Why That $100 Monthly Cable Television Bill Is Increasingly a Better Value than Free Network Television
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Why That $100 Monthly Cable Television Bill Is Increasingly a Better Value than Free Network Television

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | March 4, 2013 | Comments ()


We've all been rueing the dearth of quality network television programs for years now, but the future critics and pundits have been portending since the premieres of "The Sopranos," "The Shield," and "Six Feet Under" has arrived. Network television is not dead, but it's not really relevant anymore. Millions of people still tune into "NCIS," "American Idol," "Modern Family," and "Big Bang Theory," but water cooler programming has become virtually the exclusive domain of cable now. As someone who reads a lot of cultural commentary, recaps, and post-episode analysis, there are essentially three remaining network shows -- two sitcoms and a drama -- that provoke consistent discussion on this site and other like-minded ones: NBC's "Parks and Recreation," Fox's "New Girl" and the growing support of ABC's "Scandal."

Yes, "Community" still fosters some discussion, but mostly about how bad it has become. "30 Rock" is gone. "The Office" is in its last season. "Happy Endings" has been banished to Friday and is on its way out. Most of the talk around "The Mindy Project" is whether it's considered good enough to watch now, while a few of the last remaining great shows on network television -- "Raising Hope," "Suburgatory," "The Good Wife," and "Parenthood" -- are mostly ignored by critics, save for the occasional "The Best Show You're Not Watching" Piece (seriously, though: "Raising Hope" may be the best sitcom you're not watching).

I realized late last week when the spring rerun season arrived -- two to three weeks when most network shows take some time off -- that I'm not really going to miss the lack of first runs, except for a very small number of shows. It's something of a relief to be able to put all of our focus on the more culturally relevant shows like "Justified," "The Americans," "The Walking Dead," "Shameless," "Girls," and maybe this new show on the History Channe, "The Vikings," plus the impending arrival of "Game of Thrones," and "Mad Men." Those are the shows we're going to be talking about. Most of the discussion will be positive, and either be issue-based or character-based, rather ratings-based or "Look how far this show has fallen."

Look around. Take stock. Consider it: Take last year's "New Girl" out of the equation, and ask yourself when was the last time networks premiered a show that 1) you cared about and that 2) hasn't been cancelled ("Don't Trust the B," "Ben and Kate,"), or soon will be cancelled? ("Happy Endings")? How excited are you, really, to watch the latest "How I Met Your Mother"? "The Office" is a chore, not a delight. "Modern Family" is amiable and likable, but hardly discussion worthy. Only ABC's "Scandal" fits that description for me, and I don't suspect it will be able to keep it up for much longer, although I hope I'm wrong.

NBC gets most of the flak these days for its interminably bad ratings, but consider the shows on the other networks that keep them from sinking to the same lows: "Two and a Half Men," "Mike and Molly," "2 Broke Girls," "Dancing with the Stars," "The Bachelor," "American Idol," "The Simon Cowell American Idol," "Survivor," "Big Bang Theory," and "The Following." I mean, who honestly gives a sh*t about those shows, or NBC's one hit this season, "Revolution" or last, "The Voice"? Does anyone feel passionate about "2 Broke Girls"? The highest rated show on NBC right now is "Saturday Night Live," which isn't even on primetime. But good, bad or Bieber levels of awful, it's at least a show we talk about.

The networks have ceased to make anything interesting or lasting. In their efforts to appeal to the broadest possible demographic, they've alienated practically everyone besides the most casual television viewer. The networks have the best infrastructure in place to grab 20 million viewers, bu they'll never do it because they're trying too hard to do so. You cannot focus-test your way to another "Seinfeld" or "Cheers." You've got to create something unique. There's nearly 75 hours of primetime programming on the Big Four each week, and about 70 of those hours I could give or take. The 13 hours I spent on Netflix's "House of Cards" in one weekend was nearly as much time that I spent enjoyingnetwork television over the course of nearly a month. I get more out of ABC Family -- a cable network targeted at young females -- than I do out of NBC. I'd pay $20 a month for FX before I paid $2 a month for CBS.

There are over 100 pilots in development for next year's slate of network programming, but having read the plot descriptions and the talent involved in most of them, it looks like more of the same: Broad comedies about groups of friends or single parents, fairy-tale dramas, legal shows and high-concept procedurals. Nothing great. Nothing lasting.

