Risk-Taking: The evolution of television

Utopia SceneThe recent production and post forum that The Knowledge attended this week, brought up many deep areas of discussion. One such subject was the risk taking, by both commissioning bodies and production companies, on edgy content that in this modern era frequently pushes our viewing boundaries.

Dennis Kelly, the writer and creator of Kudos Film and TV's sci-fi series Utopia, said: "It's got to become risky because that's what people want, if you don't deliver risky things people won't watch."

It's clear from the success of the standout Channel 4 series that this is certainly a trend that is currently in no danger of being derailed. Executive producer of the show, Karen Wilson, added: "Channel 4 were always excited, we had discussions about the language and the violence but doing it in such a bright and colourful world was seen as a great concept."

A discussion then ensued about a different kind of risk-taking: investment in relatively unknown or quirky subjects.

UKTV director of commissioning, Richard Watsham, brought up several poignant points on the topic: "Our budgets have naturally increased. We are taking much, much bigger risks. People would be surprised about the investment in Dynamo. Ambition has to be matched by investment. We don't have any sort of tariff. We want to make the art that productions want and that they promise."

From another angle on the same panel came Laura Mansfield, managing director of Outline Productions, commenting: "I think there's a huge appetite for risk taking amongst both commissioners and channel heads. Everyone wants to take risks and talk about it a lot but then backing risk is a scary thing. Measuring success is a scary thing. The commercial reality is that people say they don't care about ratings, but they do."

Overall, these risky, genre-crossing productions that are popping up all over television are being encouraged and pursued by channel executives, commissioning heads and production companies nationwide. Television has clearly evolved from seeming predictable programming; people want to be involved in the risk that pays off.

However, in reality, productions are still also somewhat tied to the ratings and commercial successes that have routinely been the cornerstone of the film and television industry.



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