Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Jury is In

What is this, the 12th Law & Order series to debut on NBC since the show began 15 (yup, 15!!!!) years ago? Dick Wolf's crime drama universe is becoming as glutted as the infamous X-Universe from Marvel Comics.

I'm not even a casual viewer of any of the L&O shows, but it amazes me every time a new one comes out because it shows the kind of creative glut that the networks are currently in. Instead of trying out new shows and giving them more than four episodes or less to find their voice, the powers that be are more interested in creating brand name shows that have built in audiences. I can understand the logic there from a money point of view, but come on, NBC used to be a powerhouse on the tube and at this point I can only name three shows/franchises they have: ER, L&O and Scrubs.

In a recent interview for The Onion, Amy Sherman-Palladino (creator of the WB show, Gilmore Girls) was saying:
Now that there's so much cable, so many different outlets to go to—FX, Showtime, HBO—it's becoming a different world, because there are so many levels on which to compete. There's only one American Idol. That number is almost unheard of. You've got American Idol, you've got CSI, you've got a couple of those crazy, crazy numbers that everyone watches. But there aren't a lot of those anymore. It's really broken down into what demographic you serve, and if you hit your target.

I guess there's a parallel with the comic book indie market and the cable networks on TV. If you want more diversity, you can go to Oni, Fantagraphics, Image or a number of other publishers who are out there, trying new things and telling a broad spectrum of stories. Kind of like clicking the remote over to HBO (or MovieCentral in Canada) when you're tired of the new Law and Order show chronicalling the life of the guy who runs the tube steak cart outside the courthouse (just think of the cameos!!!) and seeing The Sopranos, Carnivale, Deadwood or Six Feet Under (and HBO isn't the only game in town for those kinds of shows, just the easiest to list off at the mo').

In the comic book world, you can buy Jarvis Unleashed #3 (of 6) or DC Discombobulated II #1 (of a 52 week event), or you can buy Little Star, Love and Rockets, Planetes, Planetary or Clyde Fans if you're looking for something different. Less people buy them and they cost more, but if it's diversity you want, you gotta pay a little extra, right?

I'm not even really trying to complain about the glut, because every now and then you get a decent product (even from a spin-off), I just find it sad, you know? TV experienced a sort of renaissance about 10 years ago where oddball shows were catching the attention of viewers all over the globe, now, we're watching the bottom line for the shareholders holding steady and that makes for stale drama.


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