Cord cutting -- giving up cable and relying on Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes for our programming needs -- is very trendy now, but ironically, it's those shows that are harder to get without cable that I'm more interested in. I pay $12 a month for HBO, and it's worth every goddamn cent. I pay over $100 a month for FX, AMC, and the right to purchase HBO and Showtime, and it's practically a better value than the four free network channels. The industry is turning upside down: It's those lower-rated, quality niche programs that we're willing to pay for, but hardly anyone would be willing to pay for what is being spoonfed to us nightly on ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS.

You truly do get what you pay for.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • e jerry powell

    I admit, "The Voice" kind of sucked me in for a while, but, like a petulant teen, I kind of gave it up this past season when all the fangirls tossed Amanda Brown and anointed the inexcusably bland Cassadee (yick) Pope The Chosen One. I'm kind of off-trend with everything else, really. I need to catch up on Shameless, House of Lies just got interesting this past Sunday, I'm a complete Gladiator, so Thursday nights are already mapped out, but other than that, prime time is something I view as a near-total wasteland. I'm waiting for another Damages to come along, really, and though Scandal's not quite it, it'll do for now. Oh, and RuPaul's Drag Race/Drag U.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    I've got give some love to Banshee. The lead male character apparently went to the William Shatner school of acting - over - acting. But the show has some interesting characters, moral quandaries, and good old-fashioned passion.

  • FireLizardQueen

    I dunno about where you live but in my major metropolitan area cable is a lot more expensive than $100. When I had internet, full cable (expanded to include encore, BBC America, etc.) HBO, and DVR I was paying $180 a month. I killed everything except basic cable (which includes AMC and FX) and internet and I now pay $100 plus the $20 for Netflix and Hulu. I borrow my parents' login for HBOGo. It's still cheaper.

  • babykangarootribbiani

    there are almost no shows on network TV that i;m not ashamed to admit that i watch. inexplicably, i tune in to glee every week to see how bad it can get, but would tell anyone i stopped watching it when most of them graduated (and thus would have no idea ryan murphy has so few ideas that despite graduating, they all hang around their high school every other week). modern family is like a current, less narmy of full house, in which they get older and the story moves forward, but the show has become a rocking chair, it does something but it doesn;t really go anywhere. meanwhile, mad men is completely captivating and almost nobody i know watches it. a girl in my women;s studies class used it as an example in a presentation, despite admitting she;d never seen it (which was obvious, she showed a picture of joan, peggy and betty and said that none of them had jobs) and girls like this sit around the lounge gossiping about revenge (the show, not the concept, as far as i know). mad men is one of the best written shows on television today and there is truly nothing else out there like it. and then there;s how i met your mother, the biggest chore to watch if ever there were one, and i know people who cancelled their cable and are content to watch HIMYM and two and a half men. for my money, i;d take mad men and the walking dead over modern family any day of the week.

  • LordTomHulce

    Parenthood, tho. And Parks and Recreation. I'm not sure that sweet shows like those 2 get made on cable. It's like the opposite double feature of Sons of Anarchy and It's Always Sunny . . . which are pretty typical cable shows. Cable tv = we can say shit instead of poop, so we do. All the time.

  • Mr_Zito

    I've been seeing a lot of mentions of how SNL is the biggest rating at NBC, and I keep thinking about how this news is being treated internally. I'm sure there's talk at NBC of some kind of dreadful SNL spin-off at primetime.

  • Ash

    Not the point of the article, but I thought Happy Endings was already cancelled and I'm really glad it's not (yet).
    Stop watching Modern Family and get in on this, America.

  • We were going to ditch cable and go the Netflix/hulu route. Then Game of Thrones happened. But if it weren't for AMC and HBO I wouldn't blink about ditching cable. When EW comes out with their inevitable "new fall preview" the show concepts are so lame that even the brief paragraph telegraphs how uninteresting and quickly cancelled it will be. Time traveling cops and toxic bachelor lawyers. *snore*

  • Two ways to look at this, both of them ultimately lead to a hard truth for cable distribution business - until customers come first and can select and pay for what they want, when they want it, you're operating a business that is dying. While you may stay alive on life support for a long time, your soul has left your body. It'll come through legal challenges to franchise monopolies, advertisers moving to embrace new models, or more in a more subtle way, where on-demand streaming happens immediately much more consistently. For you, cable operators who hate customers, winter is coming. Yes, it is coming.

  • LibraryChick

    For you, cable operators who hate customers, winter is coming. Yes, it is coming.

