Not everything produced by American broadcasters has been telly gold. Check out these small screen stinkers.

DARK SKIES Coming on like a particularly bad episode of Quantum Leap. this imagined that government cover-ups on extra terrestrials a la Roswell had been discovered by a JFK

s m" wannabe goodie- two-shoes and his annoying 50$ B-movie wifie. About as scary as The Tween/es.

FITZ Transatlantic TV translation has never worked. and this attempt to turn Robbie Coltrane's Cracker role into a fitter, happier police psychologist was like putting Rik Waller up against . Will Young. Not as bleakly funny or morbidly chilling as the original, but it was still too dark for mainstream American tastes.

MICHAEL HAYES In the first ever episode of South Park, the kids poked fun at David Caruso‘s plummeting career. After the glorious success he had in the hot NYPD Blue, the flaccid Michael Hayes was a critical and ratings calamity. Perhaps it just proved that you can’t have a ginger lead man.

MILLENNIUM It was meant to be a mix of The X-Fi/es and Se7en but all it had going for it were some horrible ritualistic murders and Lance Henriksen aka Frank Black mooching around worrying about his latest apocalyptic vision. Should never have left the Pixies.

ALLY MCBEAL Apparently. Calista Flockhart weeped openly when told that her raison d’étre was being axed. The rest of us cheered. A dancing baby was one thing, pointless ego- massaging roles for Sting and Dame Edna were quite another.

20 THE LIST " 2/7,?

interfering with himself in the shower. And once you find one character who upsets Sawyer's thesis. then the whole argument collapses. So. where in Ameriean Beauty is the reasonably sane

Nate or a Federico character. the body restorer

whose pride in his work is infectious'.’

Mark Lawson. meanwhile. complained that there appeared to be no one in the show who didn‘t have some secret they were hiding. Aside from the fact that Federico remains secret-free (well. until episode nine). I'd have thought that the slow unravelling of previously unknown information or swift revelation is largely what drama is about. Someone else moaned about it being played for laughs: at six-year-old child accidentally blowing his brains out and a woman haying her face ripped off by leaning out of a hen night limo doesn‘t suggest to me comedy for the sake of it.

Perhaps. though. the critics are looking for a way to halt this imperial invasion. Maybe they‘ve had enough of those darned Yanks coming over here with their quality programming and swarnping our screens with watchable TV. The cheek of it. For some years now. the claim that all American television is rubbish is as valid as the argument about them having no sense of irony.

Sit" l’eer (Int/er is awash with cheek and playfulness. In episode one. at the points where HBO. and now Channel 4. will pull away to an ad break (or maybe return from one). the show portrays a commercial for different aspects of the funeral trade: sleek new hearses. top of the range ernhalming fluid and salt shakers to sprinkle dust over your beloved’s coffin. choreographed in a

routine straight out of Shake’n’Vac and Gap.

And while death is treated quite seriously in the series. there is ample room for caustic wit. liach show begins with a fatality. often accidental (a man showing off in his swimming pool. an ex- porn star checking out via her pussy cat) sometimes deliberate (a housewife ending years of married tediurn. a hornie biting the bullet).

The overall effect is visceral. vital and bloody. entertaining telly. For a country with no past. the L'SA is simply the future of broadcasting. It’s so bright. we can only pull down the shades and settle before the box. Sit l‘eer (Tm/er is no isolated incident. At the end of the 80s. someone took a raincheck across the pond and decided that they'd had enough of the pesky Brits with ten years of class from The Singing [)eleen'i'e to Brides/lead Revisited. and Bays from the Blaeks‘nifl'to Jewel in the Crown.

The reasons behind the shift could be myriad or it could all be a vast. unknowable secret. Some clues though. emerge. In Britain. television people do television. and when they grow up they move into filmmaking.

In America. the brightest talents from the movies aren‘t afraid. indeed are encouraged. to step into the small screen. They simply take television far more seriously than the British.

Why else would we see David Lynch making Twin Peaks. Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe taking residence in The ll'esr Hing. Sarah Jessich Parker having Set and [/It’ (Viv. Lorraine Bracco and Peter Bogdanovich taking to the couch in The .S'apranas. and Robert Downey Jr earning his fees in Ally .lleBea/ (OK. bad example. he was trying