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Old October 26 2012, 05:54 PM   #16
FreezeC77
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

I prefer shorter seasons without hiatus, but then again I do watch a lot of foreign dramas which operate with shorter seasons.

Hell most of the Korean or Japanese dramas I watch are 13-22 episodes and that's the entire show(not season, show). Korean drama scheduling would make network telelvision cry. Usually two one-hour long episodes a week(Mon/Tue, Wed/Thu, or Sat/Sun in the same time-slot) and that's 1 hour without commercials. Constantly every 3 months having to debut multiple new dramas. Of course there are exceptions with longer dramas that can run an entire year (usually more on the family drama or Historical fiction side). But pretty much 90% of prime-time dramas air for 3 months or less and then finish their run.
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Old October 26 2012, 09:48 PM   #17
degra
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

Kegg wrote: View Post
I didn't say you said it was Shakespearan, but you definitely seem to have a high opinion of the show, which I've literally never seen.
I have a high opinion of it because it was highly entertaining--which I really can't say for what tv has churned out over the last decade or so. The last several years of tv have given us either stale procedurals(CSIs, Criminal Minds, Elementary etc) or unnecessarily complicated mythology shows that go nowhere(LOST, The Event, V, Flash Forward, Revolution etc) or stiff pretentious bores(Caprica etc).

So yes I place a premium on being entertained after sitting through what seems like ages of uninteresting mediocrity. I appreciate the focus on a smaller cast, more straightforward serialized storytelling, decent pacing and consistency in quality--something tv shows these days can't maintain--if they are lucky enough to have one good year at the start they quickly implode nowadays and can't sustain several good years(Heroes, BSG , Veronica Mars) the way earlier shows did i.e. TNG, The X-Files and yes Dallas.

Not that I give a crap for Dallas, but what do you think of TNT's new Dallas then?
I don't like it. Like most attempts to resurrect older tv shows, the new Dallas fails to capture what made the original endearing. Yes it has a few of the original cast members but the younger cast are dreadfully dull and the mere updating of the show strips of a large part of what made the original a product of its time.
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Old October 26 2012, 10:09 PM   #18
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

degra wrote: View Post
I gave up my cable service since I couldn't find a thing to watch. So I realized I was just wasting money. I have been using Netflix and rewatching older tv series that I've seen before but I actually enjoy them now more than I ever did any of the new programs over the last several years.

What tv in general needs so desperately is quality--which is noticeably absent. Writers that are mature enough and creative enough to tell entertaining stories with compelling characters. Flashy effects, explosions, tons of action, frenetic pacing, flashbacks, massive casts, bloated interconnected epic mysteries just don't cut it for me.
.

I don't know. I think it's a mistake to romanticize the past too much. Are we really going to argue that the likes of THE LOVE BOAT, CHARLIE'S ANGELS, THE BIONIC WOMAN, GOMER PYLE, I DREAM OF JEANNIE, and various other hits of the past were smarter and more sophisticated than than the stuff airing today?

Sure, there are older shows that have stood the test of time--THE AVENGERS, COLUMBO, THE TWILIGHT ZONE--but I'll bet you'd find that a lot of nostalgic favorites haven't aged all that well . . . .
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Old October 26 2012, 10:22 PM   #19
Temis the Vorta
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

This thread has wandered rather far from the original point, which is a shame because I find the original point to be pretty interesting, namely:

Broadcast is in deep doo-doo. How can it be saved? Can it be saved? Pretend you're the CEO of a broadcast network. What do you do to turn things around?

And keep in mind the point the original article glossed over, namely, that cable shows can survive on lower ratings than broadcast because cable viewers are worth more per person. Subscriptions are more lucrative than advertising.

Here's an example: American Horror Story was the best-rated cable show Wed night, with a mere 3M viewers. That might pass muster on the CW, but not on a real network. A show like that can be a hit on basic cable, but even if the FCC allowed it, it couldn't survive on broadcast because it simply is too much of a niche taste.

(And judging by the drop from last week's premiere, maybe it's a small niche too - they took a big risk in dropping last season's characters in favor of a new plotline, and the drop may be due to people tuning in who didn't realize that it was an all-new story, and some of the major actors did not return. There's a good example of why risk-taking doesn't always pay off.)

Here's one solution: as CEO, you declare the old ad-supported TV model to be dead. From now on, you're charging subscriptions to watch, even if it's only the subscriptions inherent in a basic cable or satellite subscription.

I think that scenario is probably inevitable, with some rump free-TV industry left over, made up of reruns from all sources including cable (after their owners have wrung all value out of them via more lucrative distribution methods) and cheap reality TV.
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Old October 27 2012, 12:44 AM   #20
Kegg
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

Temis the Friendly Ghost wrote: View Post
Broadcast is in deep doo-doo. How can it be saved? Can it be saved?
No idea, but there are other areas beyond drama that American broadcast TV is no doubt successful for - news, sports, reality shows, etc.

