After the success of the TV in 2012 roundtable, most everyone wanted to keep chatting about television, so we figured we’d roll it all over and talk about TV’s future in the coming months. This is the predictions roundtable.
Cory Barker: Next, I thought we could do a little more prognosticating. What do you folks see as being the biggest TV-related story to come out of the first half of this year? Maybe it’s the success or failure of a specific show or network, maybe it’s a big industrial shift, or maybe it’s something else entirely. Let’s hear it.
Emma Fraser: This is definitely a question that requires a bit more thought and I’m going to focus on what shows are coming to an end in 2013 rather than the ones that are starting. There are quite a few big hitters that are about to air their final episodes, big not necessarily in terms of viewers, but more specifically in terms of critical discourse. They’re not all from the same genre either and cover network and cable, leaving a dent in several areas. It begins this month with both 30 Rock and Fringe coming to an end and Breaking Bad airs its final eight episodes in the summer. From the previous roundtable post it is clear that there aren’t many shows that we are eagerly anticipating and while it feels like it is the right time for some of these favorites to come to an end, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to replace them. Comedy is in a pretty precarious place ratings wise (aside from the juggernaut that is The Big Bang Theory) and it is unclear whether other much discussed/loved sitcoms such as Parks and Recreation and Community will get another year. Of course there is plenty to watch and as TV moves so quickly there is always something to be written about, I just wonder how much and for how long we will miss the ones that are leaving us in 2013.
Eric Thurm: I’d have to say the biggest TV-related story of the first half of the year will be the success or failure of Netflix’s experiments in dumping whole seasons of television on viewers. The common wisdom is that most people are more interested in binge-watching shows, especially ones like Arrested Development that probably has more fans from weekend-long Netflix sprees than its original run, but I’m not so sure that’s going to be proven right. And even if viewers do take well to House Of Cards and the next “season” (sorry Jason Bateman) of Arrested Development, what will that mean for the future of television as a linear storytelling medium? It seems like the batch of AD episodes was made with this dump-viewing in mind, so there could be really fascinating new ways of writing shows if this distributional model catches on. On the other hand, if every episode of a series like House Of Cards airs at once, does that mean the time each show spends in the cultural spotlight is that much more diminished? We’ll see if people are still talking about House Of Cards in August, but if they aren’t, that silence might be an interesting story in itself.
Wesley Ambrecht: Since this category is all about prognosticating, I’m going to go out on a limb and say 2013 is the year CNN finally takes a step forward, in terms of both ratings and content. The once prized news network has watched its viewership erode over the last decade, and attempts to lure in new eyes like D. L. Hughley Breaks the News and Parker/Spitzer have failed spectacularly, but the recent hiring of Jeff Zucker has me hopeful. Zucker is often the butt of jokes but he is a business savvy man and smart producer of news. In fact, it was those two traits that helped him hoodwink GE brass into promoting him to NBC Chief. Before officially starting at CNN, Zucker was able to help lure Jake Tapper from ABC News and install him as CNN’s new Chief Washing Correspondent; and, he is currently working to bring Ann Curry over from NBC. Swift changes are on the horizon at CNN and, ultimately, I do think they’re for the best. Though, as is likely the case with all of these projections, only time will tell.
Cameron White: Netflix is certainly the story to watch in the first part of 2013; between Arrested Development, Hemlock Grove, and House of Cards, they’re certainly trying to put their best foot forward when it comes to developing original content. But the slow-burning story that I’ll be most interested in watching is the recent announcement that Nielsen will start tracking tweets for television shows. While I’m sure this is just the beginning for this type of paradigm shift, as someone who has learned an awful lot about the ratings system by virtue of being a fan of shows that tend to suck at getting ratings, I’ll be thinking a lot more about how my everyday conversations on Twitter about television may have some sort of real impact on the show’s fate. Save-Our-Show campaigns tend to use Twitter as a launching pad, so does this shift mean that Twitter can become the end in itself? I don’t know. I’m just throwing darts here.
Greg Boyd: It pains me to say this, but one of the biggest developments I see happening is the likely transition from the single best year for TV comedy I’ve ever seen to a year where there may not be all that much great stuff. Of the many terrific network comedies I watch, New Girl is the only one that seems safe. As Emma pointed out, most of the other great sitcoms are in serious trouble. Parks and Recreation and Community are going to be very much on the bubble (as they always are), and that’s just for starters. Ben and Kate is likely doomed, as is Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (an uneven show, but one that has delivered some brilliant episodes). Happy Endings might have a chance, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s possible that all of these shows will be gone next fall. That would leave us with . . . what? Not much, although I’ve heard great things about Bob’s Burgers (a likely summer catch-up project for me). And one of cable TV’s standout comedies, Louie, isn’t back until 2014. There will still be a fair amount of laughs on our TV screens this year, but it’s hard to imagine 2013 even coming close to replicating 2012’s success in the comedy department.
