With more and more top-quality TV drama filling our screens than ever it’s more difficult to cut through the noise and become a break-out hit. I mean, when The Sopranos first came out it was only up against stuff like The Bill and Taggart so, while it was by any standards excellent, it was very much a big fish in a small pond. Nowadays, excellence is the norm so if you want to be the sort of show that invites global fandom similar to that of a cult, you need to be super excellent. How do you achieve super excellence? If there was a formula for that I would be sat in a gigantic castle in Beverly Hills getting off with Katy Perry while Will Smith sits opposite us haplessly trying to pitch me a cameo role for himself in the seventh series of the Netflix drama I’ve just been commissioned to make – and not sat here writing this bollocks.
But I can at least tell you the starting point any super excellent TV drama needs, and that’s a cast-iron, failsafe premise. There are only really two of these in existence: one is the ‘dragon with tits’ premise. Just include a dragon that’s got a pair of tits because that’s the sort of thing everyone finds interesting.
Give them a fantasy where a guy not entirely unlike them is secretly involved in an exhilarating world of drugs, violence and heavily tattooed Hispanic men in vests and bandanas
The second is about a middle-aged family man who lives a secret double life working for a Mexican drug cartel. Most TV dramas are enjoyed by middle-aged family men who are too busy and knackered to do anything else of an evening than slump in front of Netflix eating dinner off their laps, trying to stave off the nagging suspicion that their life has become dreary to the point of futility. Give them a fantasy where a guy not entirely unlike them is secretly involved in an exhilarating world of drugs, violence and heavily tattooed Hispanic men in vests and bandanas and you’ve got them in your grips for as many episodes as you can be bothered to knock out.
Just as AMC managed that for five enthralling seasons of Breaking Bad, now Netflix are repeating the trick with Ozark, starring Jason Bateman as a financial planner who has to relocate his family from the Chicago suburbs to the Missouri lakes after a money laundering caper goes wrong.
It’s great fun; Bateman is awesome as the apparently harmless dad in khakis with a psychotic edge simmering beneath the surface. I’m three episodes in and totally hooked. And if there are any Mexican drug cartel bosses reading this who might need an experienced professional writer to, I don’t know, work on some promotional pamphlets or whatever, then please count me very much in.