And broadcast is still very good at sitcoms, critically speaking (as, exceptions like the Walking Dead to one side, the critical gap between network and broadcast dramas is disporportonate to them still having the lion's share of actual viewers). While there were no American broadcast TV shows nominated for best drama this year, the nominees for comedy were actually evenly split between HBO and networks.

Beyond that, the lessons of the article applies. Networks can make more serialized drama with shorter season runs. Hell, Sky Atlantic - the same British import channel over here which has pretty much defined itself as the place to watch Big Name American dramas like Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men and Game of Thrones - has been doing a full-series runthrough of NBC's Friday Night Lights all year, and while the subject matter is frankly alien to me (American football may as well be Futurama's blernsball as well as I grasp it) it's got surprisingly good character writing, acting and overall sense of direction.

...but it was also apparently obscenely lowly rated on NBC. It's a lot easier - or at least more entertaning - to ask what works for critics than it is for audiences. And it's really where cable has a documented advantage.

degra wrote: View Post
So yes I place a premium on being entertained after sitting through what seems like ages of uninteresting mediocrity.
Oh, so do I.

-if they are lucky enough to have one good year at the start they quickly implode nowadays and can't sustain several good years(Heroes, BSG , Veronica Mars)
I'd say it's more typical for cable shows to maintain relatively high standards of quality. It's pretty much a given that a series which dozens of seasons and episodes will hve many episodes - perhaps even entire seasons - which are significantly subpar, if not downright awful. TNG, which is one of my favourite TV shows, has both of these problems littered through its run. Dallas is pretty much best known either for 'the Dallas Effect' (its impact on perceptions of the United States in Europe as a land of opulent plenty) or the fact they literally retconned an entire season as a dream. It's something we just took for granted with TV shows - they'd run out of steam in their last years, and maybe they'd take a few years to get going.

But I can honestly think of many completed serial cable dramas that I didn't feel had a single bad year - Deadwood, The Wire, The Sopranos, Big Love, Rome etc. Even if you disagree with me on these examples, or find these all terrible TV shows, the fact remains that since they produce less episodes a year and since they go on for less years the issues with exhaustion and running out of steam and ideas are ones that affect them far less severely.

Structurally, any kind of serialized drama - including, yes, soap operas like the original Dallas - could benefit from this kind of focus. It doesn't have to be depressing and edgy or gratuituously sexy or gratuituously foul-mouthed or violent, but less episodes and less seasons are a good thing.
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Old October 27 2012, 03:24 AM   #21
Temis the Vorta
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

Sports, yep. Anything that needs to be seen live will synch up nicely with ad-supported TV.

So I'm not predicting the death knell of free TV, but I am anticipating that it won't have much that interests me. I get news online & from print, don't like sports, reality TV or mass-market drama/comedy.

The fact that broadcast comedy did okay in the Emmys doesn't mean much to me, because I still don't care for broadcast comedies, so all the comedies I like are on cable, just like with drama. But I guess the Emmy people are loathe to kick broadcast to the curb entirely. After all, the Emmys are shown on broadcast.

I don't expect shorter seasons to save the networks. Doing a 13 episode run doesn't change the fact that there are 52 weeks in a year, so what does that mean? The expense of two different series, whereas you could cover most of that ground with just one.

So now you have additional startup costs - two sets of personnel (actors, writers, crew), two sound stages, the cost of marketing two shows. I'm not really seeing the advantage here. You definitely can't cover the rest of the year with reruns because the ratings for reruns are tanking, and reruns don't really fit well with the serialized structure anyway, far too confusing for people to follow a show that way.
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Old October 27 2012, 04:16 AM   #22
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

Cable is not in as great of shape as people seem to think.

My wife works in the industry and the subscriber base continues to decline. If the trends continue, it won't be long before there aren't enough subscribers for channels to spend on new programming.
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Old October 27 2012, 05:52 AM   #23
Kestrel
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

Kegg wrote: View Post
Hell, Sky Atlantic... has been doing a full-series runthrough of NBC's Friday Night Lights all year, and while the subject matter is frankly alien to me (American football may as well be Futurama's blernsball as well as I grasp it) it's got surprisingly good character writing, acting and overall sense of direction.
Just had to chime in here. Loooove Friday Night Lights. Even minus the American football aspect, it's wonderful.
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Old October 27 2012, 07:12 AM   #24
degra
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

really going to argue that the likes of THE LOVE BOAT, CHARLIE'S ANGELS, THE BIONIC WOMAN, GOMER PYLE, I DREAM OF JEANNIE, and various other hits of the past were smarter and more sophisticated than than the stuff airing today?
I'm not looking for a timeless masterpiece when I watch older shows but like I've repeatedly said they are at least entertaining which I personally don't find with 99.99999999999% of shows these days.

