Thursday, July 13, 2017

AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS AT TCA?

TCA the Television Critics Association Press Tour is rapidly approaching. I’m not going to go into my annual rant about its obsolescence but rather I want to recommend that you check out these thought pieces written by two of the preeminent Television writers. Alan Sepinwall and Tim Goodman. I respect them both although Time finds it necessary to block me on Twitter for some fakakta reason.

Tim’s piece is in the Hollywood Reporter titled “The Post-Review, Post-Premiere, Post-Finale World of Peak TV”. Alan’s article can be found at UPROXX with the catchy title “Does Anyone Still Have Time To Wait For Shows To Get Good?”. The reason why I recommend them prior to the start of TCA is that both, in their own way, are pointing to an existential crisis among those who write about, review or recap shows. Both articles also point the finger at “Peak TV” as the cause of the current woes. I’ll talk more about the myth of Peak TV in another column.


Tim’s concern is that, as viewing becomes increasingly untethered from a schedule, reviews and recaps are still “linear”. The review comes out before the premiere, Recaps are generally written the day after and discussion of the finale occurs at the end of the run of a show. The consumption of the writing is becoming untethered in the same way schedules are becoming less relevant. What’s a writer to do and, oh yeah, he or she can’t get to everything either.

Alan comes at the woes of Peak TV from a different angle. His thesis is (and I agree with him) that, with so much TV to consume viewers no longer have the luxury to wait for a show to “get good’ in the sixth or seventh episode. Consumers will move on and the critic has to accept that they will not return. Viewers don’t have the luxury of screening several episodes before realizing that something may be a gem. Alan points out that it may take well into the second season of a show before it blossoms. He credits his wife with the term “hope-watching” to describe this phenomena.

One of the more interesting points in the article is Alan’s theory that part of the blame for the slow starts of shows is that streaming series are dropped in entirety (most of the time) which emboldens the show creator to see his or her oeuvre as a movie rather than an episodic TV show. What is even more intriguing is that Alan posits that this form of storytelling is being adopted by cable and even network television.

I have talked about cable envy, the notion that networks started to see more failure as they tried to act like a cable network in show selection forgetting that many quality cable shows get small audiences. I actually had to shut down my blog back in the day for making this point regarding a show called LONE STAR. Whether intentional or not Alan has pointed out that there is now “streaming envy”. I want to think more about it because I also think it has some negative consequences for the biz.

What’s sort of ironic about these pieces is that network television has been described as a dinosaur by many who write about the business and now they are realizing that the same is true for their game. Theses to pieces talk about how to adapt to the new realities…something the networks have been doing for decades.


I could go on but read these two excellent think pieces. My guess there will be a lot of talk about Peak TV and the business of writing and reviewing at this year’s TCA.

MID-SEASON MASKY TIME

It’s mid-season MASKY time. Sorry for the delay. Was away for a while and before I left I started watching the mid-season shows and unfortunately started with the two comedies at the bottom of the list below. I decided I needed to take a break. Fortunately, I started up again this week and found a few pleasant surprises.

There are two shows that I will definitely check out again and one might work but probably not. Comedies continue to be not funny but there was one that at least made me chuckle.

There are two procedurals (DECEPTION and INSTINCT) that are in the classic ‘he’s a/she’s a” mold where one partner is someone in law enforcement and the other has a “super power”. INSTINCT features Alan Cumming and it’s ELEMENTARY so expect a second season.

So here are the MASKYS for best mid-season comedy and drama. Just to be clear the MASKY is awarded to the show that I feel has the best chance of being renewed for a second season. Last year I went 50/50 but I have a pretty good track record of awarding shows that go on for several seasons. Just to review DYNASTY (THE CW) and YOUNG SHELDON (CBS) won the Fall MASKYS for Drama and Comedy respectively.