    It's true. My cousins in the Philippines have better cable options than I do, at least being able to select desired channels on an a la carte basis. In the U.S. my friends with Roku are the happiest because they can access HuluPlus and Netflix on their TV while also purchasing access to select channels or specials as they choose. (It's also without the hassle of telecommunications taxes.) Even the Baby Boomers are starting to figure out it's cheaper to drop cable and borrow DVDs of their favorite older shows through their libraries (or through interlibrary loan). I know my parents would probably drop cable if not for TCM and AMC.

  • I would HAPPILY drop the cable bill in favor of online viewing or streaming, but the wife is addicted (addicted, I say!) to fix-it shows on DIY and HGTV.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    ugh, but there aren't even any *good* fix-it shows any more. I miss Trading Spaces and that throw-everything-away-and-organize show my boyfriend at the time used to threaten me with.

  • Ariel

    I loved FX, AMC, HBO, etc. but I cut the cord with cable because all the rest of the crap that I didn't want, didn't watch, and was sick of paying for. With Hulu and Netflix streaming through my Apple TV, I *am* bemoaning the fact that I miss some of my favorite shows (Girls, Mad Men, and True Blood come to mind), but it'd be supercrazy expensive to buy a season pass for each of them from iTunes.... Instead I watch what I can, avoid reading blogs that talk about the current season, and spend my time doing more reading. Which isn't the end of the world ANYWAY.....

  • Slash

    Why do you continue to discuss this as if there is still much difference between "broadcast" (ie, "free" TV) and cable? They're owned by the same people.

    Sumner Redstone owns CBS, Viacom (MTV, etc.) and Showtime. Time Warner owns HBO, Cinemax, TNT, TBS, the CW, CNN. Comcast now has majority ownership of NBCUniversal, meaning it also has majority ownership of Telemundo, Bravo, USA, Sundance Channel. It's not coincidence that two of those blobs of programming are owned by cable companies.

    Also, "free" TV isn't really free. We pay for it by watching commercials. Of which there are plenty on cable TV as well.

    I mean, I get what you're saying, kind of. But that doesn't mean cable is all that great. It just means that the good TV is parceled out to more places, many of which can't be accessed (legally) outside the pay TV system. I have basic cable. And it's now $80 a month. Was about $70 last year. It did not get $10 better in quality or quantity, that's for fucking sure.

  • QueeferSutherland

    It's a fair point that all the coins eventually flow into the same coffers. But for most, there's still a tangible, non-fiscal distinction between FX and Fox, CNN and HBO. Cable's drecks are probalby far worse than anything offered up by network television, but its highs surpass the networks' best rather easily anymore. I can't even think of the last network show -- or season of a network show -- that I'd put on par with the current cream of the cable crop.

  • NateMan

    Everyone should be watching Raising Hope. Funny, sweet, and incredibly well casted. Best funny show on TV right now, bar none.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I'm curious about the Nielsen ratings. Most people acknowledge that they are broken, right? The people that are really hurt by the inaccuracy of the Nielsen's aren't the networks, or the Nielsen people, or even really us. Aren't the advertisers the one's that suffer most from the faulty data collected by Nielsen? Why has there been no push by the people footing the bill to address the changing marketplace and give them an accurate portrayal of consumer patterns/habits?

  • Kristy Evans

    There has been push back, but Nielsen is a monopoly, because the expense of implementing a new measurement tool is prohibitive. However, recently Nielsen finally agreed to consider Internet-only homes as "TV homes" as well as measuring second-screen (i.e. tablets and laptops) viewing, so there will be more accurate reporting to come.

  • lowercase_ryan

    They are also pretty damn corrupt.


  • "Look around. Take stock. Consider it: Take last year’s “New Girl” out of the equation, and ask yourself when was the last time networks premiered a show that 1) you cared about and that 2) hasn’t been cancelled (“Don’t Trust the B,” “Ben and Kate,”), or soon will be cancelled? "

    "Person of Interest"

  • $2786243

    It took a while to get there, but THIS SHOW.

  • DataAngel

    Take last year’s “New Girl” out of the equation, and ask yourself when was the last time networks premiered a show that 1) you cared about

    Elementary. And while it's not the best thing I've ever seen, it's currently the only show I watch. Although with Grimm coming back, that'll bring my count up to two.

    When's the last time a cable channel premiered a show I cared about? Never.