Heather McLendon: Alright, here’s my prognostication: 2013 is going to be the year in which social TV matures. By no means will it have the social scene completely figured out, but I do think that social TV will build off its successes and learn from its mistakes. Last year we saw the rise of celebrity live-tweeting during shows, show-specific hashtags, live-tweet voting on competition shows, and astronomical engagement during awards shows and major sporting events (Super Bowl, London Olympics). Just last month, Nielsen and Twitter created waves in the media/tech world with its announcement of the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating. The water cooler is gone. TV chatter happens on Twitter, and television networks are figuring out how to leverage social sites to the benefit of their programs and profit margins. Being a digital strategist, I’m always jumpy about predictions and forecasting in the social/digital world. It can all change so quickly, and the area itself is still vastly misunderstood by the majority of TV networks. However, I think (and hope) that 2013 is the year that television will get really creative with social media programming. The next two steps for social TV are 1) seamless, innovative synergy, and 2) the development of social responsive tools so networks can not only listen to what their fans and haters are saying but also include viewers as part of the production process. Maybe this is too grand for 2013. (It probably is.) But I’m hoping that social TV will inch that direction in the coming year.
Andrew Rabin: I’m going to take what Greg said and spin it a little. I don’t think it will be a bad year in comedy; I happen to think Happy Endings and Parks and Rec are pretty safe bets for renewal along with New Girl, Suburgatory, Raising Hope, a moderately rebounding Modern Family, and your choice of non-Louie, non-Curb cable comedy. But I do think it will be the year of series turnover. Think about this- fifteen network half-hour comedies from the 2009-10 season were renewed for 2010-11. All fifteen of them were also renewed for 2011-12. Nineteen half-hour comedies from the 2010-11 season were renewed for 2011-12, the only two that were canceled were network-switcher Cougar Town and Deadline’s own Breaking In. In other words, every single half-hour, network comedy renewed from the 2009-10 season, and all but one renewed from the 2010-11 season, are still on television today in 2013.
That is going to change, and it’s going to change very quickly. On the sitcom side, 30 Rock ends in a few weeks, and The Office is already slated to join it. In dramas, ABC’s Private Practice and Fox’s Fringe are following the CW’s Gossip Girl out the door. I expect many other long-running series will wrap up this spring. On CBS, one of their three longest running sitcoms is likely to die- either Two and a Half Men due to contractual issues or Rules of Engagement due to general ambivalence- if not both, while HIMYM is already picked up for what will be its final season. And after finally cutting the cord with one of their procedural franchisees in CSI: Miami last season, don’t be surprised to see one or both remaining members of the CSI: family axed. ABC’s unlikely to dump a second Shonda Rhimes show this year, but Grey’s Anatomy getting a final season order would not be shocking, while long-forgotten Body of Proof seems unlikely to return. Fox’s combo of few hours, early orders for animation, and major hours for singing reality series leave few bubble shows, but final season news would not be shocking for Bones (which was just renewed) and The Simpsons (which, after a major contractual dispute, is renewed for last season). NBC seems ready to ease off of its non-Voice reality fair, as The Biggest Loser and The Celebrity Apprentice could be on their last legs, and it is likely put-up-or-shut-up time for Smash, Whitney, and Up All Night. Finally, I cannot pretend to understand what the CW does, but 90210 and Nikita certainly appear to be on their last legs.
In sum, I expect mass cancellations of returning shows, the likes of which we have not seen in several years.
Noel Kirkpatrick: Related to the Netflix story in a way, I’m keeping an eye on Prospect Park reviving All My Children and One Life to Live online and how that plays out. One the one hand, I wonder about its core audience making the transition to online streaming, but it represents an opportunity to get younger viewers, something soaps desperately needed on TV. This deal also reflects a shift in how unions and guilds approach online programming, and so it may represent an important precedent for similar deals.
Sabienna Bowman: Playing off of Noel’s prediction, I’m predicting the first half of the year is going to be good for daytime dramas. It wasn’t long ago that the entire genre appeared to be dead and buried, but like so many of the characters that populate soaps, it seems poised to rise again (but not zombie style—this metaphor is going to a weird place).
In addition to Prospect Park reviving One Life to Live and All My Children, NBC recently renewed Days of Our Lives through September 2014, while General Hospital and The Young and the Restless (side note: If anyone is wondering where Veronica Mars’ Michael Muhney disappeared to, he’s on Y&R giving the performance of a lifetime) are both experiencing a creative, and to some extent, a ratings resurgence. Also promising is the uptick in soap news coverage from the major entertainment outlets like EW and TV Line. The genre will likely never be as strong as it once was, but I have a feeling the remaining soaps will be making a strong case for their continued existence in 2013—barring any twists (isn’t there always a twist?).
