Saturday, February 20, 2016

What's to happen to broadcast TV?

I recently had an interesting conversation with some of my friends about television. I surprisingly learned that none of them really watched anything that was on the normal broadcast stations, i.e. ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW. They were all streaming content from cable stations (AMC, FX, USA, Comedy Central), premium cable stations (HBO, Showtime, Starz) or streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime). Not gonna lie, this utterly shocked me. I didn't realize I was the only millennial left still watching shows like "The Big Bang Theory," "The Blacklist," "Grey's Anatomy," "Brooklyn 99," or "Arrow."

Of course, that's not true. There are obviously people still watching these channels, and this was just a small sampling of my friends (I do still have friends who watch broadcast TV, albeit, not many.) And obviously there are still people watching these shows, Grey's still gets about 8-10 million viewers each episode (which is rather remarkable considering they're in their 12th season.) Nonetheless, this got me thinking on if creators are still itching to get their show on one of the (former?) top dogs.

Are people starting to write shows with the mindset that they'll have to write 13 episodes per season and are able to use more vulgar language and maybe already have a guarantee of having at least two seasons instead of the grind that is broadcast? Possibly. I'm not one of those people but I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case.

That being said, I don't believe people who love television and cherish it, will stop watching broadcast shows. I think it is still a sacred accomplishment to have your show ordered on ABC or NBC. They're looking for fresh, new, creative, interesting content just like all the other networks, Though it could be argued that companies like Netflix or HBO are doing a better job and selecting the ones that seem to do the best; both by critics and the people.

What I will say is I can see how only writing 13 episodes is more enticing. Being able to create a complete narrative, knowing you'll be able to finish it, with a full story arc, that's a great guarantee. And that's what platforms like Hulu and Showtime are able to provide to creators. What I'm noticing more and more is that broadcast has become the place where a procedural lives and dies. From all the NCIS's to the CSI's to the Chicago Fire, PD, Med and rumored Law; those shows can get anyone to tune in week-to-week and they don't really have to had watched last week's episode. There's something special about a show like that, no doubt. My mother just told me show opted to not watch a show she had been following because while she was flipping the channel she got sucked into a story line on one of the Chicago shows. That's where the broadcast platform can continue to survive on, despite how depressing that sounds.

I recently wrote about how great the CW has been the last two years in producing quality, creative shows that you usually wouldn't see on broadcast. I truly hope that doesn't disappear. I hope Shonda Rhimes doesn't find a new home and continues to make unforgettable characters and stories for ABC. I hope the Kings (creators of "The Good Wife") don't get sucked into that 13 episode model as enticing as it might sound and how good the products can turn out, because what they've done with "The Good Wife" is still quality, important television.

Broadcast is important to the survival of television and I do believe there is room for everyone at the table. Some entertainment writers have argued there are too many television programs available for people that it's overwhelming and will eventually be too much. I don't believe that's true. If a show can create interesting, developed characters with intriguing story lines, then why limit where or how we watch it? Let's just embrace how great it all is and enjoy the fact that shows like "Daredevil" or "House of Cards" may not exist because of Netflix, but shows like "Scandal" and "Code Black" are still relevant and deserve to be watched. Not to mention, shows on 2, 5, 7, 9, Fox are free... just something to keep in mind.

Until next time, live long and prosper.