Monday, October 12, 2009

Digitarian Riverbank

I've been delaying discussing the new season, which is why this post is so late. I was hoping to watch at least the first two episodes of everything but after ten minutes of one particular show, I just gave up. And no, I'm not going to say which new show utterly destroyed my enjoyment of TeeVee. Because I have to operate from the neutrality of "I love all television shows. You're all fucking geniuses." So well done, new television season. Everything's MAGNIFICENT!

But then shit started to happen... shit that was centered around NBC, the network that gave you the MAGNIFICENTLY hilarious Jay Leno Show, every night at ten. All you have to do is find A CSI show, and then go up two channels.

The first thing NBC did was to essentially cancel the one show I was REALLY and seriously looking forward to -- Day One. They've decided to turn it into a miniseries, or two movies or some bullshit. So a show goes from having a 13 episode order to being a movie. Fuck you, livelihood. Sorry, hundreds of people who thought you had employment. You don't!!! NBC's in the "let's save money" mode because nothing's really working for them, and they're going to take it out on their shows.

There was a recent article about the cancellation of Southland, the NBC show that did okay for them last year but will not see the light of day this year, even though NBC had promised -- fervently -- that they had NO intention of NOT airing the episodes the studio had already produced. Now as soon as NBC says something like this, I would start packing my office. They did this on Medical Investigation. Jeff Zucker went "I can't imagine a scenario where the show won't get renewed." And then he imagined one, which had to do with him not renewing it.

So already this year, NBC's promised jobs to the staff, cast and crew of Day One and then rescinded that. Then, they actually have the studio (Warner Bros, in this case) MAKE episodes of Southland, which they decide not to air because the show is "too dark." Okay, but... wasn't it too dark LAST year? Why, yes, but last year they had ten o'clock slots. One has to wonder if they asked John Wells, who produces Southland, to lighten the show up so it would fit at nine o'clock. But one also has to wonder if they didn't think it was an issue initially. After all, they're running SVU at nine. But that doesn't seem to be working out so well, so my guess is that when SVU started losing viewers, they got nervous about Southland.

Networks tinker with shows all the time and they will cancel shows before they even air. This isn't a new trend. They've been doing it forever, but taking away the guarantee for episodes produced has made it virtually cost-free for them. They no longer have to pay penalties to producers or cast members. Now, they only have to pay penalties to the studio that shelled out the money to make the show. And NBC would rather pay Warner Bros a big old penalty than pay them thirteen episodes worth of license fees for a show they can't air. You could say that this is partly because NBC doesn't own Southland (Warner Bros does), but then NBC owns Day One and look at what happened with THAT. But since they're already paying about three million an episode for Trauma, they probably didn't want to compound that with Day One, which figures to be on the expensive side. However, Day One's a science fiction show, which means it's dark. Trauma isn't. I wonder if an entire season of Emergency cost three million bucks.

It's somewhat ironic that John Wells gets elected president of the WGA and NBC cancels his show. Go WGA! Power to the people!!!

What also sucks is that there are no assurances that one can count on. No matter what your day-to-day exec says -- or, hell, even Angela Bromstad -- the higher-ups can still cancel your show. I feel for the people who sold shows to NBC. You just don't know what they're going to do. They've apparently committed to Leno for another year, which means no ten o'clock shows. So if your show is, I dunno, even remotely realistic and doesn't feature a laugh track, then you're fucked. Obviously, NBC isn't going to keep Trauma and Mercy around too long. Heroes is about five years past its expiration date, especially if you go by my calendar, which wouldn't have even put it on the air. Day One's dead. They canceled Medium because they didn't own it, and now CBS has found the perfect show to air between Ghost Whisperer and Numbers. So they'll have The Office, and SVU. Are they going to focus on giving their only two drama slots to those shows? Will they cast Wanda Sykes or Roseanne in Prime Suspect? Will the JJ Abrams spy show have to be even lighter and funnier?

Because all they want is light and funny. And it's not hard to figure out why. Lighter shows work on USA and apparently, frenetic humor works on SyFy. Since those networks are part of NBCU, the parent network decides why those shows work and then says that's what they want, too. But they don't even know what that is, specifically. It's not crime shows. It's not family dramas. It's not genre shows. What does that leave? What they don't get is that these shows just happen to be lighter. They have a creative point of view. Not a corporate one. So the network is coming at this from exactly the wrong direction, but the right direction would be that they trust the creative voices. And they won't do that.

