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.

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