Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Posts tagged “netflix

Notes on Television: Part 1 of 3 – The Case Studies

It’s an exciting time for storytelling. As the publishing industry scrambles to figure out what to do with itself, television seems to be embracing change as fast as it can. If you look at recent developments, you’ll agree.

Case study 1: Veronica Mars or How You Can Buy Your Own Happy EndingVeronica Mars

Veronica Mars never experienced the ratings that it needed to be considered a hit, but it had then what every TV show wants now: a cult following. In today’s terms, look at Community. Community doesn’t get the ratings. What it does get is trends on Twitter. Community fans are rabidly supportive. They not only watch, but they talk about the show. The watercooler has gone to the Internet and you can see exactly the impact your stories are having.

Veronica Mars shows you what happens when a rabid fan base is monetized. If you haven’t heard about the Veronica Mars Kickstarter project, check it out here. The show raised $2 million for a Veronica Mars movie in 24 hours. Their campaign is still going as of this posting at $4,332,000. The fans will get their movie.

The Veronica Mars project is still an ongoing experiment. Will the movie be successful? A Kickstarter campaign is just the beginning. The project still requires studio backing and production costs outside the purview of crowdfunding. We’ll see how it goes.

The downside of the Veronica Mars project is the possibility that everyone and their brother will call for the return of the television they think was unjustly ended.

Where’s my Pushing Daisies movie? Why can’t we have one more season of Chuck?

Some things are meant to die. Veronica Mars may be a fluke. Or it may launch us dwelling in the stagnant waters of a culture that refuses to move on. Or it could be the best thing that ever happened.

Case study 2: Breaking Bad/Walking Dead/Mad Men/cable shows

There’s an old trope about British television and how short their series are. This isn’t wrong. If a Brit show runs 13 episodes, it’s consider an overwhelming success. Fawlty Towers, considered one of the best sitcoms ever made (by the people who decide those things) only had 12 episodes from 2 seasons made over the course of 4 years.

That’s right. If you crunch the numbers, they made 3 episodes a year.

Walking DeadWhy are British TV series so short? Because they aren’t full of crap. British television is liked distilled TV syrup. There’s no fizz added.

Breaking Bad‘s first season ran 7 episodes. The subsequent seasons ran 13 episodes.

Mad Men‘s seasons are 13 episodes each.

The Walking Dead‘s first season: 6 episodes. After, 13.

Why is this a good thing? Like British television, the writers/producers/creators of these shows are trimming the fat and giving us delicious, meaty chunks of storytelling. The miniseries isn’t dead, it just bred with series television and created a new species.

Why is American television full of 22-24 episode series? Because it’s a race to 100. I’ll talk about that in a later post.

Case Study 3: Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu

Arrested Development is getting it’s happy ending and it isn’t crowdfunded. Netflix will release 14 episodes in May (that’s one month away! Be still, excitement). While Netflix is trying to temper everyone’s expectations by telling us lightning won’t strike twice, it would be interesting to know how many people signed up for Netflix because of their acquisition.Arrested Development coming in May

While the Arrested Development fan base is just as rabid as Veronica Mars’, there is a key difference. Unlike Veronica Mars, most people came to Arrested Development AFTER the show was cancelled. Key aspects of the show’s humor were in subtle jokes that were only noticed upon multiple or marathon viewings. This makes it a great show for Netflix. All 14 episodes will be available at once. How many of you will watch start to finish without a week in between?

That’s not all. House of Cards, staring Kevin Spacey (KEVIN SPACEY!) had a 13 episode run on Netflix. Just Netflix. It was made, produced, distributed by Netflix. Netflix has become it’s own TV studio, network, and station all rolled into one. It’s opening up a whole new avenue for storytellers. And, it’s gives viewers something TV networks can’t: the chance to watch your show whenever or wherever you want (as long as there’s an Internet connection {you can argue that the DVR did this, too, but you still have to wait a week [and my DVR is filled to capacity with my roommates’ shows]}).

Amazon Prime will produce a show based on the hit movie Zombieland.

Hulu is bound to get into the game soon, too (so far, their original material has been mostly shortform). They’re already working with SNL former and current cast members on development.

What’s next for online content creators? Who knows? Perhaps viewing parties will launch their shows to trending topics on Twitter. But, don’t worry. When Arrested Development hits, it will be huge.

Things I didn’t have time to talk about: Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Girls, Veep

The Golden Age of Television isn’t over. It’s going platinum.

What do you want to know about the television business? Share your thoughts below and stay tuned for the next posts.