  • QueeferSutherland

    There are no cable shows you care about, now or in the past? Methinks you wouldn't comment here if that is truly the case.

  • DataAngel

    Only if you count Doctor Who. There's a no internet, no phone, no phone calls policy for that one. Sure there's other stuff I watch, but not with any actual dedication or fear of cancellation. I read and comment here because it's the only way I can understand what everyone else in the real world is talking about.

  • Our Tivo box just died (damnit) and a replacement is coming in the mail. We had lots of clutter on our "season pass" - I can think of about 6 shows I'll bother to setup to record on the new box. 3 are on HBO.

  • John W

    I blame children. It's because of them that shows like Mad Men and The Walking Dead end up on cable.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    because L&O SVU, NYPD Blue, The Good Wife and Criminal Minds are so afraid to be adult? (I'm not even talking quality, just subject matter)

  • QueeferSutherland

    Nah. Networks don't avoid sex and violence because of some quaint devotion to children's innocence. Hell, their crap procedurals have just as much objectionable content as anything on standard cable. I watched Red Widow last night with the wifey. Fifteen minutes into the pilot (9:15 ET/6:15 PT), the male protagonist has a lengthy sex scene with Rhada Mitchell (which, good for him bc she's hot). 60 seconds later he's gunned down in the driveway right in front of his 8-year-old kid. This is ABC, not FX or AMC.

    Side note on Red Widow -- unique premise, prime time slot, decent pedigree. That all added up to the second-worst premiere numbers in ABC history. The worst? Zero Hour, another unique high-concept show with a prime time slot. This is what happens when you degrade a brand -- savvy TV viewers won't give your outside-the-box offerings a chance, and your core viewership runs away in droves because it's not a cop/doctor/lawyer/reality show.

  • PDamian

    I don't blame children. I do blame their would-be champions, foaming at the mouth about family values and protecting the sweet lil' innocents from stray nipples and the odd Zou Bisou Bisou. Remember the good ol' days, when it was understood that certain programming was not for children, and it was your own damn responsibility to get the kiddies out of the TV room by 8 or 9 pm so the adults could sit and enjoy? I'm just old enough to remember when local TV stations would play little 30-second cartoons of children in pajamas marching off to brush their teeth and get into bed, and my mom would hustle me and my sisters out of the living room the minute the cartoon was over so she and my father could watch "All in the Family" in peace. (I used to sneak out of bed so I could watch "Creature Features" at 11 pm, but that's another story.) Now, it seems that certain public interest groups have decided that people can't be trusted to keep the kids away from the heavy-duty stuff (and many can't, but that too is another story), so the networks should do it for us by serving up only the most innocuous and unobjectionable pablum "entertainment." Urgh.

  • NateMan

    Untrue. It's the fault of stuck-up, hypocritical, closeted parents afraid sex and violence will ruin their kids. As though kids don't deal with violence from the first time they get knocked down on the playground.

    Also, kids fucking LOVE zombies. They'd be all over that shit.

  • birdgal

    My kids (7&4) love the fuck out of some zombies, but there's no way in hell they're watching something like the Walking Dead. I certainly don't think I'm a stuck up parent either--it's called boundaries and common sense. Sadly, there's a sore lack of both of those things in our culture right now.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    I'm with you on this - I can barely take the Walking Dead. That show should come with a prescription for anti-depressants.

  • NateMan

    Well, yes. It should be up to parents to make that call. You're right there. But there's lots of kids who are old enough to handle it, and with whom things like sex and violence should be discussed, rather than just sheltered from it.

  • Alice

    House of Cards is riveting! I've only seen the first three episodes, but really looking forward to four tonight. I wish I had the time to marathon tv watch, but I don't. It some ways, watching shows more episodically is more rewarding. You get a chance to digest what you've seen.

  • Tom

    The main thing keeping me with cable is watching live sports. If not for that, I could justify getting rid of it and waiting a day or two to steal the latest episode of a tv show.

    At the beginning of this network tv season, it occurred to me 4 of the 5 network tv shows I watch could be done after this season. 30 Rock and The Office were goners for sure and How I Met Your Mother reasonably should have decided to end this year while Parks and Recreation has been on shaky ground for the past couple years. Even if that came to pass, I still would have been left with New Girl, but for some reason the idea of those 4 shows simultaneously disappearing felt good.

