It was a touch unfair of Alan Saunders to compare Underbelly and all its shortcomings with the heights of The Wire (‘School for Gangsters’, November). The Wire was produced for HBO, which isn’t actually a television network or cable station in the traditional sense. This is because, despite some recent management ups and downs, they still take a very hands-off approach to making television programs. For example, in the case of The Wire, David Simon was left to create, write and produce the program without interference from the network. The notion of the writer as executive producer and show runner is the way quality television is made. It’s how shows such as The Sopranos, Mad Men, Deadwood, Big Love, Dexter, In Treatment, Weeds and Entourage see the light of day. The basic premise is: “Well, you’re the writer, you dreamt it up, so now you can go and make it.” That’s how it’s done in America. It’s not how it’s done in Australia. Here, we don’t have many writer-producers; we have producer-producers, and, with the exception of the management of SBS, television executives who are only too happy to pitch in and dumb things down.
South Yarra, VIC