Space Ramblings

Not the Trend that Succeeds but the Show

In one of the more spectacular examples of TV networks following a trend straight off a cliff, more than a half-dozen densely plotted new serial dramas failed this season.

Not since the flood of misbegotten “Friends” knockoffs of the 1990s or the turn-of-the-century “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” game-show frenzy has broadcast television been so betrayed by a genre.

Well who could have seen it coming? Except this happens every time a trend seems to hit big– networks begin frantically playing copycat and imitating it– failing to realize that it’s not the trend that succeeds but the show. An individual show represents the success not of a trend, but of a particular approach that resonates with audiences. If you try to approve enough shows to capitalize on the trend– one or more of them might succeed, but not because of the trend but usually on its own terms.

The failure to realize that keeps networks and Hollywood crippled into surges of approving imitation series and movies to capitalize on entirely imaginary trends. Rock and Roll was a trend. Dramas with complex plotlines aren’t.They’re simply an approach. The approach might succeed or fail in that particular show and work otherwise in another show. 24 done as a Friends style sitcom wouldn’t have work. Wouldn’t work the other way around either.

Daybreak failed because no one wanted to see it. Prison Break came out of the gate with a great concept– even if the show itself was mediocre. Kidnapped had a subject matter that was at the same time too trivial for twenty somethings and too disturbing for parents. Shows fail on their own. Trends only fail when networks begin to rely on them instead of relying on their talent.

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