Monday, April 5, 2010

Interesting NYTimes article about Dramas on Cable TV Networks

The Flaming Nose is always interested in thoughtful articles about the state of television, and the NY Times has a good one this morning entitled "Weighty Dramas Flourish On Cable" written by Bill Carter.

We highly recommend a read of this, which talks a lot about the 10pm hour as the former network TV home of what I'd call "challenging" dramas, and the notion that what's airing on cable TV right now is today's equivalent of those. Good points about the difference between 9pm and 10pm shows, too.

The only thing that I'd comment, is that if what's coming out on cable networks now -- great drama like AMC's Breaking Bad and Mad Men, or FX's Rescue Me -- is equivalent to older critically-acclaimed 1op shows like St. Elsewhere, or NYPD Blue...well, yikes, because those shows were notorious flops in second-run situations. The article also talks about the difference in cost of the cable shows and the different economics -- having subscriber fees to offset costs -- but it's still an issue if these shows are of little financial use after the initial runs.

Cheap shows and an eternal afterlife -- that's the golden egg, but other than an exceptional 10pm network show like Law & Order (exceptional not in quality but in the simplistic nature of the structure), there's a lot of money being spent on shows that nobody wants to watch even twice.

But hey, read the article and find out what the NY Times has to say about it.


Jane said...

I absolutely do not believe that these quality cable shows lack life in second run. As proof, I offer my latest obsession with Six Feet Under. I found it on Universal channel and record every episode. I will watch them 5,6, 7 times or more. I'll do the same for The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and countless others. The reason the broadcast programs sucked in repeats was because they were linear, predictable, dated and serial in nature. It was horrible enough to have to watch them the first time. Cable shows are CHARACTER based and we never get sick of them because they are like having old friends come by your living room.

Judith said...

Yes, but procedural dramas are the only ones that work in repeats.

Lisa said...

Strictly business-wise, only the procedurals, and the most plodding among them, really have a robust second life these days.

That's not to say that the others don't live on in the hearts of viewers who loved them, viewers who wanted something else other than the predictable and linear episodic kind of series.

Really, the list is huge of all the so-called "quality" shows on broadcast, usually in that 10pm slot, which died a horrible death in reruns.

It's that "rerunability" that they lack, just because they are so complicated. Of all the shows that are antithesis to that, "Law & Order" has to be it. Basically no continuing character development, practically interchangeable actors, and their murders, disembowelments and the like solved one week with a whole new batch of atrocities ready to go next time. Perfect formula, perfectly awful, really. We used to always ask "Does this show have legs?" -- you want legs.

I'm also hooked on "Six Feet Under" and have watched many of them several times, but they're never going to work M - F churning out ratings like clockwork. They're special and more like art than television.

I just don't know ultimately how this current model can last if even with popular network shows like "Lost" nobody watches them in reruns. "24"? No afterlife for that, and that was an extremely expensive show. At some point the after-market stations are going to say no, won't pay those prices for something nobody will watch. And then maybe only cable nets will be able to make dramas, because of their dual revenue stream.

Or else it will all be disposable reality shows and competition shows that going in are understood to have no rerun potential.

It's a whole different ballgame than when "Magnum P.I." was a hit network show and kept many an independent station flush in early fringe for years.

There's plenty of creativity out there, but how do they pay for it?

Hmmmm...still no good answer to it, but putting commercials into Hulu is just one of the ways they're desperately trying!

Interesting topic, for sure!