is more easily identified with the policing style of The Simpsons' Chief Wiggum than the hard-boiled antics of Martin Kemp or John Thaw
Frequency Thursdays at 9pm
Audience 5.5 million
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