Sky are giving me a birthday present. It’s going to be a day late (happy birthday me), but they’re giving me a channel all of my very own. Sky Atlantic premiers on the 1st February and it is like someone read my blog, worked out the kinds of shows I like, the kind of attitude I have towards television and catered it directly for me. It’s a bit scary.
The channel will be a home for all the high quality television that comes out of the US but may not have the popular appeal that grab prime-time slots. Traditionally these shows end up buried in the schedules and often end up airing months, if not years after it’s been on in the US. Most of the shows are on subscription channels. I heard an interesting interview with David Simon (of the Wire) and he spoke eloquently about the fact that being on the subscription channels means you don’t have to get massive ratings, if you are good enough to persuade even a couple of thousand people to shell out extra dollars a month for the channel, you don’t have to get the 8million viewers needed to sustain a network prime-time show.
Sky have bought the exclusive rights to HBO’s catalogue (minus a few with outstanding licenses on other channels, e.g. True Blood), this gives them not only current shows with massive buzz about them, but allows them to give people the opportunity to see older classics like Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. The lineup is not restricted to HBO, they’re already making a lot of noise about having the next season of Mad Men and that won’t even be on for 6 months or so. There are even a few network shows that are being promoted to the big leagues, the new Tom Sellek show Blue Bloods is worth a look.
One thing that really startled me when I spotted it on the website was they will be showing Battlestar Galactica from the first episode. This is the perfect home for Battlestar, surrounded by critically acclaimed shows that very few people actually watch. Despite being science fiction it sits among these gritty dramas and dark comedies far better than it does on the SyFy channel.
Sky Atlantic is a 24 hour channel and I wondered what they were going to pad the non-prime-time schedule with. Apparently the answer is a kind of high quality soapy daytime schedule of ER, thirtysomething and The X-Files. There are also plenty of mini-series and made-for-TV movies which so often sweep American award shows and yet never make it to UK channels.
This is not going to be an easy channel to watch, these programmes are extraordinarily good… but often dark, gritty and complex. They’re not the kind of thing you watch with half an eye on your suduko. But they’re the kind of shows that really reward you for loyalty and attention, they’re satisfying and GOOD in a way that the more popcorn mainstream hits can only dream of. There’s a reason these shows win all the awards, they’re just in a different league and I for one am thrilled that Sky Atlantic is going to give them the respect they deserve.
From Wikipedia – the full list of acquisitions:
24, Angels in America, Battlestar Galactica, Big Love, Blue Bloods, Boardwalk Empire, Bored to Death, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound & Down, Empire Falls, Enlightened, Entourage, ER, Flight of the Conchords, Funny or Die, Game of Thrones, Generation Kill, How To Make It In America, Hung, In Treatment, Inside the Actors Studio, Luck, Mad Men, Mildred Pierce, Prison Break, Seinfeld, Six Feet Under, Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Voyager, Tell Me You Love Me, The Borgias, The Mind of the Married Man, The Pacific, The Sopranos, The Wire, The X-Files, Thirtysomething, This is Jinsy, Treme, Weeds
Sky Atlantic is on Channel 108 and available with even the most basic of Sky packages (although of course to get the HD you’ll need to shell out for that add on). Although it may appear like it, they’re not paying me to say nice things about them. But if they’d like to, I’d be open to it.