The ambitious new TV drama Kings started last night.
Did anyone watch?
You can be excused if you took a pass.
These days, adding new shows to your TV roster is a crap shoot.
And this is not a reflection on the quality of the stuff being aired.
There are plenty of intelligent dramas filmed these days.
The problem is the networks. They’ve lost their mojo.
In the past they controlled everything. Shows started in September, ran at a scheduled time and ended in May. Then they reran through the summer.
Today, it’s anarchy. Society is busier, more fractured and demanding.
And so is the TV schedule.
Shows are pulled, then reappear. Other shows are substituted at a whim. It’s hard to track.
Worse, people don’t want to play by the networks’ rules.
People don’t want to be told to watch Kings at 8 p.m. on Sunday. They want to watch it on Monday. Or next Saturday at 1 a.m.
And they want to bypass those annoying ads. And there are plenty of technologies that allow you to do both.
So the network TV business model is in tatters.
Worse, society demands more complex dramas. Episodic TV is gone, replaced by long, detailed scripts that resolve over months rather than week to week.
They are more like highbrow soap operas, or filmed novels.
And, like novels, the audience will lose the narrative thread if they miss a single chapter.
As a result, people are simply not willing to give up a single episode.
This is both a blessing and a curse for the network.
People easily grow addicted to the complex threads of a TV drama. So you’ve got a guaranteed audience.
But, because nobody will schedule their lives around, say, Lost, they record the show. Or download the episodes they missed while ferrying the kids to hockey.
It’s easier than ever to do both, which plays havoc with the networks’ ability to gauge viewership.
And advertisers are charged based on the viewership.
It’s a problem.
These shows are expensive, making networks less willing to gamble on shows. They launch them on the strength of 12 episodes. If they don’t find their niche immediately, they are cancelled.
And so, viewers are left with a chicken-and-egg choice.
Invest 12 precious hours in an intriguing show that could be cancelled, leaving you stranded mid-plot. Or simply wait and see what survives the cull – and by so doing, contribute to its demise.
So, whaddya do with a new show like Kings?
It’s actually an easy choice.
Wait, and read a book. Or see a movie. Or a play – heck, do something that actually finishes, rather than ending in midstream.
Besides, time is too short to waste it gazing into the tube. (Richard Mostyn)