Thursday, June 4, 2009

R.I.P. NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox

The "Summer Preview" issue of TV Guide is out. In the old days, summer meant nothing but reruns. But TV Guide lists 52 of the "hottest shows" coming out this summer. The magazine lists 35 scripted shows and 17 reality shows. Of the 35 scripted shows, only three are on a major network, and all three belong to NBC: "Merlin," the adventures of the legendary sorceror as a young man, "The Listener," about a paramedic who can read minds, and "The Philanthropist," about a suave billionare adventurer, who, you guessed it, tries to do good deeds involving his money. I hope they're better then they sound. That leaves 32 scripted shows on cable channels out of the 35 that TV Guide believes deserve recognition - shows like TNT's "The Closer" and "Leverage," and AMC's "Mad Men." Other shows mentioned are on channels like Lifetime, the Sci Fi Channel, USA, HBO, and even the Cartoon Network, which is coming out with "Total Drama Action," an animated satire of reality shows like "Survivor." In its list of 52 hottest shows, TV Guide lists 17 reality shows. Seven of them are on major broadcast channels - shows like NBC's "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!" and CBS's "Big Brother 11." Cable has its share of reality shows - Bravo's "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" is going into its 5th season - but the lack of scripted shows on the major networks is what is driving the best writers and actors to turn to cable. Stars like Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer") and Timothy Hutton ("Leverage") are on TNT. Mary-Louise Parker stars on Showtime's "Weeds," and she will be joined this season by guest star Jennifer Jason Leigh, who's playing her estranged sister. The star-power continues on cable as the new show "Dark Blue" comes to TNT starring Dylan McDermott and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, one of the most successful movie and TV producers on the planet. When Jay Leno comes to NBC in the fall, another five hours of scripted shows go with it, so look to cable for quality programming that involves writers and actors - as opposed to talk shows, game shows, talent shows, and other types of reality shows where regular people make fools of themselves at a very low cost. The major networks will be saving money in the short-run by programming cheap reality shows and dropping shows that are expensive to produce. But they will pay for it in the end, when viewers discover cable and never come back. NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox - rest in peace.


  1. In the olden days, NBC, CBS, and ABC went off the air at 1 a.m. by playing the "Star Spangled Banner" over jets flying in a patriotic V-formation, leaving contrails in their path. After that, the Indian Head test pattern stared at us, unblinking, until the networks returned the next morning. Apparently, we have come full circle.

  2. It looks like you were right.