Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ah, the Dulcet Sounds of a Whining Loser...

The irritatingly out-of-touch, pandering schmucks behind network television series are up in arms over what they feel is unfair treatment:

Cable shows are winning all the Emmys!

Although they admit the cable shows are better, these overpaid network whingers, who are increasingly and unnervingly incapable of selecting shows they like for more than ten episodes, are of the opinion that network and cable shows shouldn't be judged the same way because they are "apples and oranges" due to the fact that cable shows don't have to create as many episodes as network series 'have to' and their busier schedule allows them less time to focus on their stories and results in their TV shows sucking and getting canceled.

“David Chase in his time off could conceive and write a full season of ‘The Sopranos...We can’t go about our business that way,” Ms. Jacobs noted. “As soon as we finish shooting one season in May, we have to start talking about the new season and get ready to start writing.” In addition to the production schedules cable shows sometimes make use of swearing and nudity, elements that create publicity but are generally not available to network series.
Wait a minute--swearing and nudity are being used by cable shows to create publicity? That's news to me--I thought they were being used to make television shows more realistic since, to paraphrase Boogie Nights' Jack Horner: "There's swearing and nudity in life, baby." If they also happen to make watching these shows more enjoyable for more perverted reasons, so be it, but Mad Men and Breaking Bad--the two best and most-lauded shows on television, airing on AMC--do not have any more nudity than your average network show.

Interesting the network representatives failed to bring up the fact that the cable shows of which they are jealous are all dramas with fabulous character development that keeps you guessing as to who is bad, who is good, and why, while network dramas still rely on the outdated, easy-to-follow-while-reading-the-paper 'good guys are in the army, bad guys are terrorists' model.

As for comedies, the networks seem to forget they have perennial hardware collector 30 Rock in their stable, although the only reason that show wins so many awards is that there is no real competition; I would argue there haven't been any good cable comedies since the British Office aired on BBC America, save perhaps Always Sunny in Philadelphia, on FX, but I haven't seen enough of it to know for sure. Neither, apparently, has anybody else. Most network comedies are virtually plotless 22-minute episodes of predictable and tired one-liners, parroted out by stock actors playing tired stereotypes that never develop as characters.
Case study in brief: British Office vs. American Office

The British one is one hour long, awesomely funny, rings true, featured heart-rending and hilarious character arcs, and never outstayed its welcome--only 14 episodes were ever made. It was so good that it won an Emmy for Best Comedy Series while broadcast on cable channel BBC America, a channel just about nobody watches.

The American version has so far aired 101 episodes, at least 14 of which focused on how (un)funny it is that Dwight lives on a farm. Like 30 Rock, it occasionally pulls down an award due to the dearth of worthy challengers, but it does occasionally hit the right note and makes me laugh. Sadly, though, it is more often boring, predictable, and stunted due to its 22 minute length. How long do they expect us to laugh at the same characters doing the same things? Why does a show need to go on until everybody hates it? Why can't they exit gracefully, like Gervais & Co. always do?
The bottom line is that people watch cable shows on TV and DVD because...wait for it...THEY ARE REALLY GOOD.

The networks like to bitch and moan about the fact that their audience numbers are higher per episode than any cable show, as if quantity warrants an award for quality--should the Best Picture Oscar go to Transformers 3 this year? Let me hear ya say, "No!"--but this is not only little more than a sneaky way to hint that there is some kind of intellectual snobbery going on, teabagger-style, but also misleading. They conveniently forget to consider how many people watch cable shows on DVD, even years after they aired (is anybody renting back seasons of King of Queens at your local Blockbuster? Thought not.).

Since I don't have access to detailed DVD sales/rental stats, let me instead give you a rough estimate: way more people have watched Mad Men on DVD than have watched any network show on the air this past season. Way more. That is why there is so much press about it, so many people are buzzing about it, so many awards are thrown at it--everybody is watching it at some point and everybody is loving it.

By the same token, Arrested Development was a huge hit among the same people who love Sopranos and Mad Men. Unfortunately, it aired on a network and when not enough people watch a show on-air, they pull the plug no matter what. In a rare move, the only reason it was brought back for a third season was because of surprisingly impressive sales of DVDs. Rather than taking advantage of this popularity, maybe by negotiating a bigger cut of DVD revenue to offset underwhelming ad revenue, they pulled the plug on the show mid-season when the broadcast numbers weren't where they would have liked them.

They replaced it with a string of awful shows that attracted even fewer viewers and refused to let the creators take the show to a different network, not wanting to be made to look like idiots if it matured into the next Seinfeld (which took quite awhile, and a lot of patience, to develop into a hit) and won multiple Emmys. Ah, the network way is glorious.

Good job, geniuses--abort what was easily your best show since the Simpsons and then bitch when other channels leave their fantastic shows on the air, start up new ones, and rack up the Emmys, advertising revenue, licensing revenue, and DVD revenue--all by spending less money per episode than the networks do.

Here's a good suggestion that I hope they take me up on, since the networks seem to need my help desperately:

If, by their own admission, a shorter season results in better storytelling, which attracts better writers, and results in shows that people actually like, can't this be turned into a profitable revelation? Can't the networks--who, one would assume 'control their own destiny'--simply...change their schedules? Can't they turn their existing and future series into 13-episode seasons and create enough of them to run for a year on their one measly channel, filling any gaps with reruns that will actually be watched because they will actually be good?

It's not like their current tactics are that successful; as it stands, they cancel many new shows after only 6-10 episodes and immediately give the time slot to a mid-season replacement. Instead of trying to write one shitty 26-episode season of a show, then changing their mind midway through because "the ratings aren't there," why not just make both shows anyway, each with a shorter 13-episode season, and see what happens?

It ain't rocket science, assholes--it's entertainment. Stop trying to find or recreate some magical formula--make good television, however the fuck you need to do it, whoever else you need to pay to do it, and put it on the air in shorter, higher-quality seasons.

Now quit your bitching or I'll stuff a dirty sock down your throat while swearing at you and showing my butt, on one of those sexy cable channels that are so popular these days for some reason...


1 comment:

The entire city of Chicago said...

Arrested Development was the first network show we'd bothered to watch even one episode of since 1999 - 1999!. And even that was from pirate downloads mid-season, so we didn't have to bother with your bullshit scheduling & commercials. The only thing worse than a jagoff is a bunch of rich whining jagoffs.