Twitter is an interesting medium, if only because it allows TV execs -- often behind the thinnest veneer of anonymity -- to express publicly what they traditionally say in private. So it's been amusing in recent weeks to see sniping from broadcast honchos about critically acclaimed cable shows like AMC's "The Killing" and HBO's "Game of Thrones," as if some long-simmering threshold of irritation finally boiled over.
If you think about it, the major networks have good reason to resent cable's success -- and indeed the use of "success" in the context of certain low-rated series, which would even be canceled by (gasp)
The mindset betrayed by the cable-bashing comments boils down to "Hey, more people watch our shows, so these must be overrated." This frustration is easier to understand when you consider cable has found ways to circumvent various aspects of the traditional broadcast model -- starting with the basic need for mass ratings appeal -- that have historically conspired to flummox both creativity and commercial viability on the major nets. In fact, almost every cable series thriving today has a precedent in the form of a network show that, for one reason or another, didn't survive past a season or two.
There's no more jarring illustration of this than "The Killing," AMC's absorbing, slow-moving serial about a murder and its toll on the detectives, family and political campaign touched by it. Even the slogan -- "Who killed
Greenblatt also referenced his time in the "bulletproof world of
Unfettered by a full schedule, cable channels order fewer originals and repeat them so frequently as to mitigate pressure to open big. If you missed "Thrones" because of the
Similarly, some network execs took almost perverse glee in the summary rejection of Fox's "
Almost every network can point to its version of the prestige play that landed with a dull thud. Moreover, many of those entries bear a striking resemblance to cable offerings that flourished, or at least endured, thanks to its less-exacting standards. Just as "Twin Peaks" preceded "The Killing," for example, Fox struck out with the inside-
And so it goes. Granted, one appreciates the pressure networks are under, but it's hard to fault cable for discovering that when you amend the rules it's possible to play a different game -- and often, creatively speaking, a more satisfying one.
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