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While British and American television are dumbing down fast, HBO is swimming against the tide. It takes risks and makes the best drama in the world

By David Herman   November 2004

If you are over 40, you will remember the phrase, “British television is the best in the world.” If you are under 40, you will look at it in disbelief. There were two key developments. First British comedy, and then British television drama, were overtaken and left for dead by their American counterparts.

The return of The West Wing to Channel 4 in September and, now, the arrival of Deadwood (Sky) confirm the general pattern. American television drama is on a roll, just at the time when British television drama is on the skids. In 1994, ER appeared. Since then,…

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