Art Vs Money – TV’s dilemma

As fans, we judge our TV by the quality of the show: the writing, directing, acting and overall effect.  We fight for the good shows and are vocal about the bad.  We give a show some time to develop and find the right creative balance.  Once the right balance is found, a show can really soar.  It is unusual for a TV show to start out perfectly, so almost all shows need time to find their own way.

However, I know how the TV game works: shows are broadcast and then measured by audience numbers, not quality.  This happens season after season, is the standard paradigm of the TV business and it is most definitely a business, driven by money, not art.

This struggle between money and art is the battle that our favourite shows have to work their way through just to survive.  When they fail to negotiate their way through this minefield, we look to the networks for an explanation.

In the context of money, quite often the network is in an understandable position, although sometimes they do pull the trigger a little early and don’t give a property the time to fully find its place in the market.  Futurama for instance, returned once it became apparent that there was an audience, especially when the show was aired in a more consistent manner and not erratically as in the original run.

When it comes to the artistic side though, quite often we justifiably see the network as cold hearted bastards, often pulling shows after 4 episodes, or after a single season, despite critical acclaim.   Terriers and Chicago Code are two notable, highly acclaimed,  recent examples of high quality programmes being ended for no good reason artistically.  The Firefly debacle with Fox is also obviously one of the most remembered genre cancellations that made no sense artistically.

It doesn’t help that many areas of the market are successful, despite low quality:  all the Idol shows, endless reality shows, CSI Miami etc..  It is because these shows get high ratings that they survive and prosper.  The audience gets what they deserve.

Unfortunately, the more discerning section of the audience gets what the lowest common denominator gets too…

What is most depressing, is that none of this is news.  What I’ve written above is well known, everybody knows it and my restating of the situation is hardly groundbreaking.  i just wish the situation would change!

In my next post, I’ll rant about a lost gem that I was very sad to see go after 12 episodes…  (this post had started as a quick preamble to the lost gem post, but then a rant hit…)

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