    The structure and the pacing of a 22 or 24 episode network tv schedule has been bothering me in recent years. Particularly when contrasted with the cable structure. Watching a 12 episode season of a cable show feels much more cohesive and satisfying. I guess this is the natural result of having no filler or weeks off between episodes. I think really what it comes down to is that the seasonal network model is solely based on filling up a year with programming and creating inventory for syndication. There are 22-24 episodes in a season because that's how many weeks there are to fill with programming. Once you see a tv season presented in the cable structure it gives you a distaste for the network structure and makes you realize that the network structure only exists for monetary reasons.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I'm mostly with you (though of course it shouldn't shock or appall that businesses exist for monetary reasons), but the cable shows you're talking about are dramas, vs the network shows which are sitcoms. I don't think the episode count of a sitcom matters as much.

    My roommate doesn't watch Colbert or Daily Show, but I showed her a bit this week where the intern is re-named Halls. That one moment was so funny, and so well-played - and it's indicative of the clever writing and really excellent comedic timing they display on a regular basis. And I asked - why can't networks do this? Why can't SNL manage this - with one week to put a show together, how come they can't manage one skit as funny as anything on Colbert or Daily Show?

  • Tom

    Haha no, I don't mean to appear shocked or appalled that a tv network would make decisions based on money. That's their job. The cable shows I watch these days are Veep, Girls, Game of Thrones, Shameless and It's Always Sunny so I think that's a pretty broad sample.

    I've been thinking that The Daily Show and Colbert Report must have been siphoning potential SNL performers and writers for years. It's inevitable that some people who would have otherwise been on SNL have ended up on Comedy Central in the last 10-15 years. That must not have been good for SNL. It has been great for The Daily Show and Colbert Report. Those are both can't miss shows for me.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I was thinking of Girls (though not sure it counts as a sitcom) but did forget Veep - that one is fantastic...

  • ,

    "Those are the shows we’re going to be talking about."

    What you mean "we"? What are the actual audience numbers for these shows? Because my guess is there are at least 300 million people who aren't watching or talking about those shows either because they don't care or they're damned if they're going to blow $100+ a month on TV (if they have it to blow). Seems to me sometimes like this is the new eliteism, for people who don't have enough money to park a Lamborghini in the driveway, it's "I have the top tier cable and you don't." Don't get me wrong, I guess I'm glad these shows are out there and I'm glad, I guess, that you're bringing attention to them if you think they're quality TV, but try not to make the rest of us feel like losers if we choose to spend our money on beer instead.

    "The 13 hours I spent on Netflix’s “House of Cards” in one weekend"

    Wait a second ... don't you have three little kids and a wife in your house? My kid is grown up and gone; it's just me and Mrs. ,. Even so, I can't fathom, not even a tiny bit, sitting in front of the TV (or however you watched it) for 13 freakin' hours in a weekend. I just can't. I can't think of anythign that would engross me for so long my ass would go numb. But besides that, I'm asking seriously: Where did you find the fucking time?

    Oh, BTW, I agree that network TV is mostly a wasteland, but I work evenings, five nights a week, so that doesn't affect me much. If there's nothing worth watching the other two days, I pick up magazine or a book or my Nook, or have sex or something.

  • pajiba

    , Between 9 pm and 3 am, on Friday and Saturday night. I didn't sleep much that weekend, but by God, I watched that show as it was meant to be watched.

  • ,

    Didn't pee much either, I take it. ;-) And there's an hour unaccounted for.

    Thanks anyway.

  • QueeferSutherland

    It's elitist to point out the gulf in quality between pay cable and free network television? It's not a subjective argument. There's no sense of superiority gained by stating the obvious: network television, through a combination of laziness, mismanagement, and poor decision-making, crippled its reputation and ceded relavance to more forward-thinking counterparts on cable.

  • Slash

    Actually, network TV is crippled (partially) by its regulation by the FCC. There's a reason you can hear swears and see bare titties on HBO and Showtime: the FCC, which doesn't regulate pay cable (not in regards to content). Now, network TV is kinda shitty, but cable networks are kinda shitty, too. And like I mentioned already, they're owned by the same people.

    Talking about the gulf in quality between "free" TV and cable TV is kinda dumb when they're owned by the same entities. I'm sure NBCUniversal, for example, would like to have the viewership of "Game of Thrones" for NBC, but it can't air on NBC as it is produced today. If it was, it would probably be an entirely different show. It's not really fair to compare Walking Dead or Game of Thrones to what broadcast TV is restricted to and conclude that broadcast sucks because it doesn't have Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.