Les Chappell: Seconded on the Netflix question. The move to release all episodes of these projects at once seems like it’s going to kill whatever poor reviewers try to cover them and (as our friend and colleague Ryan McGee pointed out) break Twitter as everyone dives in to live-tweet at once. And more fascinating/frustrating, we’re not going to know exactly how successful any of these projects are because we don’t know what metrics Netflix are going to use to measure it – John Landgraf of FX challenged them to release this information at the Television Critics Association press tour, and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos responded with “Why the fuck would we do that?” (Okay, I added the profanity for emphasis.) It’s an interesting experiment, and we’ll have to see what spin everyone puts on it whatever way it shapes up.
And the comment about Nielsen tracking tweets goes to what I think is the big problem the networks are finally going to have to answer, because this season was just dreadful for almost every network in terms of ratings and we saw new degrees of spin as network heads talked about the Live +3 and Live +7 numbers as being relevant. This is an era where cable shows like Sons of Anarchy and (especially) The Walking Dead are consistently outscoring the broadcast dramas in key demos, and Big Bang Theory repeats are unequivocally slaughtering the network comedy blocks. On the reality side, the aging juggernauts of American Idol and Dancing With The Stars are finally losing viewers, X-Factor was nowhere near what it needed to be for a second season, and The Voice is still riding high but we still haven’t seen what a second cycle in the spring is going to draw. I know that every year we ask “Is this the year we finally admit Nielsen doesn’t work?” and at this point everything’s so terrible, we might get an answer.
Kerensa Cadenas: I completely agree with everyone on the Netflix tip. I think that there is no way that it won’t be one of the biggest television stories to come out of 2013, so I’m going to suggest something different. As an avid television viewer, I consider myself pretty on top of news about developing television shows. Since writing for Women and Hollywood, that knowledge has grown. As everyone was arguing about Girls or declaring 2012 the Year of the Woman (or not), there has been a quiet yet steady stream of news on the development of tons of women centric and created television shows. Mila Kunis is executive producing a feminist show for The CW, Diablo Cody is developing a romantic comedy series for ABC and HBIC Jane Fonda is set to star in a comedy for ABC, amongst many, many other stories. Alyssa Rosenberg at Slate recently wrote about how women will rule cable TV in 2013, I think that women in TV in 2013 will be a force to be reckoned with while expanding representations of both women and men in pop culture.
Heather: I completely agree with Kerensa on this one. Very excited for the increasing number of women behind the camera. NBC’s Deception is created by Liz Heldens. ABC’s Mistresses is being adapted by K.J. Steinberg. Michelle Ashford is the creator of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, and Meredith Stiehm is adapting The Bridge for FX…Good stuff. Even ABC entertainment president Paul Lee is cognizant that the S.H.I.E.L.D. project needs to attract both men and women viewers.
Danny Grinberg: I’m optimistic about webisodes gaining prominence in 2013. There were two series in particular that I enjoyed last year, Yahoo’s Burning Love and The Onion’s Sex House, and I predict even more quality work reaching our screens soon. Webisodes’ moderate production costs and more direct distribution make them attractive for media creators, both established and emerging, to draw attention to their brands. It’s also great for audiences who can stream these shows quickly and easily. For example, I watched all fourteen ten-minute episodes of Burning Love in a single sitting and I’m already anticipating the next two seasons slated to premiere this year. With digital media and television content becoming more and more inextricably linked every year, I see webisodes as an encouraging sign that new media can inspire and enable new avenues of televisual creativity.
Cory: Wow, you folks have covered just about everything I originally had in mind. Netflix is certainly the big one, and I think it is clear that we are all really curious about the developments there. Thus, my prediction isn’t focused on the biggest story, but one that I think will be talked about quite a bit come spring. Here’s the thing guys: Fox’s ratings aren’t that good right now. In the fall, Mondays tanked, the Tuesday comedy block, while creatively chipper, isn’t thriving and X-Factor turned in one of the more hated seasons of major reality competition programming in recent memory. To be fair to Fox, they have Idol coming this week and kept their new tentpole drama, The Following, for midseason as well. But Idol isn’t getting any younger and I’m not sure drama among the diva judges is going to pull in new viewers a dozen seasons in. The Following should do fine, but I don’t think it’s going to be an overwhelming hit. Fox has done its damnedest to make it look like AN EVENT—unfortunately, not THE Event—but Mondays are very competitive and I’m convinced Fox is overestimating how much people adore Kevin Bacon in 2013. For whatever reason, Fox has gotten a big pass for its fall failures, but I’m guessing that preferential treatment stops come spring.