Lessons learned from the TV Critics press tour
Yes, the TV Critics Association’s summer press tour has completed another wild, informative run.
And while the blizzard of celebrity-fueled press conferences, network TV parties and soundstage set visits has come to an end, this critic rolled away from the Beverly Hilton Hotel after eight days on Tuesday with a few important lessons learned about the state of the TV business heading into the dog days of 2008.
Lesson #1: The writer’s strike fallout continues – Even though the walkout by the nation’s film and TV writers in ended in February, it continues to screw up the television industry by limiting the amount of new shows any network could cobble together for this fall.
The broadcast networks problems emerged during press tour, as every outlet struggled to articulate the plotlines and story arcs for new series put into production without filming an initial “pilot” episode – leaving executives (and critics) with little evidence whether these lofty ideas might actually produce watchable shows.
Lesson #2: Without new shows, old shows face more pressure – Several series have promised big changes in trying to “reboot” returning shows which need to regain audience’s attention after months in reruns or worse. ABC’s Desperate Housewives is moving five years into the future, while NBC’s Heroes is focusing on a new cadre of villains and even Fox’s blockbuster American Idol is promising major changes.
“We’re all in this elevator – CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives – and the elevator’s going down,” said Housewives creator and executive producer Mark Cherry. “As a result, we’re willing to do anything to keep our audience base…There’s intense pressure to come up with something that gets everyone’s attention.
Lesson #3: TV has pretty much accepted its lack of diversity – Time and again, the question emerged – Why are there no new shows starring a person of color this year? – and the answer was mostly a shrug with promises to do better. In a down economy, networks are more willing to hand new shows to British and Australian actors than anyone with a skin tone darker than a light tan.