    Also, the season premiere of GOT (last year) got 3.9 million viewers. That wouldn't put it in the Nielsen Top 20. Or maybe even the top 40. I can't verify that part, Nielsen likes people to pay for their numbers, and it takes more than a minute of Googling to find it.

    Now, "The Walking Dead" did do something recently that is quite difficult: it got broadcast TV-type ratings, 11 million viewers, which made it the top-rated CABLE show. That would make it about #15 in the Nielsen ratings overall.

    Advertisers still pay for ads during broadcast TV because that's still where the numbers are. The AFC championship game in January got nearly 48 million viewers. In fact, CBS got most of the top 20 shows that week.

    Advertisers (and thus the "networks") care about viewers. They don't really care all that much about quality. Obviously.

  • QueeferSutherland

    Kinda, although the content restrictions evaporate after 10 pm. Justified, Archer, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, The Americans -- these shows don't have HBO's freedom but still manage to create a realistic world with some mature content.

    Networks can pretend to care about viewers all they want and deliver turd reality shows that draw a middling audience. But better content means higher syndication fees, more lucrative home video sales, and premium advertising dollars. No one buys season 17 of The Bachelor on blu ray. The first season of Game of Thrones BD netted HBO $30 million. In its first week. Combine that with first-week DVD sales and HBO recouped its entire S1 budget (approx $60 million) in seven days. That's real dollars. That's brand equity. That's relavance.


  • Slash

    I'm not sure how much clearer I can make this. Or maybe I just didn't do it right. Broadcast (NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, independent stations) channels are subject to the FCC content restrictions. Cable channels (FX, AMC, HBO, Showtime, etc.) are not.

    The distinctions between "broadcast" and "cable" are nearly irrelevant, except that the "broadcasters" are still subject to the FCC, while the cable shows are not. So FX can show "Archer," while if Fox tried to broadcast "Archer," they likely would have to lose a lot of the shit that makes "Archer" funny and (relatively) successful for FX. But all that money's still going to Rupert Murdoch and his shareholders, whether "Archer" appears on FX or Fox.

    So it's not really fair to judge the broadcasters' "quality" vs. cable and proclaim that broadcast is shit while those wily folks over at the cable channels (still owned by the same people who run the broadcast networks) have got it all figured out. Of course, like I mentioned earlier, the viewership for broadcast is larger than for any cable channel, by several orders of magnitude.

    I think making the distinction between broadcast and cable content (since most Americans get their TV from cable anyway) is stupid, but the federal government disagrees with me.

  • QueeferSutherland

    Again: broadcast networks are not subject to FCC indecency/onscinity restrictions after 10 pm. They could air the exact same episodes of Archer, Justified, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, The Americans, Mad Men that appear on cable without owing the FCC a penny. Now, NBC could never show Game of Thrones without some serious pixel filters and "Yippie Kie Yay, Mr. Falcon" dubbery, but nothing on AMC or FX is too risque for networks after 10 pm.
    Besides, it's not tits and gore that sets top cable shows apart from their network-dwelling cousins. It's the writing, acting, pacing, and subject manner. Parenthood is outstanding and only deals with boobs through the prism of cancer.

  • QueeferSutherland

    So glad this site keeps hammering this drum (although the last time I wrote about this I listed the now-cancelled "Last Resort" as an example of what networks should do more of, so take this rant with a shaker of sea salt). There are solutions out there for networks -- high profile event miniseries, shorter seasons, riskier content, better behind-the-lens talent -- but they're unwilling or unable to make the leap. Kids growing up today will view networks like we viewed cable pre-creative renaissance: a trash heap littered with bizzare niche shows and lowest-common-denominator drivel.

    Network executives are trained to think exclusively in terms of ad dollars and Nielsen ratings, limiting their ability to understand that relevance is a far more valuable currency in the Time-Shift/Ubiquitous Content era. Which is insane given how much of a copycat league television is. These guys really can't figure out how to beat FX, AMC and HBO at their own game, especially with superior resources, connections, and bank accounts? You don't think you have the bullpen to create stellar original content? Fine. Buy something. Do you have any idea how much incredible, adaptable source material exists in 2013? For all the shit we give CBS around here, they're at least TRYING something different with their Under the Dome miniseries. Sure, it will probably stink, but it's a start. Viewers at least respect effort. High-concepts -- even ones that fail -- will always move the needle more than a vanilla cop show. Networks better realize that soon.

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