Former United Productions chief executive John Willis has hit out at suggestions that the US is leading the way in the creation of quality TV programmes, claiming American TV schedules are a 'cultural desert' filled with a 'huge amount of dross', writes C
Willis, who last week took up his new job as vice-president of national programming at PBS broadcaster WGBH Boston, said UK television executives were wrong to compare their output with programmes such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under as such hits were generally few and far between.'These are the programmes that have got through the very labyrinthine pilot and script stage so they're the very best that have actually been commissioned,' he said. 'And these only come along once a year or every two years. Some of them like ER and Friends are now fairly old.'He added that the size of the market and its proximity to Hollywood ensured that 'you're bound to get some fantastic shows at the very top of the pyramid that are the envy of the world. They have the money and the talent to be able to do that. But the bottom of the pyramid is big, fat, wide and ugly ... Apart from the odd oasis, US TV is a creative and cultural desert.'His comments follow recent suggestions from numerous executives - notably Channel 4 chief executive Mark Thompson - that the US has overtaken the UK as a creative leader. In his MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh last month, Thompson said British TV used to be 'famous for its risk-taking. Now we're clearly lagging behind American TV.'- Interview, page 20.