The premature eulogy for complexity
At the Convergence Culture Consortium blog, Sam Ford highlights some key points about a recent New York Times article decrying the ratings failures of serialized dramas in this year’s TV season. Sam hits the key flaws in the article, but I wanted to add a bit more.
It’s a very common cycle throughout television history for an innovation to inspire imitations, which then leads to saturation and the press & industry denouncing the trend as “played out.” But most shows fail, whether in terms of creative merit, actual popularity, or ratings failing to measure viewer interest. The fact that a number of new hit shows are clear examples of complexity (Heroes & Jericho as the most pronounced, but I think 30 Rock and Ugly Betty are playing with complexity without hyper-serialization, as I discuss in my recent article) doesn’t seem to matter in the face of all the canceled serials. But what about the canceled generic sitcoms, procedurals, and quiz shows? Are those formats dead too?
The lesson is to be skeptical of any buzz about failed formats and dead genres. In the early-80s, the press held funerals for the sitcom. One year later, The Cosby Show was the #1 show on TV, and NBC had a dominant Thursday night lineup of classic sitcoms. So don’t be surprised if the next big hit is a serialized drama and everyone shifts to talking about how audiences love ongoing stories!
Filed under: Narrative, TV Shows | 4 Comments