Saturday, April 13, 2013

Addicted to Television

Well, Sunday Nights are toast!
I blame HBO.  I mean, it's really their fault.  They started this whole thing.  The Sopranos debuted on HBO in January of 1999, and the world of television has never been the same.  After the Sopranos, there was Six Feet Under, and Deadwood, and Carnivale, and The Wire, and Boardwalk Empire, and True Blood (In No Particular Order), and now... Game of Thrones.  You get the point.
It was really quite ingenious.  How many times have you come out of a movie wishing "I'd like to see more of those characters, I really enjoyed them."  I'm pretty certain that the continuous stream of sequels, and series, and trilogies, and Comic Book movies is based on something pretty fundamentally simple.  People enjoy watching characters that they care about, they already have a relationship with them, so that makes it have a 'built-in audience'.

This all started with Tony and family.

So HBO took the next step.  They developed television series that were much better than what the broadcast networks were putting out.  They had better stories, better actors, higher production value, and more importantly, since they were on a "pay cable" channel, they could go places that broadcast networks couldn't go.  No such thing as too much blood, or nudity, or cursing, or whatever the story needed.

It wasn't long until other networks followed suit.  Showtime has had a few series that have done pretty well, Weeds and Dexter come to mind, and recently Homeland has become a massive hit for them.  Honestly, I haven't watched any of the Showtime series (except a few episodes of Dexter), but I do want to watch Homeland.

Who is Don Draper?
The next big player in the development of great television was a bit of a surprise.  AMC, a channel that was pretty much ignored (unless you were looking to watch an old movie, when nothing else was on television) threw their hat into the ring with Mad Men in 2007.  They hit what you might call a "home run".  Created by former Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner, Mad Men was not your typical network television fodder.  Can you imagine Weiner trying to sell his story of Advertising Executives set in the 1960's, and the protagonist is a philandering, drinking, smoking, arrogant jerk...who may not be who he seems to be.... to CBS or ABC?

While Mad Men was a runaway success, how could little AMC (who most people couldn't find without the Guide), possibly compete against the big boys?  They couldn't do it again.  Until they did.

Breaking Bad burst onto the scene in 2008, and suddenly there was a competitor with Mad Men for "Best Show on Television".  And they both came from the same tiny little cable network.  Breaking Bad again deals with things that would have never been aired on broadcast television.  AMC continued it's success with the development and production of the television series version of the graphic novels "The Walking Dead".  In fact, although not as highly acclaimed as Breaking Bad or Mad Men, the Walking Dead has higher ratings than either of it's forebears, and last season received the highest ratings ever for a cable network television show.
(In the past two weeks, we've been treated to the season finale of The Walking Dead, and the season premiere of Mad Men)

A show about Russian spies set in 1981?  Sounds interesting...

Recently, FX has become a home to some very good television shows, as well.  The Americans is the best new show on television this year.  In fact, The Americans may be the actual best show on TV.... not just best "new show".  The concept is great, the actors are ferocious (Keri Russel and Matthew Rhys are marvelous as undercover spies, struggling in an arranged marriage), and the story... My Gosh, the writing is phenomenal.  In fact, if you haven't watched The Americans yet, Go Watch the First Five Episodes Now!  You won't be disappointed.

Louie makes you laugh, and think.
FX is not a "one hit wonder" however.  Justified, Sons of Anarchy, and American Horror Story each have passionate fan bases.  In addition to these tremendous dramas, FX is the home to some wildly original comedies as well, headlined by 'Louie'.  Comedian Louis C.K. basically gets to do whatever he wants, he's the writer, director, producer, and star of the show.  Although pigeonholing "Louie" as a comedy is almost a disservice.  It's funny yes, but it's also dark, and deep, and waaay more compelling than any sitcom on the broadcast networks.

Speaking of sitcoms, and broadcast networks....that's about the only thing I watch on the "Big Four" anymore.  I'll watch "How I Met Your Mother", "New Girl", "The Mindy Project" (best 'new' comedy on the air this year), and "The Big Bang Theory"... and that's about it.  And to be completely honest, none of those shows are 'rocking my world' as a TV viewer (although "The Mindy Project" is very good...very surprised with that show).  I really only watch HIMYM any more, because I want to find out who the mother is!

I don't think I watch a single "drama" on the "broadcast networks".  They have all been replaced by the cable shows.  Actually, there's too many of them to keep up with already.  I haven't finished "The Wire" yet, I really want to start "Justified", and "Game of Thrones", and "Homeland"...and... it just never ends!

In conclusion, not only am I addicted to television, I don't see this ending at anytime in the near future.

A glimpse inside my mind...

No comments:

Post a Comment