About twenty-five years ago, there were still three networks, PBS, and a few cable channels relying on syndicated shows, i.e. “reruns.”
At that time, there were about six thousand members of the West coast screenwriters guild. By the estimation of most observers, about ten percent of them were competent scriptwriters.
Half of those were actually GOOD ENOUGH to create a bang-up script.
As networks and cable channels proliferated, talent did not grow at the same exponential rate. Which means roughly the same number of writers belong to the guild, creating all the TV and movies we see. Television has become a far larger wasteland with less talent per channel.
This not only explains why shows suck, but why so many shows are “reality” shows that need little scripting.
The problem was not the writers – it was the programming execs, blessed with a captive market, who were permanently underbidding each other on the intelligence of the public. Nothing got greenlighted that wouldn’t appeal to nine year-olds, even if that meant serving reheated, recycled cheese for the nine thousandth time.
Thus, hero getting attacked by old lady’s parrot make the cut. Original.
(Critics may note that to avoid any hint that the mustachioed hard-body in the flowered shirt was in anyway a subversive gay icon, the hero fires his very manly gun.)
Now that TV has to compete with playstations and the internets for audiences, programming execs have gotten more liberal with the green, and TV shows have actually gotten a lot better. The writing in today’s shows is about a million times better than this – compare Magnum PI to “The Wire.”
I don’t know. Actually, I thought it was awesome…in a totally cheesy 80’s way that was certainly not the way the producers intended.
Re. the screenwriters comment above, the role of the screenwriter is strictly subordinate to the Lead Producer, aka “show runner” who is responsible for the overall story arc of the show, and the individual episodes.
If the episode sucks, there’s plenty of blame to go around, even though only one guy or gal’s name goes in the credits as writer.
A lot more of tv sucks, and a lot more of tv is better than it ever was. Because there’s a lot more tv, you see. The first comment above re the Guild is wrong; its membership has steadily grown, as has the absolute number of good writers.
Cf. not only The Wire, but Sopranos, The Shield, Seinfeld, House, Law & Order, Law & Order Extra Crispy, Law & Order NT, Law & Order for Kids!, Law & Order Lite, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Dexter, True Blood, Big Love, etc., etc.
HBO is awesome, True Blood is a good show,(Sookie indeed), Southbound and down, Rome, Curb your enthusiasm, Extras, The Wire, etc, etc. I even liked Tell me you love me. Not crazy about the Gabriel Bryne show, kind of boring. Too many episodes.
Frontline is great on PBS. I like the BBC some. I’ll watch MTV as background. I like Adult Swim, Lost is OK, Battle Star was killer, MadMen is killer, Breaking Bad is great, AMC has been doing good things lately. I’m pretty happy with TV so long as it’s HD and there exists TIVO, I don’t have too much to complain about. I’m not crazy about many network shows. I’m bored with cop drama, medical drama, lawyer drama, after “The Wire” and Sopranos I cannot go backwards.
The New school Comic book shows like Batman the brave and the bold, Wolverine and the X-Men, and The Spectacular Spiderman are Waaaaaaay better then any toons we had back in the day. Amazing shows, especially in HD when available. Great writing.
I watched the spy shows like U.N.C.L.E., Secret Agent, Wild, Wild, West, you know the ones. I watched the first 2 seasons of N3MBERS, Criminal Minds and CSI New York. Now I watch NCIS reruns and the news.
I’ve been cable-free for over seven months now. [applause...] Thank you. Whenever the jones gets to me, I take care of it with the complete Deadwood DVD set. Then I think about the extra $90/month in my pocket. I watch all the propaganda I need (Olbermann) on the web — with only a 1:30 delay. And Netflix helps fill the void in a very cost-effective manner.
This summer I’ve been tempted to backslide, but then I think about shit like this:
Um, what? Tv in America used to totally suck, and almost entirely was for morons — certainly this goes for 99% of what was on the air when I was a kid in the Sixties — but in this century it’s produced some of the greatest cinematic drama ever produced in the history of humankind: The Wire, Deadwood, Rome, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Extras, and so on.
There’s actually quite a bit of “good” tv these days. Besides the great HBO and Showtime shows mentioned I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out Burn Notice. Not only does it have Bruce Campbell but it really captures the campy feel of the great 80’s shows like Magnum and A-Team. Check it out, definitely worth your time.