Monday, September 24, 2012

Emmys Reflection- an Era of Viral TV?

Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham - Downton Abbey
I was a little sad last night that Maggie Smith was not on hand to accept her Emmy for her Emmy for supporting actress in a drama series for her role in Downton Abbey.

But what I noticed last night more than anything (even more than the yellow tennis ball colored dresses that apparently are in style) was that some of the most exciting shows and performances are films that straddle the line of mini-series. Sure Downton Abbey, was in the drama category, and has entered it's 3rd season, but the seasons are short (season 2 was eight episodes and a high-drama Christmas special).

Another BBC show I was cheering for (that didn't win for any of it's 13 nominations), was Sherlock. Sherlock with it's 3-episode seasons found itself in the mini-series/movie category (for the episode "A Scandal in Belgravia").

And obviously, there's much to be said about how this year the mini-series/movie category got the last run during the Emmys (before the "headline winners") and that none of the drama nominees were from major networks.

But, I think what I wonder is if there's a little more room for artistic (and surprising, almost "viral") efforts in a short mini-season than in a twenty-four episodes of year-and-year network fair.

I enjoy the baker's dozen episodes of Mad Men, but I'm also okay when a season ends. I enjoy the quality over quantity.

The other great thing about these short seasons is they're fun to recommend. These non-network shows aren't overly advertised in mainstream media, and so when you recommend them you feel like you're culturally in the know, whether it's recommending to friends the History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys, Showtime's Homeland, or HBO's Veep. And even a lead actor isn't on screen enough to make you tired of their character, their less pressure for a stretched out character arc.

Which makes me wonder if the networks could learn from this, and instead of filling season long time slots, but instead find some shorter season shows with a little bit less...predictability. Although, even as I type it, I know it won't work. The risk of a show like Downton Abbey, just doesn't seem like a network would ever go for, which is too bad, so instead the networks pick up their nominations in the reality TV category, leaving smaller networks and specialty stations pick up that space, and lead the way.

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