Sunday, July 11, 2010

How To Save Television

Note: Of course, I write this with my tongue in my cheek a bit. I don't actually think I have the knowledge to remake an entire industry. It's fun, as an outsider, to muse a bit on how one would like to see something evolve or change.

Every network, over the last five years, seems to be trying to recreate the TV show, "Lost".  It started with "Heroes" and "The Nine" and "Invasion" and there are probably a half dozen others that aren't springing to mind as I write this. Currently ABC itself has axed "Flashforward" and the remake of "V" is on the bubble of getting tossed as well.

"Lost" was a big success. It had its detractors, its supporters and its deserters along the way, but you can't argue that, at its best moments it was a well-written, well-executed show with a solid cast of actors and an interesting stable of characters.

But every TV exec wants the lightning to strike twice. They are all trying out these expensive, intricate series with large casts and long story arcs that they plan to spread out over five years. They want to lock viewers in, ensure big viewership of a single show and have a guaranteed cash cow over several viewing seasons. So far, they haven't found another one to function the same way that show did.

Quite honestly, I think TV viewers are tired of these heavily serialized shows. Lost may have been an exception but I don't really like the idea of sitting down to a show when I may have to wait six years to see how it all turns out. Many mediums are getting shorter these days. Music album lengths are shrinking from more than an hour to less than forty-five minutes. And average fiction book lengths are getting tighter and tighter (except for certain genres where they are bucking this trend).

The idea that I have to commit the kind of time and energy to simple entertainment tires me out. And, what if the show I like and invest in doesn't come back next year? Won't I ever know how it ends? And in the case of "Lost", what if the ending is ambiguous and I feel like I didn't get the resolution I expected?

I'd like to see TV producers (and movie producers for that matter) hit up some of the grass roots talent out there.  Go to a website like Smashwords, for example and do some reading. Invest in a "not-yet-a-name" author by buying the rights to her book for a reasonable sum and make a six or ten episode mini series out of it. Advertise it like it's a major event --just the same as a major Hollywood film release-- and then turn around and do another one. And then another one. Two hour episodes once a week, on the same night for ten weeks and then a new story takes its place for the subsequent ten weeks in that time slot. Wait two months until some Internet buzz builds for a particular mini and then re-run it to grab advertising dollars from those who didn't see it the first time. Then send it to secondary markets like DVDs  and digital downloads via iTunes or other video-for-dollars vendors. The material that is quality and sees healthy viewership gets another lease on life as a regular series or maybe another mini arc. The stuff that doesn't fly has a definite ending for those of us who saw it and aren't left flapping in the wind.

Seriously, there are so many quality stories out there. Why do both TV-Land and Hollywood want to re-sell us the same stuff over and over? How many iterations of "Lost" will we endure before they find a new trend to flog?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...