And I'm not sure even shows today are that sophisticated or smart. Sure structurally they play around and try to weave complicated mythologies--but I've yet to see one show including LOST pull it off without being revealed as a colossal mess where nothing makes sense. And a lot of the so-called sophisticated stuff seems overwrought and pretentious which isn't the same thing as smart.
Kegg wrote: View Post
I'd say it's more typical for cable shows to maintain relatively high standards of quality. It's pretty much a given that a series which dozens of seasons and episodes will hve many episodes - perhaps even entire seasons - which are significantly subpar, if not downright awful. TNG, which is one of my favourite TV shows, has both of these problems littered through its run.
TNG had a rough start--true enough but the characters were interesting enough that I could stay with it even if the stories werent always great(and I am one of thosefans that don't think the series first few years were as atrocious as many).

The problem with a lot of programs these days is they don't take the time to develop interesting characters in the first season and then throw them into more complicated storylines--in my opinion that doesn't help hold onto viewers. They start off in the middle of things and in a massive arc and they become little more than pawn of the writers.

I would also argue that TNG or The X-Files may have had rocky beginnings but managed to become something really good. Ultimately doing what most tv shows nowadays can't--put out 26 episode seasons of mostly good to great episodes with only the occasional bad or awful show and on top of that managing to do that not just for one season(i.e. Heroes S1) but for 4 or 5 before falling apart--I thought TNG S3-6 were solid, TXF S2-5 were as well.

But I can honestly think of many completed serial cable dramas that I didn't feel had a single bad year - Deadwood, The Wire, The Sopranos, Big Love, Rome etc. Even if you disagree with me on these examples, or find these all terrible TV shows, the fact remains that since they produce less episodes a year and since they go on for less years the issues with exhaustion and running out of steam and ideas are ones that affect them far less severely.
In theory, yes but there have been plenty of counterexamples to this--True Blood, Terra Nova, Alcatraz, Falling Skies, Persons Unknown, The Gates, Torchwood, etc.

And I could argue that maybe the reason tv shows nowadays need fewer episodes is that the writers simply aren't as creative as their predecessors who in 80s/90s had 26 episodes in a season back then and a great many managed to put out fairly good seasons with very little evidence of burn out.

Structurally
, any kind of serialized drama - including, yes, soap operas like the original Dallas - could benefit from this kind of focus.
I'm not terribly crazy about 13 episode seasons. Hill Street Blues, Dallas(and many other primetime dramas), Heroes S1 had 20+ episode seasons and managed to come up with tightly written season long arcs with virtually no filler to speak of.
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Old October 27 2012, 01:41 PM   #25
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

BillJ wrote: View Post
Cable is not in as great of shape as people seem to think.

My wife works in the industry and the subscriber base continues to decline. If the trends continue, it won't be long before there aren't enough subscribers for channels to spend on new programming.
That's because the service they provide is pretty overpriced, bundled with channels mot people wants, and a lot of the content can be obtained through Hulu, Netflix, and illegal downloads. A la carte pricing might help, but more legal streaming options might make up for declines in the subscriber base as well.
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Old October 27 2012, 04:35 PM   #26
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

degra wrote: View Post
These new writers just don't have the knack that previous generation(s) of earlier writers had--dialog, plotlines, characte ...
Stopped reading right here.
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Old October 27 2012, 05:46 PM   #27
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

degra wrote: View Post

And I could argue that maybe the reason tv shows nowadays need fewer episodes is that the writers simply aren't as creative as their predecessors who in 80s/90s had 26 episodes in a season back then and a great many managed to put out fairly good seasons with very little evidence of burn out.
This may be a dumb question, but are freelance writers still hired these days? I recall reading years ago-during the later Trek era, how shows were increasingly closing the door on bringing in freelancers, and going entirely staff written. But I'm not sure how widespread that was-if ever, beyond the genre shows we pay far closer attention to ( behind the scenes details). ENT's lackluster first 2 seasons are often credited to Berman and Braga choosing to write almost all the episodes themselves. Fourth season gets alot of love (which baffles many) because things really did feel different with a new writing team installed, whether that was pure perception or not.

Closing off the staff to outside voices was a reason many felt had a negative impact on the Stargate franchise. Long term staff writers needed fresh people in the room to bounce ideas off, but without them, they kept to the same old, same old, creating the feeling of staleness.
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Old October 27 2012, 06:12 PM   #28
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

degra wrote: View Post

And I could argue that maybe the reason tv shows nowadays need fewer episodes is that the writers simply aren't as creative as their predecessors who in 80s/90s had 26 episodes in a season back then and a great many managed to put out fairly good seasons with very little evidence of burn out.
That's just silly. In every generation, there are people who insist that the way things were in their youth were intrinsically better than the way they are now. But that's an illusion arising from a quirk of human neurology and memory. We tend to recall positive memories more clearly than negative ones, so when we look back on the past, we perceive the illusion that it had fewer negatives than the present. This is reinforced by the fact that the good TV shows and movies from the past get remembered and re-aired and re-released for a long time thereafter, while the high volume of lousy shows and movies tend to fade into obscurity -- again creating the false perception that there's more bad stuff in the present than there was in the past.