Does anyone at NBC think about what the network used to be and cringe a little? Will all the development execs just jump out of their windows when the shows they buy and develop don't get on the air? NBC doesn't just need one great show to save them. It needs an entire network of great shows. Isn't this the time to just throw caution to the wind and believe in something?

At least something amusing happened recently. Didja hear about the whole "Glenn Beck likes Muse" thing. Have you heard about this? The crazy motherfucker has apparently decided that Muse are libertarians because their new album, The Resistance, features a song called Uprising, which calls for, yep, an uprising against the government. I know what you're thinking. Glenn Beck's a libertarian? The crazy right-wingers ALWAYS say they're libertarians. It's hilarious. If you watch Fox News, you are a crazy right-winger. NOT a libertarian.

I'm guessing Glenn didn't listen to the rest of the album, or any of Muse's other albums, for that matter. Glenn even went further, pretending that a Muse spokesmodel had asked him to cease and desist. Apparently, him looking like a frothing loon is what he wants his audience to see.

I'm skeeved out by a few things here. One, that Glenn Beck thinks he's a libertarian. Two, that he completely misconstrued every lyric on Muse's album. Three, that he heard about Muse, bought the album, and listened to it. Actually, that last bit skeeves me out the most. I can't stand the thought of Muse going into Glenn Beck's ears.

God, that Lee Majors bionic hearing aid commercial freaks me the fuck out.

Next post -- sports. Just warning you.


J.J. said...

While I'm no fan of Wells, and Southland was just an okay show (if you've seen Police Story, you've pretty already seen Southland.), it's still better than what NBC kept, even discounting Leno.

I had friends working on Southland so I'm disappointed for them, but one of them says they stand a decent shot at getting picked up by TNT (even though he's hoping F/X picks them up instead).

This Leno thing (and I'd like to have his little black book) has really screwed up NBC and now they're putting on another "news" magazine show on in the Friday 9pm slot...

What's your take on the Sony announcement that they're not buying anything for the foreseeable future?

Cunningham said...

I remember back in the "golden age" where NBC just rocked it.

ER (before it gave up the ghost)


Destination television.
Talk-about media.

gareth-wilson said...

"Day One's a science fiction show, which means it's dark."
I was about to argue with this, but you're right. At least for current SF on TV. Dollhouse, FlashForward, even the Stargate show is trying to be dark these days. The closest thing to a non-dark SF show I can think of is Pushing Daisies, which didn't perform terribly well.

Michael said...

gotta say, when I read the DAY ONE pilot, my first thought was 'this feels more like a miniseries.'

L. Rob Hubb said...

NBC as a network showing dramatic shows, is DEAD - they're locked into the Leno deal for at least another year (not that I blame Leno for that... if you have to choose between working & being paid or not working & not being paid, it's a no-brainer - but Jimmy Fallon is the weak link and could've easily been booted. Conan and THE TONIGHT SHOW are NOT a good match.)

That just means I have a lot more time to catch up on my reading and DVD watching.

Actually, if NBC does end up going under as a viable network, that would certainly be the ass kicking that would shake things up again, for everyone.

Jeff said...

I must say, as much as Heroes has been terrible, the first season was great.

Kiyote said...

The only show on NBC i am watch is Trauma.

It is good TV.

Hope they don't cancel it. It is raw and awesome! Love the non-traditional actors in the roles. And the non traditional leads.

The main male lead isn't white, isnt text book pretty and is crazy. But he is HOT. The female lead is a pretty blonde - who is tortured - she isnt nice and she sleeps around alot.

Honestly - its a bit like old school ER (the early years)...but raw(er). Shocked me to actually like a show on NBC.

TL said...

Never was a huge fan of the original Star Trek, although I did like Next Generation. To be honest, Wrath of Kahn is one of the greatest sci fi movies ever made!

By the way Kay, we over at BacktoFrankBlack are dedicating the entire week of the 14th of December to the episode Midnight of the Century. WE are going to have contests, giveaways and a special panel discussion of the episode. I know you've been communicating with my other cohort Mark Hayden, but I humbly offer an invitation to join us in our discussion of the episode on our podcast. WE look to record on December 12th. Both you and Erin are invited of course. You can email me at if interested. Keep up the great blog, I enjoy reading it!