The MASKY for best mid-season Comedy goes to AP BIO (NBC). Comedy is hard but this attempt at a SCHOOL OF ROCK sensibility sort of pulls it off. The kids are offbeat and there are several funny adults in addition to Glenn Howerton like, for example Patton Oswalt.

THE RESIDENT (FOX) wins the MASKY for best mid-season Drama and was the only pilot this year to get an A. It’s not groundbreaking or anything but it has Matt Czuchry which could draw in the GOOD WIFE contingent and Emily VanCamp. It’s just a really solid medical drama with Bruce Greenwood as the sort of villain of the show. There were just enough surprises to keep me invested.

I want to also suggest you check out RISE (NBC) which is GLEE meets FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. There are so many similarities to GLEE that it comes close to taking the show down for me but it’s far more solid and has a much better chance of staying on the tracks whereas Ryan Murphy shows have a tendency to implode.

Here are the grades for the mid-season shows that I could get my hands on. No BLACK LIGHTNING or LIFE SENTENCE (which I hope carries on the JANE THE VIRGIN, CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, RIVERDALE tradition of the CW). You go with what you got.

Within each grade, they are ranked in descending order, sort of.


A
THE RESIDENT (FOX)
B
RISE (NBC)
INSTINCT (CBS)
AP BIO (NBC)
C
THE CROSSING (ABC)
CHAMPIONS (NBC)
ALEX INC. (ABC)
LA TO VEGAS (FOX)
DECEPTION (ABC)
FOR THE PEOPLE (ABC)
REVERIE (ABC)
D
BY THE BOOK (CBS)

SPLITTING UP TOGETHER (ABC)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

THE FALL 2017 MASKYS

It’s MASKY time. I’m going to do it a bit differently and not bother with the snarky pithy categories. People work too hard on these pilots (even the bad ones) for me to mock. Also, there were fewer fall shows and I could not get my hands on either of the new Marvel series (FOX and ABC). I’ll predict both open and then fall below a 1 rating in 18-49’s within five weeks so we’ll move on from that.

I’m only going to talk about the Fall shows and will do a separate column on mid-season. I have watched a few of them and it doesn’t look like it gets any better.

A few observations.

Where the country is today vs. where it was when these pilot scripts were picked up are two different worlds. There is a very militaristic, vigilante theme here. I wonder, given the current state of events, if those types of shows will find an audience. I found it hard to separate among them. Two of them actually involve the rescue of an attractive blond woman from “them”.

WISDOM OF THE CROWD continues last years failed theme of how a rich person can come in and do things better than the current institutions (struck out on CBS and FOX last year) and THE MAYOR is the tale of someone doing something for publicity and winds up winning an election (hmmm).

The networks all did shows that feel appropriate to their sensibilities, for better or worse. I may have mentioned this during my Upfronts columns but FOX is bizarre in that they have a comedy about aliens, a drama about mutants and a sci-fi one hour comedy featuring even more aliens. That’s a pretty pretty narrow choice of projects to put on in the fall. ABC seemed to be the most adventurous of the networks while the CW continues to be the network with the series I’m most likely to check out again. I wish there was more humor in the dramas and a bit more heart in the comedies.


Anyway, thanx to those who were kind enough to offer me the shows knowing that I can’t be bought. Here are my letter grades for the new fall series sort of ranked within each letter. Sort of.

B
DYNASTY
YOUNG SHELDON
VALOR
THE BRAVE
SEAL TEAM
THE GOOD DOCTOR
SWAT

C
THE MAYOR
THE GOSPEL OF KEVIN
TEN DAYS IN THE VALLEY
WISDOM OF THE CROWD
ME, MYSELF AND I
GHOSTED

D
THE ORVILLE

F
9JKL


Last year the MASKY for Best Fall Drama went to DESIGNATED SURVIVOR. Comedy is a lot harder and I gave the MASKY to THE GREAT OUTDOORS. Mid-season MASKYS went to 24: LEGACY and THE MICK so I got half of them right (renewed) which was not great, but full disclosure.