Dramas illustrate rapid change in television - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Dramas illustrate rapid change in television

Posted: Updated:

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Creators of two of the most indelible dramas on network television last decade, "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives," are making programs for cable networks now, and they speak with the zeal of the happily converted.

"Now that we're all here together, we can definitively agree that cable is far superior to network," said Damon Lindelof, who worked on ABC's "Lost" and is making a similarly complex new program for HBO, "The Leftovers."

The changing balance of power — and how proud broadcasters are fighting back — is the subtext to meetings with television industry leaders and reporters in Pasadena this month. Nowhere is that more clear than in the field of dramas.

Once often content to air reruns, cable networks are busy establishing themselves as creators. There are 180 scripted original series on cable this year, up from 22 in 2002, said John Landgraf, FX network chief. Services like Netflix are jumping in, too.

More important than numbers is the perception that cable is the place to turn for quality. It started with "The Sopranos," and continues with awards and critical attention showered on the likes of "Mad Men," ''Homeland" and "Breaking Bad." The idea is reinforced when many of television's key creative minds argue that cable is the place to be.

Marc Cherry, creator of "Desperate Housewives," said that making the soap "Devious Maids" for Lifetime "has been just a joyous creative experience." To be fair, Cherry took "Devious Maids" to ABC first and was rejected. Now he revels in the creative freedom, saying he gets less second-guessing.

Cherry said he has more time to work on the writing, and can include more intricate details. After acknowledging now that he went into the critically drubbed second season of "Desperate Housewives" with no plan, he learned he needs to have an idea of what will happen in a second season before beginning the first.

Cable offers a measure of security that broadcasters, with more intense commercial pressures, can't match. A cable series is rarely canceled in the middle of a season.

The grind of a typical broadcast schedule, requiring some 22 episodes a year, also wears on creators — particularly now that they see an alternative. Most cable "seasons" are half that, or less. That improves quality, Lindelof said.

"You're not needing to fill weeks of story that are non-essential," he said. "So, hopefully, every episode of 'The Leftovers' will feel like it needs to exist versus it's just this very kind of fibrous bridge that exists between two essential episodes which all of us as TV fans, you know, really find incredibly frustrating to watch."

Before one conference last week, producers of several CBS dramas admitted grumbling backstage about their workload.

"That's an insatiable appetite," said Jonathan Nolan, "Person of Interest" executive producer, "which is a great thing that the audience wants more of what you're making, but it is very difficult. I feel like that number is probably calibrated ... not to the length of the season or production schedules, but to the exact point at which a showrunner (producer) will have a nervous breakdown."

What Nolan finds exciting about being on CBS is the immediacy, writing a scene and seeing it on the air a few weeks later.

It's not like broadcasters are bereft. CBS' "The Good Wife," NBC's "The Blacklist" and ABC's "Scandal" are popular and creatively strong. Broadcasters still have a reach that cable networks can't match. Television's most popular show, "NCIS" on CBS, has roughly 20 million viewers for each new episode, twice as much as AMC's buzz worthy "The Walking Dead."

"It's a privilege to reach an audience the size that we're able to reach in broadcast," said "NCIS" executive producer Gary Glasberg. "The fact that we're in our 11th season and we have the viewership that we do, 18 million Facebook fans, that's crazy. And, you know, that's because I'm on broadcast."

Networks are now looking for more limited-run series. Over the past year, CBS, NBC and Fox have each assigned executives to look specifically for these types of projects. Veteran producer Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, successful with "The Bible" miniseries on History last year, signed with CBS to adapt "The Dovekeepers" to television for a miniseries.

Kevin Reilly, Fox entertainment president, said he's doing away with broadcast's traditional pilot season, where networks make test episodes of dozens of prospective series and choose among them during a furious couple of weeks in the spring. That's a nod to cable: Reilly wants to take more time developing series to work out kinks and have a better idea of how it will work.

Not everyone fully agrees with him, but change is in the air.

___

David Bauder can be reached at dbauder@ap.org or on www.twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Entertainment NewsEntertainment NewsMore>>

  • Get ready for 'Bongzilla,' selfie frenzy at Vegas pot museum

    Get ready for 'Bongzilla,' selfie frenzy at Vegas pot museum

    Thursday, September 20 2018 2:28 AM EDT2018-09-20 06:28:05 GMT
    Monday, September 24 2018 1:25 PM EDT2018-09-24 17:25:18 GMT
    (AP Photo/John Locher). In this Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 photo, Gabe Williams works on a exhibit at the Cannabition cannabis museum in Las Vegas. The museum celebrating all things cannabis with displays that include a glass bong taller than a giraffe an...(AP Photo/John Locher). In this Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 photo, Gabe Williams works on a exhibit at the Cannabition cannabis museum in Las Vegas. The museum celebrating all things cannabis with displays that include a glass bong taller than a giraffe an...
    A museum celebrating all things cannabis with displays that include a glass bong taller than a giraffe and huggable faux marijuana plants is the newest tourist attraction in Las Vegas. 
    A museum celebrating all things cannabis with displays that include a glass bong taller than a giraffe and huggable faux marijuana plants is the newest tourist attraction in Las Vegas. 
  • 'House With a Clock in Its Walls' ticks to No. 1 in theaters

    'House With a Clock in Its Walls' ticks to No. 1 in theaters

    Sunday, September 23 2018 12:11 PM EDT2018-09-23 16:11:17 GMT
    Monday, September 24 2018 12:23 PM EDT2018-09-24 16:23:41 GMT
    (Quantrell D. Colbert/Universal Pictures via AP). This image released by Universal Pictures shows Jack Black, from left, Owen Vaccaro and Cate Blanchett in a scene from "The House With A Clock in Its Walls."(Quantrell D. Colbert/Universal Pictures via AP). This image released by Universal Pictures shows Jack Black, from left, Owen Vaccaro and Cate Blanchett in a scene from "The House With A Clock in Its Walls."
    The gothic family fantasy "A House With a Clock in Its Walls" exceeded expectations to debut with an estimated $26.9 million in ticket sales at the weekend box office. 
    The gothic family fantasy "A House With a Clock in Its Walls" exceeded expectations to debut with an estimated $26.9 million in ticket sales at the weekend box office. 
  • Could you spend 30 hours in a coffin?

    Could you spend 30 hours in a coffin?

    Sunday, September 23 2018 8:04 PM EDT2018-09-24 00:04:56 GMT

    Could you spend 30 hours in a coffin? Fright Fest at Six Flags St. Louis is ramping up the spooks this Halloween season with a contest that’s ‘to die for’—a 30-hour Coffin Challenge to celebrate 30 years of screams.

     

    Could you spend 30 hours in a coffin? Fright Fest at Six Flags St. Louis is ramping up the spooks this Halloween season with a contest that’s ‘to die for’—a 30-hour Coffin Challenge to celebrate 30 years of screams.

     
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 KFMB-TV. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.