Monday, 23 May 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #729: Talking About Television

Today two terrifically time-wasting tales about television!


Fledgling cable channel Reelz has inked a deal with Asylum Entertainment to produce new shows in the aftermath of the ratings boon Reelz reaped with the History Channel's rejected
Kennedys miniseries.

First things first. Asylum Entertainment is a management and production company, it is not The Asylum, the company that makes those low rent mockbusters you sometimes see on the SyFy channel.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at
the pros, cons, and what they can both do to make this deal work for everyone.

The Kennedys did bring in viewers to the Reelz channel, but that's not a guarantee that they'll come back. The mini-series had a lot of publicity attached because of the hissy fit the Kennedy family had over it, and the History Channel's dropping it to not only avoid their wrath at anything less than a complete hagiography, but to make room for more "documentaries" about aliens visiting bigfoot in Nostradamus' living room.

Whatever they do afterwards cannot possibly get that sort of publicity. Unless all their new scripted shows will be about the peccadilloes, both fiscal & physical, of deceased Democratic presidents. I could whip up a screenplay,
Woodrow Wilson: Sex Machine, that they might be interested in, if that is their plan.

But even then, they can only go so far.

However, they're going to have to start producing their own content if they're going to survive. Reruns and cheap reality shows are not the brand you want to have if you want to thrive as a channel. The TV audience is getting increasingly fractured, and more picky about what they're going to watch. Meanwhile the major studios and production companies who would normally provide the programming are not going to waste their "A" material on a deep cable channel.

So what can they do?

Here's what I think:

1. Find gaps, fill gaps. Look at the TV landscape, look at what the other channels are doing when it comes to original programming, then look at what they're not doing. Look at what people want to see, usually expressed by cranks of the internet. Then see how you can fill those gaps.

2. Sketch comedy. Face it, a lot of shows produced for a relatively deep cable channel will be cheap. It's the nature of the beast. Nothing makes cheap work for a show better than sketch comedy where it can be used as a plus. Good sketch shows can spark the word of mouth needed to lure viewers without spending a lot of money. Wondering where you're going to find the sort of talent who can do quality sketch comedy on the cheap? There's the internet, improv and sketch troupes, and YouTube. Set a time slot for such comedy, and keep various comedians, or groups rotating through said time slot.

3. International markets/co-productions. You're going to need partners to get things done, and foreign markets are just as hungry for affordable quality content. Look at what can not only sell here, but abroad. Crime shows, science-fiction, whatever the audience wants.

4. Don't be afraid to take a chance, just don't bet the farm on it. Some risks will have to be taken. Making movies and TV will always be a gamble, even with the best of talent and intentions. The trick is to not spend so much on a risky project that it could take the whole operation down with it.


Warm up your "talk like a pirate" vocal chords because Cable network FX and Fox TV International are teaming up with producer Gale Anne Hurd's Valhalla Pictures and GK Films to produce a new drama series titled Port Royal.

If you're not historically inclined Port Royal was, for a time, the biggest British ruled city in the new world. It was a major center of commerce and foreign policy for the British Empire in the late 1600s. Of course that commerce and foreign policy involved a hell of a lot of piracy.

That's right ye scurvy dogs, I'm talking about pirates. And not your dainty, guy-liner wearing pirates you see in big budget Disney films, or the kind who sell homemade bootlegs of movies on street-corners, but real sea-faring pirates. The kind that would tie a man's lower intestine to a mast, while they were still alive, then throw him overboard just to see how long it would stretch out.

Personally, I've been thinking that a dramatic, non-fantasy based, story set in and around Port Royal would be extremely interesting. It was not only the "wickedest city on Earth," populated by pirates and prostitutes, but also housed churches, synagogues, and probably the most ethnically/racially/religiously diverse population of any single city in the world at the time.

It was also rife with conflict. Not just with the Spanish Empire, their favorite target, but also inside the community. There was a hell of a lot of jockeying for power between the privateers/pirates, and the rising landowner class who were making their fortune in sugar, tobacco, and slaves. I mean come on, who can resist the sort of moral dilemmas raised in conflicts between cutthroat thieves, the whores who love them, and the more "respectable" people who make their fortunes off of slaves.

Plus, if you know your history, you'll know that the series will have one hell of a finale episode.

I wish them good luck on this one.

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