Thursday, 8 October 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #389: The Return of the Miniseries?

Welcome to the show folks...

When I was a kid in the early 1980s you couldn't turn on your TV without having a big bombastic mini-series popping up on your screen. TV Miniseries were big stories, with big casts, ran in 2 hour installments either weekly, or nightly, were hyped as big events, and all seemed to star Richard Chamberlain.

The trend seemed to burn out and fade away with the 1980s. Sure, the occasional two-part TV movie would pop up, but the glory days of the mini-series was over.

Well, the folks at The Wrap, think that the miniseries is going to make a comeback, thanks to desperate networks in desperate need of a new business model in desperate times.

Personally, I think it's a pretty good idea, and here's why:

1. You can adapt material that's too long for a feature film, but perfect for a more episodic format. When I was a kid, big period dramas with large casts and twisty plots, were all the rage

2. You don't feel compelled to flog an idea to death. Some formats like the police procedural or other form of mystery show are perennial. They are not reliant on a single concept to keep them afloat as long as real crimes continue to display such originality. However other concepts have a "best before" date and really should have a set ending to aim for.

A case in point is NBC's Heroes, the first season it was a sensation, dominating the ratings and media conversation. But since the second season, it's been on a precipitous decline. Why? Because they don't appear to have a real plan beyond season one, and have even stooped to lesbian kissing to save the show.

3. Audiences can be more comfortable with a show that has a definite ending. I couldn't get into Dollhouse, even though I've enjoyed a lot of Joss Whedon's work in the past. Why? Because I just knew, from it's Friday night death slot, that it was going to be inevitably canceled, and leave me hanging, the way they did with Firefly. Now if they said that Dollhouse was definitely going to run for a specific, guaranteed period, and had a locked in and definitive ending, I'd have watched it.

4. "Video novels" can help revive the flagging DVD market. If you sell 4 to 12 hours of entertainment at a decent price, people will buy, especially if it's something they've developed a certain amount of affection for. But don't start pumping out multiple "editions" of any given title, people aren't falling for that crap anymore, just do it right the first time.

5. Richard Chamberlain can use the work. Come on, give the guy a job!

What do you think of a mini-series comeback?


  1. Dirty Dingus sezs:

    As you have mentioned the tv show called 'Dollhouse', you may have not seen the (possibly) unaired episode that takes place years after the core story that wraps up much of the story.

    You see, Whedon knew this was a shaky affair and with the first season having more time then what was usual to make more complete stories happen. He just knew it wouldn't last long. I'm still surprised there's a second season -that has converted back to the typical time lengths seen in every show- now.

    It was the perfect episode to wrap up practically everything in regards to anything that happened within that series and I applaud him for doing it. No matter how long that show lasts, he already has that episode ready to end it in the can for broadcast.

  2. Kit here

    I can think of several books and book series that would be well served by a mini-series:

    -Bernard Cornwell's STONEHENGE

    I would come up with more but it is gettin' late and my brain is taxed.

  3. Jake Was Here21/10/09 3:55 am

    Personally, I'm convinced Atlas Shrugged could only work as a miniseries.