The cable network FX has given the green-light to a TV adaptation of the indie Midwestern noir classic Fargo, that will be executive produced by the Coen Brothers themselves.
But that's not the important part.
The important part is that they're adapting it not as a regular television series which has an open ended run. They're going to follow a more British format by developing it as a limited run series. That means that it is designed to run for a set number of episodes and then be wrapped up by the end of those episodes. If the audience wants more, then the channel will commission the makers to do more, but the next "series" will be treated as a separate project.
This comes with a wave of other limited run or miniseries projects that the FX family of channels is developing.
Personally, I think it's a good idea that the mainstream broadcast networks could learn from. There are two reasons for this...
1. The audience is incredibly fractured into small niches that full run network style television series are having a hard time reaching.
This is because the broadcast nets are based on a system where every show has to appeal to the widest range of the audience it can get, depending on its time-slot.
2. Audiences seem to like serialized story-lines, especially mysteries, but it's hard for an audience to accept a serialized storyline, especially a mystery based one, from a mainstream broadcast network. This is because networks want shows to run a minimum of seven seasons, of around 22-25 episodes a season.
This creates the temptation to string along the mystery long past the point where the audience doesn't give a royal crap about whodunnit, or where the aliens are being hidden. If the show's premise is unable to operate if the mystery is solved then the temptation's doubly strong to just keep that puppy going.
But the problem is that it usually never works, the audience either loses interest, or doesn't get involved at all, and the show is cancelled with no questions answered for anyone.
Now this is where the miniseries can step in.
1. Using the miniseries you can create and air niche-targeted programming that don't involve big and expensive multi-season commitments that come with a full strength TV series.
2. If the miniseries has a central mystery then the fact that it's a miniseries tells the audience that they won't be left hanging if the shows doesn't play with the middle class tween girl demographic in California.
3. There are a lot of popular books that don't really translate into feature films. They're too long, too bulky, and any movie version would be just a quick skim. However a miniseries can do a more detailed adaptation, and the performance of shows like Game of Thrones show that people seem to like detailed adaptations of their favourite books.
4. If a miniseries turns out to be popular, you can always do a sequel, but pace them out so people don't get sick of them.
5. Miniseries can sell after their initial run as DVDs and/or downloads.
So there is a place for the miniseries, and networks should consider it.