UPDATE: Most of the buzzed about premieres have debuted about in-line or below expectations, including The Event and Running Wilde; Lone Star was by all accounts a failure. Meanwhile, early ratings for Boardwalk Empire were quite strong for HBO, which has already renewed it. Undercovers had a mediocre start.
ORIGINAL: It’s “premiere week” for the Big Four! This is usually an exciting time for TV fans. Television series are blessed with the gloss of the new; hope is in the air!
So it’s telling how HBO’s Sopranos follow-up, Boardwalk Empire, stole the buzz leading up to this week, even as NBC breathlessly promoted their Event. It’s yet another example of how the “big four” have now become at least ten in scripted market, as HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX, TNT, even Starz churn out quality primetime TV.
For years conventional wisdom has been telling us broadcasters can’t compete for buzzworthy shows. Usually I’d say that’s simplistic. But looking at my list of must-sees, I’d say the truism rings true. Sure, I’ll watch The Event, with its mysterious marketing, and Undercovers, with its feverish pace and daring “post-racial” duo. Lone Star, Running Wilde, My Generation, Outsourced, $#*! My Dad Says and others will all get my attention for various reasons, but I can hardly say they have me pumped.
If “premiere week” has really lost its fire, the networks can’t shoulder all the blame.
For the full post and an original video, go to In Media Res.
For an example of my argument, take the image to the left, from Metacritic, of the highest rated (by critics) shows currently on television. The top ten features only two broadcast shows — Boston Med, a summer show, and Glee. Fox’s Rasing Hope and Lone Star and NBC’s The Event round out the network’s choices. Networks that make much fewer original scripted programming, like AMC and FX, make rather strong showings.
If the big four want to own premiere week, which I think might be a losing battle, they might need to invest — as NBC is — in creating more ambitious and buzzworthy shows.