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Old 03-21-2008, 07:26 AM   #1
j over
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Default The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

Or, at least not as much as the recent past has seen, according to NBC's Jeff Zucker.


Oh, joy.
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Old 03-21-2008, 11:44 AM   #2
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

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Jeff Zucker: "It is harder today to put on 22 hours of great scripted programming," he remarked. "The costs are prohibitive." In the future, he added, "you're still going to see the great scripted programming, but you're not going to see 22 hours a whole week anymore."
This sounds so silly coming from a guy that's head of a network in fourth place. If I were him I wouldn't say anything. Especially what you're not going to do. C'mon, dude, you're in fourth place. You should be doing everything you can to get the network out of the hole it's in.

Jeff would not be saying what he's saying if they were the "most watched network." In my opinion, he's run NBC into the ground ever since he laid hands on it.
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Old 03-21-2008, 12:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

Cable doesn't seem to have had the problems that NBC and the broadcast networks have had creating decent scripted shows. Since they have not insulted the intelligence of their audience, they appear to be doing fine offering original scripted material. With as many network clones of previous shows that barely squeeked by in their first run and bombed in the second, I am surprised they have not looked for something similar to one of the older major hits and tried to put a new spin on it. NBC in particular has a long run in the past where they almost owned comedy, and it was during one of their most successful periods. It is kind of puzzling that it seems harder for them to replicate now, than it was then.

Last edited by SI_NYC : 03-21-2008 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 03-21-2008, 12:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

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Originally Posted by SI_NYC View Post
Cable doesn't seem to have had the problems that NBC and the broadcast networks have had creating decent scripted shows. Since they have not insulted the intelligence of their audience, they appear to be doing fine offering original scripted material.
I work for a major cable network empire now, after years with broadcast. And I believe the deal is that the FCC is naturally stricter on broadcast television. As far as I know most/all of cable restrictions are self-imposed (speaking of the commercial cable networks, not say HBO [who can do what they want / no advertisers to offend.])

It is harder to do an epic and violent show like The Sopranos or even dirty shows like FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on a network like NBC or CBS. Just remember the Super Bowl malfunction. It seems as if the majority of viewers DO NOT WANT good programming. Those that do get cable put in.

Broadcast has to walk a fine line.
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Old 03-21-2008, 01:48 PM   #5
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

This has to be the most stupid thing I have ever heard a suit say, IMO. And I think we've all heard some pretty dumb things over the years.

I feel it is stupid and illogical because what he is doing is trying to justify his failures by trying to paint a distorted picture he isn't failing and this is what the market not only looks like, but is going to look like in the future, so NBC doesn't fire him. This is known as CYA -- Covering Your Ass. What a tool.

I agree with everybody else's assessment:

Cable has no problem filling itself with quality scripted programming even with no FCC censors to appease.

Jeff Zucker appears to be lazy and in typical suit fashion trying to pass the buck on why NBC has been spiraling in the last few years instead of looking at the real problem: The shows they are airing (bad sitcoms; crap reality shows) and what they can do to fix this.

I read an article in late 2006, early 2007, and there were reports NBC was doing so badly there were rumors of GE absorbing (abolishing?) the network to stop the bleeding. This didn't happen, but it would have been the first time a major national network ceased to exist (as NBC) and would have been reborn as the GEC (General Electric Channel) or something to that effect. How bad can management be if this rumor was a reality?
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:02 PM   #6
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

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Broadcast has to walk a fine line.
I agree, cable does have more creative freedom than broadcast. I've wanted a Cable Emmy Awards show for a while (sort of like the Daytime Emmys). This way the broadcast networks don't have to compete against the cable shows with a more adult flavor to them.

I, too, agree with the fact that NBC once ruled comedy. Where they went wrong, was they depended on those aging comedies to keep paying the bills and failed to plan ahead for dire times once they were without them. Remember when they desperately kept renewing Friends and dragging out Frasier? NBC knew they were in trouble.

My other thought is, maybe the broadcast networks should stop trying so hard to compete with cable. That may sound a bit harsh but there's got to be a way to create creative programming without having to do what cable does. The networks have done it before and may need to research what connected to the audience back then. Family comedies ruled in the 80s and 90s (i.e., Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Roseanne, Home Improvement, 3rd Rock From the Sun, Fresh Prince, Blossom). Many of these shows were among the Top Ten shows in the ratings.

If the FCC is stricter on the broadcast networks, then perhaps the networks should try to capitalize on what they know works for them and stop trying to become something they're not.

