The Fall of Television: A Look at the Upcoming Season
- Friday, June 08, 2012
Television as we've known it continues to decline and yet be better than ever. How can that be? While the saying is still true that 90 percent of everything is trash, the pie chart that is television has grown, so that while there's more trash, there may not be more great shows. A look at the new fall shows indicates the usual shifts in programming trends but the larger view at the state of the industry indicates that profound changes have shifted the ground beneath the feet of network executives making programming a higher risk than ever.
And that goes for reviewing individual series as well. We know that our readers are probably more discriminating than the average television watcher as well so as a reviewer, I try to review shows that at least intrigue me and may be of interest to theFish.com readers. So, herewith, a quick and purely subjective overview of the fall season's trends and new hopefuls, followed by a look at the larger troubles of the television industry.
Comedy: Probably no genre runs in such big cycles as the situation comedy—maybe once a decade, it is pronounced near death, with few original concepts on the schedule, but then, a new take on what's funny hits big and sparks a new wave of reliable hits for networks. Because television networks advertisers crave the young skewing demographic of 18-49 year old viewers, a successful show, like Harry's Law, NBC's highest rated series, will be canceled because it had a large audience of 50 years and older viewers who simply are worth less to sellers of cars, cosmetics, beer and other fine products (whereas a show with a smaller audience, but of the right age will be renewed—which explains the CW network).
Thus you will see still more comedies featuring twenty to thirty-somethings frolicking around the dial. And to ensure the curious will tune in, veteran talent from earlier hits are often featured in the cast. Thus, NBC's Go On, stars Mathew Perry (Hit: Friends, Miss: Mr. Sunshine) as a sports-caster in group therapy with predictably wacky members below the requisite age limit. A comedy on the First Family? 1600 Penn is NBC's attempt to find yucks in high places, following earlier ventures like the recent Veep, a cable entry, starring another Friends alumni, Julia Louise-Dreyfus. It appears 1600 fits the right demographic target by focusing on the misadventures of the son Skip, a rowdy (Jack) Black sheep of the family who gets into family-embarrassing college hijinks.
Does television simply reflect types of social behavior or promote it? Given the ongoing controversy over gay marriage, two new shows, appear to, simply by their premises, do the latter. ABC's Partners, features two lifelong friends as well as business partners, one of whom, Louis, is gay. When his straight partner, Charlie, gets engaged, Louis's attempts to be supportive cause waves between him and his boyfriend. Another comedy from Glee creator Ryan Murphy, The New Normal, makes clearer its agenda and features two gay men and a woman who becomes a surrogate to produce children for their "blended" family.
Dramas: What hath Justified brought forth? This summer and fall, two new shows features sheriffs in cowboy hats fighting crime in the contemporary West. (Longmire starts in June on A&E). This fall, CBs's Vegas stars Dennis Quaid as Ralph Lamb, a real-life lawmen who fought the mob in Sin City in the early sixties. This continues the trend of movie stars moving to television for attractive roles (like Glenn Close in Damages and Jim Caviezel in Person of Interest.) Kevin Bacon, (whose wife, Kyra Sedgewick, was an early immigrant from film to cable in The Closer) will star in Fox's The Following, as a retired FBI agent recalled into duty to go after the copycat killers inspired by a serial killer, played by James Purefoy. It sounds like another setup where good guy chases the same big baddy for the run of the series, which could frustrate viewers who fail to be gratified by the capture of the wannabes.
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