The Fall of Television: A Look at the Upcoming Season
- Friday, June 08, 2012
Serial killers who inspire a cult following is scary enough, but there's more genre horror coming as well. NBC's Do No Harm, is a contemporary Jekyll and Hyde story of a doctor fighting his dark side. A Lost veteran, Terry O'Quinn, returns to series television as a mysterious figure who grants residents their desires, to their regret, in a luxury hotel on 666 Park Avenue, which sounds like a demonic version of Fantasy Island.
Genre series continue to roll out in the fall. The CW enjoyed youthful demo ratings with Smallville so the youth and female-skewing network is taking aim at another DC superhero series, drawing from its Time Warner sibling, for Arrow, a strangely truncated name for its hero, Green Arrow, the master bowman (Big year for archers, eh? Katniss and Hawkeye and now this). What with the cinematic superhero success, it's not surprising to see someone try to market them on television.
Can television handle more disaster series? In the last ten years, we've seen Battlestar Galactica, The Event, Lost and more recently, Falling Skies, imagine all kinds of impacted civilizations. Probably keying off the wake of 9/11, shows flirting with, or featuring the results of a world-wide catastrophe, continue to roll out. The most conceptually audacious is The Last Resort, a sort of Hunt for Red October-meets On the Beach with a U.S. naval nuclear submarine, captained by Andre Braugher, rebelling against an apparently out-of-control U.S. government to take refuge on an island and declaring itself an independent state.
In Revolution, all electrical equipment woldwide stops working, leading to instant dystopia (and millions of distraught teenagers unable to update their Facebook status). I clicked on the trailer for the new NBC series, thinking it was a movie. As I watched, it became apparent that the people in it were too pretty, well groomed and made-up to be in a feature film; this must be television. Indeed, fashion conscious survivors of the great blackout now use whatever ancient weapons are at hand, (including handy crossbows!) to survive in tribes. Maybe it will feature battles over the remaining stores of health and beauty aids at boarded up Walgreens.
There are more, oh, so many more series I haven't mentioned, that may or may last a month once the merciless winds of September blow them to your receiving device—which is a growing problem for programmers everywhere. Because you may be watching some of these new shows on not just your cable-ready widescreen television, but on your computer, via Hulu, or the next day, via a DVR, or months later when it becomes available on video on demand. Networks are finding it harder than ever to know how many viewers they actually have who watch in more than the ordinary way. iPads and cell phones add to the diversity of platforms on which you may consume a show and it gets worse: now non-conventional sources, that are neither broadcast nor cable, are originating their own series to draw audiences. Netflix has several new shows, including the return of the cult comedy Arrested Development, and Hulu is also developing new shows. Amazon is having open door submissions for anyone with an idea for a series.
While this may sound like a cornucopia of new entertainment possibilities, it also dilutes the talent pool, because there's only so much talent to go around. If the NFL created several more expansion teams and new leagues were starting up around the country, we'd soon see lots of less-than-performances simply because there's a limited number of professional-class athletes. Despite this, television is arguably better, or rather has more great shows, than ever, particularly on cable which programs shorter seasons and thus can concentrate on quality over quantity, as well as targeting smaller and higher income audiences.
Yet, as NBC learned last year as it continued to dwell in the ratings basement, quality programming just doesn't appear at an executive's command. Talented writers and actors are more spread out than ever and it's harder to swim through it all to find truly good shows. Keep watching this site and we'll try to point you to some good shows and away from bad ones.
*This Article First Published 6/8/2012
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