Guess what I'm saying is, although family dynamics have changed overtime, it doesn't hurt to try and update what was successful back then to fit today's society and bring family viewers back.
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Old 03-21-2008, 03:04 PM   #7
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

Scriptman:

You bring up some interesting points.

The big thing I feel network TV has to be aware of is where this country might be heading in the next couple of years -- No matter who/whom is President.

A lot of the shows you mentioned did well because the times were a lot different. In fact, the original Rosanne would probably not do that well today in a time when we are so celebrity crazed and concerned with material possession and wealth -- The exact opposite of Rosanne's portrayal of the lower-middle class.

However, I have it on very good authority ABC wants to bring back Rosanne as a TV movie and then spin-off that follows Becky and Darlene (now married and in their 30s) and this might be the best time for the network to do this if the country is about to enter into a long-term recession where most of the people are going to be living like Rosanne again (versus shows like "The O.C." and "Dirty Sexy Money" that center on the lives of the rich and powerful).

And to bring this full circle... It is this kind of (long-term) thinking I do not feel Jeff Zucker/NBC is concerned with like you stated. He just wants to maximize profits, but doesn't know how to do it and is failing miserably at it.
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Old 03-21-2008, 03:16 PM   #8
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

Future of Scripted TV = less than before. Nothing new to see here.

What cable network produces 22 hours of scripted programming a week? Go ahead and try to name one.

Every broadcast network is trying to find the right balance between scripted programming and reality programming which is cheaper to produce and can in the case of shows like Idol and Dancing with the Stars produce killer ratings.
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Old 03-21-2008, 04:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

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Originally Posted by qualitycontrol View Post
I work for a major cable network empire now, after years with broadcast. And I believe the deal is that the FCC is naturally stricter on broadcast television. As far as I know most/all of cable restrictions are self-imposed (speaking of the commercial cable networks, not say HBO [who can do what they want / no advertisers to offend.])

It is harder to do an epic and violent show like The Sopranos or even dirty shows like FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on a network like NBC or CBS. Just remember the Super Bowl malfunction. It seems as if the majority of viewers DO NOT WANT good programming. Those that do get cable put in.

Broadcast has to walk a fine line.
I completely agree with Qualitycontrol that NBC, CBS, etc.. have to be more careful with controversial material (from both the FCC and their own advertisers), but I would think that most viewers have settled for what they offer, versus are actually happy about it. Cable is rapidly filling most of the programming areas that they have neglected, but since the networks still offer a significant amount of programming, you still hope that they could replicate some of the successes they had previously so you have more choices. Probably not likely to improve. Within a few years they may only offer reality, contestant, and non-stop broadcast versions of People Magazine. If the public does watch that, then they really don't want good programming.

NBC's recent track record is a little more puzzling then the rest, because if you look at their history they had an unbroken string of (ancient history) hits and mid-level successes that ran from Barney Miller, Taxi, Night Court, Cheers, Seinfeld, and more recently 30 Rock. Not to mention some very good dramas. You would think that after that many years of programming scripted shows that stuck, it wouldn't be impossible for them to do it today.

Last edited by SI_NYC : 03-21-2008 at 04:15 PM.
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Old 03-21-2008, 04:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: The Future of Scripted TV = Not Much?

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Originally Posted by jkk808 View Post
Every broadcast network is trying to find the right balance between scripted programming and reality programming which is cheaper to produce and can in the case of shows like Idol and Dancing with the Stars produce killer ratings.
True. Though it seems some try harder than others.

The broadcast network with the best balance between scripted and reality programming is CBS. Their small reality slate includes: Survivor, Big Brother, Power of 10, and Kid Nation. They're the only network who doesn't feel like they should give us hours of back-to-back reality programming on a nightly bases (i.e., 2 hours of Deal or No Deal, followed by an emotional and touching Biggest Loser finale of the finale).

CBS genre layout:

Monday:
4 Comedies/1 Drama

Tuesday:
2 Dramas/ 1 Reality

Wednesday:
2 Dramas/ 1 Reality

Thursday:
2 Dramas /1 Reality

Friday:
2 Dramas/Game Show (TBD)

Saturday:
2 Dramas (repeat) 1 news magazine show

Sunday:
2 Dramas 1 Reality

This seems pretty balanced to me. All broadcast networks, especially FOX, should follow this format and try not to plug every free hole with reality programming. I enjoy Idol like most people, but still feel there are several unused hours that could be used for a great scripted one-hour drama or great scripted half-hour sitcoms.

Yes, reality shows are somewhat cheaper to produce, but a network bleeding profusely of this type of programming needs to worry about the cheapened image they'll continue to be known for and should shake themselves of it. NBC used to be known for quality programming. Now, it seems they're just like rest.
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