Many television dramas are in imminent danger of collapse, a consortium of TV critics and building inspectors has warned, as producers increasingly attempt to knock through the fourth wall in an attempt to make programs bigger and more valuable.
‘In this current economic climate, television producers are under severe pressure to produce quality drama with increasingly shrinking budgets,’ wrote their spokesman, television architect David Mayhew-Lloyd, in his daily newspaper column. ‘No-one can afford to buy new dramas any more, so extending your existing show, and therefore its value, is all the rage. Removing the fourth wall is an obvious move, but what most TV executives fail to realise is how dangerously unstable this makes any drama, be it period or contemporary.’
Program makers have been warned that knocking through the fourth wall without first securing the services of a suitably qualified structural narrative engineer can at the very least lead to a marked decline in production values and serious holes in the plot. ‘Look at Channel Five’s acquisition of Neighbours,’ says Mayhew-Lloyd, ‘what they thought was simply a fixer-upper turned out to be a creaking edifice well past its sell-by date.’ He also cites the BBC’s flagship drama Merlin: something which, despite being ‘unsound in just about every aspect’, has been foolishly patched, propped up and allowed to limp on.
Television bosses are also being urged to check whether or not the fourth wall, from behind which sits the viewing public, is load bearing before taking it out. ‘Removing a supporting wall could bring the whole ceiling of credibility crashing down. Next thing you know, there’ll be phone-in votes to decide what dinosaur to feature in the latest episode of Primeval, which washed-up soapstar will appear in next week’s The Bill or whether the latest bizarre accident in Casualty will be caused by a rubberplant of a boomerang.’
Mayhew-Lloyd also cautions that enlarging a program by removing the fourth wall also blurs the line between reality and fiction. ‘Last week Coronation Street’s Emily Bishop was found wandering, frightened and confused, around the Arndale Centre; and recently a drunken viewer had to be forcibly ejected from Eastenders’ watering hole The Queen Vic, after he demanded that Peggy Mitchell ‘get her tits out like she did in the Carry On films’.’