It's hard to see how the TV of the past could be called more creative when it was mostly just recycling the same formulae every week for years on end, without any meaningful growth or change for the characters. It was really just a different kind of creativity with a different focus. Back then, they didn't have home video and the Internet and such to give an overview of series as a whole, and often it wasn't possible to ensure you'd see every episode, since if you missed one it might never be available again. So there was more emphasis on an anthology-style approach, with the focus being on creating individual, standalone tales which had their own beginning, middle, and end but didn't really alter things for the series as a whole, since their self-contained nature meant they'd never be referenced again. These days, the focus is more on overarching stories and episodes that have lasting consequences and form pieces of a larger whole. It's a different approach with different goals, and so it's invalid to compare them by a single set of standards.


cylkoth wrote: View Post
This may be a dumb question, but are freelance writers still hired these days? I recall reading years ago-during the later Trek era, how shows were increasing closing the door on bringing in freelancers, and going entirely staff written.
I think that may be a misunderstanding of what actually happened. Rather, TNG, DS9, and VGR had a unique policy of opening their doors to unagented freelancers, thanks to Michael Piller. Most shows would only take pitches from freelancers who had agents, but the Piller-run Trek shows were open to spec scripts from anyone who signed a release form. They were pretty much the only shows in the industry that had that open policy, and ENT didn't continue it. But that wasn't about staff vs. freelancers, but just about agented freelancers vs. unagented ones.


ENT's lackluster first 2 seasons are often credited to Berman and Braga choosing to write almost all the episodes themselves.
That's not true either. In season 1, they only scripted eight episodes and wrote or co-wrote story outlines for ten more. In season 2, they scripted eight and did stories for five. So they contributed to 31 out of the first 52 episodes, more than half, but hardly "almost all." The show's staff included other writers like Mike Sussman, Phyllis Strong, Chris Black, and Andre Bormanis. Season 1's staff also included Fred Dekker and Andre & Maria Jacquemetton (whose work I rather liked). Season 2 lost those three but added John Shiban and David A. Goodman.

And there were a few scripts credited to freelancers, such as James Duff ("Fortunate Son"), Alan Cross ("Fallen Hero"), and David Wilcox ("Marauders"). In general, yes, shows are more staff-driven these days because of their tighter continuities, but they're not completely closed to freelancers.
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Old October 27 2012, 09:15 PM   #29
Temis the Vorta
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

Is TV viewership declining overall?

Among all adults, the declines at broadcast networks were 11% while cable's overall audience rose 4%.
Keep in mind, premium cable doesn't care about the 18-49 demo, since they have no ads.
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Old October 27 2012, 09:29 PM   #30
degra
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Re: What Broadcast can learn from Cable TV

Christopher wrote: View Post
deg wrote:
ra

And I could argue that maybe the reason tv shows nowadays need fewer episodes is that the writers simply aren't as creative as their predecessors who in 80s/90s had 26 episodes in a season back then and a great many managed to put out fairly good seasons with very little evidence of burn out.
That's just silly. In every generation, there are people who insist that the way things were in their youth were intrinsically better than the way they are now. But that's an illusion arising from a quirk of human neurology and memor
I rewatch a lot of those older shows and personally feel that they still hold up and are as satisfying as they originally were--and this is after having sampled a lot of contemporary programs--so it isn't like I have some nostalgia coloring my impressions--I've basically watched them side-by-side.

Sure every tv era has horrible shows but I have found that the 00s have had the worst and the ratio of good to bad based on what my viewing schedules were is also the worst. Sure shows these days look better visually but I still stand by my assertion that earlier decades esp the 80s/90s had much better tv shows, better writers, more consistency in quality within a season as well as over the lifetime of a show, more engaging memorable characters. All that has been replaced by unnecessarily complicated storytelling that just falls to pieces in the long run, unevenness in storytelling, poorly edited episodes, whiplash pacing and unlikeable characters.

Back in the 80s/90s the self contained stories were at little fresher in my opinion(I'll take TNG, The X-Files standalones over say Fringe, Haven, etc). There was most definitely serialized storytelling in a lot of primetime dramas and I'll point out they didn't have to be the convoluted messes that dragged out stuff for years with no answers or weak ones. And probably most importantly the characters were enjoyable to watch which is hard to say these days because tv characters have become cyphers, plot devices, bland cardboard cutouts or misanthropes you can't stand to watch. And no one is going to convince me sitcoms are better today.
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