WSJ analyzes fall season, full of creepy dark shows.
This line made me happy, from the president of NBC Entertainment:
"How do you make an original cop or hospital show?" she said. "That's why you find yourself leaning into big ideas that are often complex and dark."
FINALLY! They admit they are out of ideas for cop/doctor/lawyer shows!
I think the trend towards darkness is smart. With declining audiences overall, network TV needs to hang onto the female viewers, who watch more TV (especially when you factor out sports) than men, and horror is popular among women. But horror doesn't necessarily drive men away either, so some of these shows will be able to have it both ways.
Why all this darkness now? Partly, executives say, it is a mood, with the political climate tense, the economy still shrouded in uncertainty and a lot of people still out of work.
"We think people want to escape," said Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television, a Time Warner Inc. unit that is making several of the more ominous shows, including "666 Park Avenue." "Some people believe that escape is a singular form that means beaches, warm weather and bikinis," he said. "We don't subscribe to that theory."
Well, maybe. Some kinds of darkness, a la nuBSG,
are too thought-provoking and morally slippery to be properly escapist. The type of darkness that is good for escapism is the simple us-vs-them type. Jeckyll vs. Hyde. Innocent young couple vs. their landlords, who probably work for Satan. Cop/crusading journalist vs. serial killer. Paranormal investigator vs global conspiracy involving Nazis and probably Satan again. Sub commander vs. some sort of evil conspiracy in Washington DC. The broadcast networks have been careful to stick with escapist darkness.
Others say broadcast is taking a cue from cable channels, which, in a splintering wilderness of programming, are drawing increasing attention with their original shows, many of which deal with edgier subject matter.
They didn't even mention American Horror Story
, which are the most obvious inspirations for this trend.