Monday, May 11, 2009

TV Time: What Televison Needs Right Now, Or How a Small Screen "Little Women" Will Fix Everything...

Alright, we'll get to the "Little Women" (above) reference in a minute. First, we have to talk about the state of American television. And that state is like California now, not good. Overall viewership is way down, this season only featured one new hit "The Mentalist" (which I am very surprised about) , and I expect when the new fall seasons for all the big broadcast networks are released in the summer, expect many of your favorite shows to be gone.

Yeah, I know. Not good. True the cable networks are picking up a lot of the slack (I cannot wait for "Mad Men" in August!) but a ton of our favorite shows still come from the networks and when they aren't doing good, neither are we, or me because I'm the only one that follows this stuff this close.

As we previously discussed, Jay Leno (right) is going to have a Monday through Friday show on NBC at 10 PM, simply because he's cheaper than programming a drama or comedy in the same spot.

Whether or not the project works or not (I think it could work but it'll surely siphon viewers away from a Conan O'Brien-hosted "Tonight Show"), that means five hours less network time for dramatic shows than we had in the past. Plus more Jay Leno. Ugh.

To top all this nonsense off, the dramas that the networks are introducing are either new cop shows, new medical shows, and new, the first two I said, because they are the only ones that people seem to actually watch week after week. But even those tried and true formulas aren't pulling viewers in droves anymore. My fave of the new breed "Southland" may have been picked up for a second season thank God, but it's ratings dropped each of the weeks that it's been on air.

Because network executives are basically idiots with really nice offices and big paychecks, the other tactic they have for getting viewers back to the small screen is to spin-off old shows. Like we discussed with Broadway musicals turning into movies, the logic is that if we already know the characters from another show or the show was popular in the past, viewers will be more likely to tune into the new show.

Case in point: "90210" (below).

Not only is the new "90210" technically a spin-off of the original "Beverly Hills: 90210" from the 90s, but the producers are now considering taking characters from that show to create a new "Melrose Place," which the original show was a spin-off of the old "90210". Did that make sense?

Plus the desperate CW network is also spinning off the gawdawful "Gossip Girl" with another show because we all really, really needed it. Overall, the thing I think is so ridonk about all this nonsense is that none of these machinations guarantees that anyone is gonna watch the new show.

As much as I love "Private Practice" (above), the "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off on ABC, and it's doing fairly well, it still doesn't get the ratings of its parent show. It never will. And the reason it doesn't is why I opened the post discussing "Little Women."

The nets need to understand that carbon copies of old shows and boring procedural dramas will never get viewers like "M.A.S.H." or "Friends" or any classic show because people only tune into shows in huge numbers when something's on the line. When you've loved characters in absorbing situations that compel you to tune in weekly to see if your people get closer to their goal.

That's why a small screen version of "Little Women" (below) will fix everything!

I'll explain.

I recently watched the 1994 version of the Louisa May Alcott story with Winona Ryder and thought "not only is this a great movie, it would be a fantastic show!"

The story is wholesome so it would attract a wide variety of viewers, it depicts the Civil War era with the costumes and customs that many find romantic, and the characters are very strong: every person considers themselves either a Jo, Meg, Beth, or Amy.

Plus, the story is so well known that many girls treat it with the same fandom than many treat Jane Austen's novels and all the subsequent television miniseries created for them (including the one when Colin Firth took off his shirt).

And to get people to tune in even if they already know the story, they could stretch it by adding new storylines, stretching the timeline, etc. I mean wouldn't you tune in every week to see some sh!t like this:

C'mon TV execs! People need television they can be swept up in! TV that takes them away and makes them imagine worlds they could never visit with people they could never meet! A "Little Women" TV show could have all this...


People would watch in droves!

Now if we're not going to actually buy an interesting script from a new writer and actually give it money to put it on the air and not cancel it after two episodes, I think a "Little Women" TV show is the next best option. Certainly better than all these spin-offs and talk shows. But if "Little Women" isn't your thing, what other piece of entertainment would you give the TV treatment?

It can be a movie, book, play, anything? Let me (and the TV big shots) know!


C. Paul Keller said...

Junior, this is why you need to be a TV exec. Seriously, Little Women is like a 19th century Friends or Grey's Anatomy. The whole will they/won't they of Laurie and Jo could be milked even more in a weekly drama, and it will a shocker for non-readers to discover the path of that relationship. Esp with actors that have a much chemistry as Winona Ryder and Christian Bale. But can we get Susan Sarandon back to play Marmee? I can't see anyone else in the role.

Oh, and I'm totally a Meg. I always pretend I'm a Jo, but I'm really too prim and proper underneath it all. I have three sisters, the youngest one is an Amy, the middle one is a Beth and the oldest one is a Jo.

Dani. said...

I LOVE YOUR IDEA. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. *squee* It's like Dr. Quinn Medicine Women...but BETTER. I'm squeeing at the gentle angst of it all.

I've also thought in the back of my mind that a good idea of a show would be a fictional "what happened after" say Pride and Prejudice after they got married. Or The Secret Garden with the kids grown up. The potential is exhilerating.

I think maybe this ties to our secret yearning for relationships that are more subtle and nuanced then what we see on tv now.

C. Paul Keller said...

OMG, Dani! You have totally inspired me, I am writing the pilot for Pride & Prejudice: Mrs & Mrs Darcy as we speak. It'll only work if Colin Firth agrees to reprise his role as Darcy. I would die, I would just die. I've read some of the "sequels" to the P&P story, and some are totally sh!t, but on screen I think it would be awesomeness personified...

Didn't they do a sequel series to Black Beauty once? It was in syndication or something. It was stupid, but in a good way.

Junior said...

YEAH! I'm so glad people would be into a small screen "Little Women"! Now all I have to do is write a script, get financing, shoot a pilot, and sell it to a network. That should take what? Three weeks.

Hi Paul! That's so cute that you've thought out who you and your sisters would be in "Women" land! I, clearly, am a Jo with a little Amy and actually a little Meg. And ooh, I am so there for your "Pride & Prejudice" sequel! I don't know why people don't think of these ideas! They're just sitting there waiting for someone to do them!

Hi Dani! "Dr. QUINN"! I LOVED that show! You hit the nail on the head. I see "Little Women" as a "Dr. Quinn" style series with girls swooning over Laurie and people falling in love with the setting. Plus, we could tackle US history and important issues.

It would so work! Um, let me get on that!

Hi Dani!

Dani said...

We are all freaking geniuses. Joanne and I have these discussions often. We yearn for gentler times

Hi Junior!

joanna-mcgowan said...

From one Jo to another, I love your rant about the state of television programming these days!

I mean, there's a reason why I'm a rerun junkie.... (hello, Little House on the Prairie, Quantum Leap, and Golden girls, lol).

And yeah, I too miss Dr. Quinn. (I especially miss Joe Lando's Sully.... mmm).

But I digress. Please bring back quality TV, Junior! :)

Junior said...

Dani! I know what you mean. But I feel like TV can get back there, they just have to give up these ideas they think will work and go back to the good old days!

Hi Joanna! You really are a Jo! So lucky. I guess I'm Ju, I guess! Oh Sully! Sully, Sully, Sully... How I longed to run my fingers through that hair! But enough about that.

Glad you put up with my rant. Sometimes I don't know what these TV execs are thinking!