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 - Monday, January 9, 2012 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
‘The Walking Dead’ is no ‘Mad Men’, and AMC has zombies marooned on a farm to prove it
What have zombies done to TV’s brainiest network? In its second season, The Walking Dead is the biggest hit in AMC’s history and its first major popular success after doing mostly cult favourites like Mad Men. But some critics think the cable channel isn’t living up to its image as a home for the highest-quality TV, an image it has tried to create with slogans like “Story matters here.” Now it seems to be drifting away from those high-end viewers in the pursuit of profit. Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker suspects there’s “little to no overlap” between “people who watch The Walking Dead and who watch AMC the rest of the time,” and AMC recently began airing reruns of CSI: Miami, the kind of show people watch Mad Men to escape from. AMC’s brand, says Newsweek critic Jace Lacob, was once “akin to being basic cable’s answer to HBO.” No longer.
The Walking Dead has received mostly lukewarm reviews, the kind that AMC’s first two dramas, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, never got. There have been accusations of flat characterization and what Lacob calls “a distinct lack of forward momentum,” because the second season marooned the characters on a farm for several episodes in a row, leading to a lot of endless talk in between zombie attacks. “It’s not a good thing when you want the zombies to start killing the characters,” Lacob says. The show even attracted politically charged criticism, thanks to a character’s unsuccessful attempt to induce an abortion with a bottle of morning-after pills (helpfully labelled “morning-after pills”).
AMC’s other shows haven’t exactly been critics’ darlings, either. The murder mystery The Killing received withering reviews for its first season finale, while Lacob says the network’s newest show, the western Hell on Wheels, “suffered from unfavourable comparisons to HBO’s Deadwood.” Joel Stillerman, a senior vice-president at AMC, says reviews have generally been “appropriate to what the shows are,” and he’s not surprised the network is not critically infallible. “To think that it was all going to be like Mad Men and Breaking Bad would have been a fool’s errand.”