The summer of sport has killed off drama

"The World Cup should be on the telly, but it shouldn’t be the ONLY thing on the telly," says Alison Graham


I have no particular objection to the World Cup on telly. Well, I do, but there’s no point in arguing that if football was a predominantly female interest/pastime it would get the merest, tiniest tot of recognition. Believe me, I’ve tried, but when you work in an office full of football-loving men you quickly learn to get back to your knitting. Serves me right for suggesting a free RT Jon Hamm wall chart and sticker book.


So, anyway, I have no objection to the World Cup on telly – though, like Alan Bennett, I can’t bear “football fever”, with all of the drinking and shouting. But does it have to eat up everything else, like the ebola virus? The World Cup should be on the telly, but it shouldn’t be the ONLY thing on the telly.

It’s the knotweed effect, it’s killed off drama. We’ve had such a year – Broadchurch, Top of the Lake, Line of Duty, Happy Valley – we’re all buoyed by the brilliance of writers such as Chris Chibnall, Jed Mercurio and Sally Wainwright.

But this week drama lovers might as well be sitting on a park bench with wet wipes and a bottle of water because our landscape is suddenly arid. We have been cast into the wilderness. There’s nothing. In desperation it will have to be Casualty and I might have to return to Wallander (Saturday BBC4) though I’m not a huge fan, the damp towel of Scandi gloom that envelops the hero is a bit much, even for me.

It’s thin drama gruel and I’m starving. And things are only going to become worse… Wimbledon starts this week, there’s England’s rugby union tour of New Zealand… then the Commonwealth Games. I think this is known as a Great Summer of Sport.

Marvellous for sports fans, of course, but don’t leave the rest of us behind, weeping at the starting line. Where’s our fun? We can look towards the horizon but there’s not much to see. BBC2’s The Honourable Woman, written by The Shadow Line’s Hugo Blick, will make an appearance shortly, as will Jimmy McGovern’s Common, but that’s your lot. (I’m not counting soaps, by the way, which are just there, for ever and always, like traffic lights and tonsilitis). 

The BBC’s head of scheduling, Dan McGolpin, has done his best to dry my tears: “Due to the large volume of top sport this summer, June and July are lighter on drama than normal, but the BBC will still show some new drama in both months plus a range of new programming.” He’s casting his scheduling eye to August, which will “see the return of Doctor Who, The Village, New Tricks plus War Poems and at least one other new series”. It seems such a long way away…

ITV directs me to its Encore channel of repeats. And both Coronation Street and Emmerdale which, they tell me, are “on top form during the World Cup across the summer”. See my comment above about soaps.

It adds: “The World Cup is a major event and a significant part of the summer schedule. As for new drama, as a commercial broadcaster, it’s a case of planning our key new drama launches into slots that we think will work best for them to gain the widest possible audience.”


Ah well, it appears I will have to make my own entertainment. Or maybe someone will set up the Ladies’ Channel where I can watch endless made-for-TV movies about dying mothers bravely defying the odds as they fall in love with someone who looks like Ted Danson. Or if I’m really lucky there’s probably a film somewhere with Hilary Swank mourning a dead boyfriend. That’s what women like, you see. Or maybe I’ll just sit in a corner and knit myself a drama.