What Happened to Network Television?

There used to be a time when network television was good. Sadly, it seems that time is fading quickly. Sure, you have a few gems here and there. Take a look at Modern Family this season. It is doing quite well in the ratings and is genuinely a good show. I would argue that Modern Family is an exception to the rule as the show was created by one of TV’s most respected sitcom writers and producers, Christopher Lloyd. While it has been successful, it still falls in line with the traditional family sitcom. It isn’t groundbreaking at all. It seems nothing new and creative makes its way to network television anymore.

When you look at a couple shows that were truly original in their concept (meaning not a cop/lawyer/doctor show), they have failed. NBC’s Kings was an excellent show with excellent acting by Ian McShane. NBC barely gave it a shot. ABC could have won big with a space mystery/drama in Defying Gravity but they didn’t have faith in it and started it in the late summer and with little to no promotion. Shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad went to AMC because the networks didn’t want to risk their profit margins on new, and possibly risky, ideas. Instead, they have become a haven for reality programming, procedural dramas and spin-offs, and dance shows.

It is now getting to the point where I will not watch new shows on any of the major networks anymore for fear that I will like them and they will be canceled. The networks are too worried about their bottom line to take risks like they used to. In fact, NBC CEO Jeff Zucker has even mentioned that such an iconic show like Seinfeld would not make it in today’s TV climate based on the shows initial soft ratings. It is sad that so much creativity and originality is stifled because of the bottom line. Who knows what other Seinfelds might have been cultivated if given the opportunity to grow.

4 replies
  1. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    Wow, so true..I can hardly stand most of the highly rated ones, they rely entirely on their concept and filmography instead of the writing and character development, it’s such a tragedy. Why do people eat this stuff up?? My parents can never miss House or Lie to Me! Have the networks strategically conditioned audiences to be lazy and complacent and only want to watch predictable cop/lawyer/doctor shows lest they think too hard?

  2. shep
    shep says:

    To be fair, I do like House. While it has gotten formulaic over the years, I’m a fan of Hugh Laurie. That’s the only medical-themed show I watch.

    The less thinking you do the less likely you are to change the channel. It seems the networks are on a race towards the lowest common denominator.

  3. Matt
    Matt says:

    I did watch Kings and Defying Gravity. I thought Kings was only meant to be a mini-series as it follows the biblical story of David. Defying Gravity a lot of potential.

    I think the networks want to play it safe. Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia had offers from the major networks, but they wanted to change the format. FX wanted the show how it was. Curb your Enthusiasm is on HBO because they can get away with stuff the network won’t allow; pedophiles at Seder, pissing on Jesus.

    I do really enjoy Chuck on NBC, Mondays starting in January.

  4. shep
    shep says:

    yeah, chuck is good. I think the only reason it is still around though is because fans become very vocal when rumors of cancellation start swirling. That and NBC is desperate this year, which is why Chuck is starting back earlier than originally planned and will have 6 additional episodes..

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