The British Are Here! The British Are Here!

British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott hosted a reception Sunday night (Jan. 26). at the British Embassy in

Washington for a delegation of UK independent TV producers in town for the Realscreen summit in Washington, which is being held Monday through Wednesday and the Washington Hilton. 

Distributors from both sides of the big pond were also in evidence.

Between the foie gras meringes and the fish and chips appetizers served in newspaper-wrapped cups, the poached quail eggs and tuna tartar, the Ambassador pointed out that it was a record 50-plus contingent to the show, which is a major market for pitching and catching reality shows, both the Nat Geo documentary type and the entertainment reality type--Discovery Science Channel execs mixed with the Michael Davies of the world--OK, there is only one Michael Davies, who heads the appropriately named Embassy Row.

The ambassador said the U.S. continued to outpace the British reality market, but added "we're caching up."

He said companies like Time Warner, Viacom and Discovery were being attracted to Britain for production "and we're delighted you're there."

Citing the fact that 15-year co-production deal between BCC and Discovery, the fruits of which included Planet Earth, is expiring soon, Ambassador Westmacott said that he thought it was going to be renewed "one way or another."

The room was full of a mix of British producers and American outlets--that was the idea--including CNN, Al Jazeera America, Lifetime, Discovery, and many others.

But with all that reality talent in the room, was anybody pitching a reality show about embassies, which are their own little microcosms with the potential for drama--sometimes too much drama if past is prologue.

More than halfway through the two-hour reception, we asked the ambassador whether he had been buttonholed by a producer with such a show in mind. "No, he said. I've escaped so far.?

Actually, according to one of the event's organizers, there was some talk about including a reference to an ambassador themed reality show in his remarks, but they decided they didn't want to give anybody any ideas.

Too late, according to one attendee an embassy-themed reality show is in the works, as is a potential deal to bring it to the U.S.

Deals appears to be what Real Screen is all about. One attendee said that, like NATPE or MIP, the show is all about getting shows noticed and sold. It is apparently also about casting, with another attendee saying word was there was a contingent of reality casting directors looking for new "real" people.

Yes, reality show producers cast shows, and goose the action by setting in motion the factors--an old girlfriend, some new business--that entertain by creating conflict and emotion and action and interest. I know, it's in the fine print and I'm told that is no surprise to most viewers. Still, the existential question remains: How real is reality?

But Real Screen isn't about answering that question as much as it is the age old questions of will you buy my show, and for how much?

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.