Holiday Movie Distractions

It’s getting to be that time of year when we have extended periods of time with our families. They’re the ones you haven’t seen in months, but even so, you’re all caught up on life within ten minutes (I blame the Internet).

We can’t disappear into class or the workosphere. There’s so much time to bask in the warmth of kith and kin.

Or not.

Here are some top Netflix picks to get you through the holidays.

Family Friendly:

Mirror Mirror1. Mirror Mirror

If given the choice between Mirror Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsman, I would pick Mirror Mirror. It’s not just that it’s better written; Mirror Mirror has stunning visuals that SWATH can’t compare. In MM, the purity vs. corruption metaphors are HUGE and overt, but in a well told story that’s satisfying and twisting enough to hold anyone’s attention. Definitely take a look.

2. A League of Their Own

YES! This is on Netflix and this movie is (in my opinion), one of the best movies ever made. The dialogue is precise and witty. This movie is the definition of quotable. If you’re as disappointed as I am about the outcome of the World Series (or not, either way), this baseball movie will help ease the pain of a concluded baseball season. While Tom Hanks and Geena Davis stand out, A League of Their Own has a stellar ensemble, including Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna. A tip of the hat to Penny Marshall’s greatest.

Crying? Are you crying? There’s not crying in baseball!

Romance:

3. Shakespeare in Love

This movie is 14 years old. Amazing. But, don’t forget, this gem won 7 Oscars including Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Picture. It was nominated for six other Oscars. Love or hate Shakespeare, it doesn’t matter. This movie is a wonderful diversion.

4. I.Q.I.Q. Movie

In this movie, Albert Einstein tries to hook his super smart niece up with an auto mechanic. Meg Ryan plays the niece; Tim Robbins, the auto mechanic. This movie was made back when Meg Ryan was still America’s sweetheart. Stephen Fry rounds out the love triangle. The writers really called in the Meg Ryan style of cuteness and irrelevant observation.

For Mature Audiences Only:

5. Breaking Bad

Catch Grandma and Grandpa up on the life and times of Walter White. For all those grandparents asking, “What’s all this about the bad breaking?” Even if it’s not the thing for the grandparents, it should keep the uncles entertained before the football’s on. Same goes for The Walking Dead.

6. Weeds

Weed is legal in Colorado and Washington now. How many of your family members are thinking of moving? The holidays is a great time to look at other people’s families and say, “At least I’m not them.” No matter how hilarious they are.


Aside

A review of some kind of media

Storytelling is not confined to the Written Word. We should challenge ourselves to find and hail good storytelling regardless of medium.

And, no, that’s not just an excuse for not finishing a book this week.

So, here’s something else for your enjoyment.

Series Breakdown

(like there’s humor in a situation)

Hot in Cleveland

I remember seeing ads for this and thinking, “I should watch that.” But, like most series I mentally bookmark, I forgot about it. When it popped up on Netflix Instant Play, I had no excuse any more. Queue it up!

Three vapid LA women on their way to Paris are grounded in Cleveland, where they find life is not the same as it is on the West Coast. They buy a house that comes with a snarky caretaker.

I am a fan of Jane Leeves. I’ve seen every episode of Frazier, and I loved her as Daphne. All right, you guessed it, I love British accents no matter who’s “ew-ing” the U’s, but, hey, that’s good casting.

I’m not a Betty White follower, but concede that she is a great actress and has a knack for comedic timing. The relationship between Elka (White) and Joy (Leeves) is great.

You cannot go wrong with the cast. Wendie Malick and Valerie Bertinelli are playing roles they are perfect for.

Sean Hayes (Jack from Will & Grace) has a hand in the series as executive producer.

First Ten:

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Hot in Cleveland took a 30 Rock concept (S1:Ep.20) and turned it into a series.

This is 100% okay. Hot in Cleveland coasts on concept for six episodes. I was starting to think “Okay, I get it. Just one more.” Man cannot live on concept alone.

Boom. Episode 7, everything is a well-oiled machine, and this series hit its stride. It’s nice to see a show that can make fun of the vapid and fast-paced culture of the coasts, as well as the detached and relaxed culture of Middle America. No one is safe.

I started watching season 2 and snorted coffee.

Season 2 begins in a courtroom with Wendie Malick’s voiceover, “In a situation comedy, there are two separate, but equally important, stories.” A Law & Order tribute? Yes. Yes, indeed. A million times yes.

TV Land, hats off to you. Good choice and well done. A hearty Midwesterner cheer for your continued success.