Here we are leaning towards Memorial Day after most of us are getting depressed with how Mad Men is wrapping up, but the better news is that American Idol will return for its final season. Let’s face it: that one needs to be put out of its misery. American Idol had its time, but when it was at its peak, that Reality TV trend felt like it would last forever. Certainly Survivor is still going strong on network TV as well as whatever the housewives and the Kardashians are up to on the cable television networks.
Perhaps the end of ‘Idol’ is a sign of a trend towards edgy scripted programs that appear on services like Showtime, HBO, IFC, AMC, Netflix and Amazon. With that in mind, the broadcast television networks are doing what they can to keep up with shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Transparent, Bloodlines, Veep and Silicon Valley. The broadcast networks have done well with buzz-worthy shows like Scandal, Under the Dome and Blacklist, but they prove to operate under far more constraints. The exciting scripted shows like Better Call Saul take greater chances in pushing the envelope.
Lately I have been enjoying Louie on FX and excited about the return of Maron on IFC. Interestingly, Marc Maron has been urging fans on his bi-weekly podcast to get wired up for cable television to watch Maron on IFC, the Independent Film Channel. The reasoning is that Maron’s show’s success depends on its IFC ratings, not the amount of downloads or streams on the other services where the show is available for viewing.Maron is one of those programs that are also available via many providers’ on-demand services and Internet downloads and Netflix streams.
The ‘Maron example’ shows where television viewing is headed. Known as ‘over the top,’ the viewer streams at his or her choice. So, we are at a crossroads between folks subscribing to conventional wired cable television or subscribing to streaming services like Netflix or HBO Now. Even Yahoo! is getting in on the act with new episodes ofCommunity. Community was sent packing by its former network, NBC.
Some shows presented some good season-ending finales like A&E’s Bates Motel. Some shows we barely got to know with early cancellations including CBS’ Stalker and ABC’sForever. The former was a “Dylan McDermott vehicle” which offered up some riveting episodes typically ending with a haunting cover of a pop song. The latter, starring Judd Hirsch was probably a bit too clever for the average viewer.
From the ashes of cancelled show comes new programs. The broadcast network has a treasure trove of new programs in their vaults ready to unleash for the remainder of the calendar year. Premium cable network shows were not immune from the wrath of the television programming grim reaper. HBO’s Looking received the axe.
Some may perceive the new “choice trends” is that the entertainment world to be a societal liability. Just like the music world, “television choice” has become segmented. It seems that everyone has their own screens these days which means that all it takes is a person’s own Smartphone, hand-held device or television to “plug-in solo” and enjoy her or his own entertainment choice – practically 24/7. Is it a bad thing? Is that any different than people reading their own books and “losing themselves?” Well, there’s a major difference between losing oneself in a book compared to “binge viewing” a program on a streaming service.
We are all heading towards Memorial Day which means that the heat will be turning up weather-wise and on television. These days, it’s comforting to know that there will be new programming offered during the hot summer months. Not terribly long ago, the summer television season was a barren waste land of re-runs. The cultural landscape has changed bringing with it the demand for decent entertainment year-round.