By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
Successful TV dramas are unfolding one episode at a time, and procedurals are taking notes
We used to know a TV story was almost over when there were only 10 minutes left in the episode. Today most shows aren’t over until the series is cancelled. The serialized drama, where stories unfold over multiple instalments, was once mostly confined to soap operas, but serials like the Showtime cable series Homeland are increasingly winning the awards. And times aren’t so great for the procedural, the TV form where every episode is a self-contained story, usually a crime that gets solved. “I don’t think there’s any question that any writer would prefer to write serialized stories,” says Hart Hanson, a Canadian TV writer and creator of the successful procedural Bones. TV critic Alan Sepinwall, whose new book The Revolution Was Televised is an inside look at the best TV dramas of the last 15 years, puts it more starkly: “Procedurals are still by and large designed for people who don’t want to have to think too hard, or watch every episode.”
These days it’s often the more complicated serials that pull in the ratings. The biggest hit dramas on cable are AMC’s serialized zombie adventure The Walking Dead, which pulled in 10 million viewers for its season premiere, and FX’s equally serialized biker drama Sons of Anarchy. The only new drama this fall with high ratings is NBC’s serial Revolution, whose premiere attracted 11 million viewers interested in a world where the power has gone out and no one knows who did it or why it happened. There hasn’t been a breakout procedural hit in several years, which may explain why networks are starting to move away from that form. The USA network’s Burn Notice, a popular adventure show about a former secret agent, used to focus on weekly adventures where the hero helped ordinary people fight mob bosses or drug dealers. The creator, Matt Nix, told the Hollywood Reporter that he recently switched “from a largely self-contained, episodic show into a highly serialized drama.” And it worked: the ratings have gone up now that there are more cliffhangers. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, March 20, 2009 at 3:59 PM - 1 Comment
The upcoming Bones/Family Guy crossover is being promoted as something big and new because it’s an animated character appearing on a live-action show. But really it’s a very old-fashioned crossover where characters from one long-running show pop up on another long-running show on the same network. Though I guess Family Guy is more popular than Bones, this isn’t really the sort of crossover that’s done to boost a show’s popularity. It’s more the sort of crossover that happens when two shows are produced by the same studio, and so when the live-action show wants to do an animated segment, they arrange to borrow a character from their sister show.
It used to happen quite often in the movies; Bugs Bunny appeared in two live-action musicals at Warner Brothers, Two Guys From Texas and My Dream Is Yours, Tom and Jerry swam with fellow MGM contractee Esther Williams, and most famously, Jerry appeared with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh after Disney refused permission to loan out Mickey Mouse. A scene which, to bring us full circle, was copied by Family Guy, because why make new animation when you can just trace over the old animation and claim you’re doing an homage?
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
The big news so far is that Fox has bought the rights to make a U.S. <strike>clone</strike> adaptation of Little Mosque on the Prairie, but keep checking those blogs for news you won’t see elsewhere, including Will’s current post on master classes with the showrunners of Friday Night Lights and Bones.
Turns out that Bones will be starting its fourth season in the time-honoured tradition of shows that have made it that far: an overseas trip!
They will be kicking off Bones Season 4 with a two-parter set in London, England…a good idea at the time that he said has proven to be logistical and creative nightmare, but he was leaving tomorrow for the UK to oversee the shooting of it. Best of luck my friend.
I seriously love it when a show does an “on location” episode. These episodes aren’t usually the best of the series, if only because they’re so hard to plan and write and shoot, and they may have a slight negative ripple effect on other episodes in the season (because the extra budget for the location shoot needs to be made up somewhere else). And the timing is sometimes a bit off in the new setting, like that Frasier episode where they actually shot in Seattle. But it’s such fun to see a show take place in a location you’re not used to seeing on North American TV — meaning, somewhere other than L.A., New York, Vancouver, etc., plus the usual soundstages. (Part of the appeal of Friday Night Lights, which Jason Katims gets into a bit in Will’s post, is that it avoids soundstage shooting and films entirely on location in a setting we don’t see on TV very often.) And it’s always fun to see the actors adjust to an unfamiliar location.
None of this, however, excuses Family Ties Vacation.