TV period dramas wallowing in 'fake nostalgia', says Ken Loach


Filmmaker Ken Loach has criticised the current state of TV drama for wallowing in a "fake nostalgia".

Broadcasters have enjoyed success with a wave of period dramas, from Downton Abbey and Victoria on ITV to Call The Midwife and Poldark on BBC1.

Asked about Downton, the 80-year-old told Radio Times magazine that broadcasters were putting the brains of their viewers to sleep.

Julian Fellowes on a red carpet
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes (Rich Fury/Invision/AP)

"This rosy vision of the past, it's a choice broadcasters make. It says, 'Don't bother your heads with what's going on now, just wallow in fake nostalgia'. It's bad history, bad drama," he said.

"It puts your brain to sleep. It's the opposite of what a good broadcaster should do, which is stimulate and invigorate.

"You might as well take a Mogadon (medicine) as watch it. TV drama is like the picture on the Quality Street tin, but with less quality and nothing of the street."

The filmmaker, whose gritty, landmark television play Cathy Come Home was shown on BBC1 in the 1960s, also complained that bosses interfered too much in the making of BBC dramas.

Poldark (BBC/PA Images)

"Now the drama is produced by outside production companies and horribly micro-managed," he said.

"The directors I know in television say it's a nightmare. That's true for all the broadcasters, but the BBC is a rotten place for a director."

The Kes director also took aim at the BBC over its news output, alleging that it is "manipulative and deeply political".

"Its notion of news has got to be challenged. The BBC is very aware of its role in shaping people's consciousness; this is the story you should hear about, these are the people worth listening to. It's manipulative and deeply political," he claimed.

Victoria star Jenna Coleman (Laura Dale/PA)
Victoria star Jenna Coleman (Laura Dale/PA)

Ken, who co-produced his latest title - I, Daniel Blake - with BBC Films, said that the corporation should be "democratised".

"Democratise it. Diversify it so that different regions can make their own dramas," he said.