By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
If I made a list of the best TV shows of 2012 it probably wouldn’t be too different from most. A TV world where the best of the best are Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Parenthood, Louie, Girls and Parks & Recreation isn’t always my ideal television world (good as all those shows are), but they represent what current television does best. When it comes to “termite art” – shows that don’t have to be good, but are – television is not in a great place at the moment, but that may change. But this piece isn’t about the best of 2012, it’s about what to expect as we move into 2013.
Television is at a strange transitional stage in its history, the best of times and the worst of times: its business model is becoming obsolete, but its product – the shows themselves – is more prestigious than it’s ever been. What’s going to happen this year, as the shows continue be good and it gets harder to sell them? And which will give out first: will the business pressures on the industry make it harder for these prestigious shows to get made, or is the business on the verge of finding new ways to monetize its quality shows?
So here are some general predictions about what to look for in the television world of 2013. If any of them are right, I win. If any or all of them are wrong, hey, these predictions were free of charge and as with free broadcast TV, you get what you pay for.
1. More high-concept shows. There may not be any definite evidence that TV audiences gravitate to high concepts. But network executives have been stung by the failure of most of their recent shows and stunned by the success of The Walking Dead, by some metrics the most popular drama on TV. So they’re going to be under pressure to come up with show concepts that at least sound like the big, spectacular, boundary-pushing shows that everyone’s talking about on cable. That means not only more shows about monsters, which was starting even before Walking Dead; it means more shows about serial killers (at least a couple are in development, including a TV version of Hannibal Lecter) and more shows with epic historical hooks, like a planned TV series about Cleopatra. There are so many scripted shows on so many channels that it will be difficult for any show to stand out unless it has a really eye-catching premise.
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 9:10 AM - 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 Barbara Amiel - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:09 AM - 0 Comments
‘Homeland’ offers another damaged-person role to the former star of ‘My So-Called Life’
Claire Danes stars in the TV hit Homeland where she plays yet another damaged person. This time, her lank blond hair and burning eyes are in the face of Carrie, a brilliant but bipolar CIA agent who hides her medicine in an Aspirin bottle since an agent on clozapine would apparently not get security clearance. If the CIA could actually be fooled by this sleight of hand America is in major trouble.
I happen to be a huge fan of Danes ever since I saw her in the movie version of Steve Martin’s book Shopgirl where she played the also-damaged but integrity-ridden young salesgirl listlessly standing in front of the glove counter and gobbling anti-depressants in her walk-up apartment. Danes’s first major role was in the misery series My So-Called Life as the damaged but full-of-insight 15-year- old Angela Chase given to crying jags and panic attacks. Her second Golden Globe was for playing Temple Grandin, the autistic woman who has become a major cow scientist and if you think I’m going to append “damaged” to autism, have a clozapine. I’m sure she has done roles full of light and laughter and I know that her hair can actually be made to bounce instead of going into strands of clinical depression but as you look at the list of her credits, with grimly wretched films like The Hours, which is somehow about suicides tied in some extremely confusing way to Virginia Woolf, you begin to wonder if the mood disorder seeks the role.
Homeland, loosely based on an Israeli series called Hatufim, won the top drama Emmy this year. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody, captured in Iraq and held captive for eight years, endures terrible torture and after rescue returns to the U.S. a superhero. But unfortunately he’s been “turned” by fictional top terrorist Abu Nazir into a sleeper suicide bomber. Only Carrie senses this because, well, she is brilliant and manic depressive and has been in pursuit of Abu Nazir since 9/11. I got so besotted that I actually signed on to the Rogers Super Channel, desperate to find out what happens to Carrie, who ended season one with a blue rubber plug clenched between her teeth as she underwent voluntary electric shock treatment for her illness.