Thursday, August 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Networks build drama, ratings with ‘diva’ model

By
From page A7 | March 20, 2014 |

By Mary Mcnamara

Los Angeles Times

Diva Rule No. 1: Know how to make a big entrance. Diva Rule No. 2: Know how to make a big exit. Diva Rule No. 3: Do these things as often as humanly possible.

The return earlier this month of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” marked the end of the midseason premieres. By the end of the month, the premieres of the midseason replacements should also have concluded, giving us a few weeks of “normal” viewing before the actual season finales begin.

If you’re confused about the difference between a midseason premiere and a midseason replacement premiere, the answer is increasingly “not much.” Technically, a midseason replacement is a brand new series held from the fall lineup to be debuted after the first of the year. But with all the pomp and publicity surrounding the return of fall shows from the winter hiatus, they might just as well be new shows.

Certainly, the writers are happy to hit the reset button, often using the opportunity to shift narrative focus and tone. Instead of a broadcast season of about 22 episodes and a cable one that is roughly half that, viewers these days are often being served up two miniseasons – a change in both form and function that amps up TV’s already high diva quotient.

The winter hiatus has always been with us. But now, with TV’s newfound star status and the Internet-driven demand for recapping, it isn’t surprising that networks have turned this once irritating necessity into a full-blown marketing event.

Where once a series might produce a “special” holiday episode before slipping quietly into reruns from mid-December to January, it has now become de rigueur to double-down on drama with midseason finales and premieres. All of which results in the sort of hypnotic roller-coaster relationship many of us have spent years in therapy learning how to avoid.

Love me? I need some alone time. Miss me? I’m back, but it’s only a few weeks to finale, when I will possibly kill off another beloved character.

In the Dec. 1 midseason finale of “The Walking Dead,” for example, virtually every major character either wound up dead (Can we ever forgive Hershel’s death? Discuss.) or missing in action (Should infants be used in such a manner? Discuss.). Fans had to wait until Feb. 9 to find out who exactly survived and / or where they ended up.

And it isn’t just established shows that now gleefully manufacture major midseason crises to keep viewers hooked. NBC’s “The Blacklist” was just a few months old when its lead character, Red (James Spader), was abducted from the FBI and then escaped, allowing that show’s midseason premiere to promo the tagline “He’s back.”

Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) also went missing in the midseason finale of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” – the follow-up midseason premiere “finally” explained how a character could die in a movie and be resurrected on a TV show.

Meanwhile, Fox made fans of its 13-episode sleeper hit “Sleepy Hollow” wait almost a month between the revelations of Episode 10 (Ichabod will sell Abby’s soul!) and Episode 11(He swears he won’t!) before airing the remaining two as a double-hour finale a week later. So, a premiere and a finale within a week of each other?

Because a resurrected Colonial soldier and the four horsemen of the apocalypse aren’t dramatic enough.

The new “diva” model seems to be working. Media outlets, including this one, dutifully drum up anticipation for midseason farewells and returns, while fans use the time between one and the other to speculate via social media on the shocks and reassurances that await them.

“The Walking Dead’s” midseason premiere drew almost 16 million viewers and beat even the Winter Olympics in the coveted 18-49 demo. Even ABC’s “Scandal,” which had hit a ratings plateau, saw a sizable bump for its midseason finale.

But this choreographed season interruptus is changing the very nature of television. A season bifurcated by a finale and a premiere requires two sets of climaxes, and subsequently two episodes designed specifically to hook the audience. Which sounds and increasingly plays like two separate seasons.

For shows on the Big Four networks, this seems like a natural and welcome development. As the Emmys race makes abundantly clear, the 22-episode broadcast network show has a difficult time competing against its sleeker nine- to 12-episode cable counterparts for artistic cred, a coin that has become almost as valuable as audience size.

Although the writers rooms must still valiantly produce those 22 episodes, it’s easier to tell compelling uber-narratives when the season is sliced in half.

And during the holiday doldrums, when everyone is presumably too busy DVR-ing “It’s a Wonderful Life” to keep up with CBS’ “The Good Wife,” much less darker dramas like “The Walking Dead,” it seems natural to leverage the form for the function.

Shows like “Walking Dead,” meanwhile, are chopping narrative into even smaller portions – AMC’s “Breaking Bad” strung its “final season” out for two years; the network’s “Mad Men” is poised to do likewise.

These prestige divas offer the limited-edition feel of BBC productions like “Sherlock,” airing in the U.S. on PBS, or BBC America’s “Luther,” which air in trilogies or quartets and prove that absence can indeed make the viewer heart grow fonder. Or at least more obsessive.

What defines this new age of syncopated television is neither the technology nor the quality. It’s the variety. Stories come in all shapes and sizes now, unlike the traditional mold, where television was committed to either the short-short (the television movie) or the serial (the open-ended series).

New and multiple platforms may be a headache for chief financial officers everywhere, but they are catnip for writers, directors and actors who now have the freedom to experiment in a way that hasn’t been allowed since TV’s earliest days.

The increasingly lush biosphere created first by premium cable (“Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos”) and then basic cable (“Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad”) is now ablaze with tonal poems like “Rectify,” brilliant oddities like “Getting On” and irregular bloomers like “Sherlock.”

Once the most important season in the TV year, fall, though still chockablock with new shows, is slowly losing its grip. Series debut year ‘round now, and even those that begin in the fall regularly renew their vows come winter.

Los Angeles Times

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Railroad crossing stalemate continues

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 10 Comments

 
First day back to school brings laughter, jitters

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Potrero Hills Landfill legal appeals exhausted

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Breakfast after the Bell wins support

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2, 5 Comments

 
Suisun city employees get pay raise

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

 
Fairfield candidates hear about lean, nimble city staff

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

Free e-waste collection to benefit Scarlet Brigade

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Fairfield mayor to appear at GOP dinner

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

Girls on the Run seeks volunteer life coaches

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

 
College finalizes police department takeover, OKs bond plan

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Weather for Aug. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B10

Fairfield police log: Aug. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

.

US / World

Militants use British killer as propaganda

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Governor criticizes new-hire pension enhancements

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

US mission to rescue hostages in Syria failed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
US official: More airstrikes in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Beheading spurs new attacks on Islamic militants

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 15 Comments

 
School sorry for making special ed kids sort trash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Police seek mystery pair in selfies after burglary

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Teens deny threatening boy in school shooting plot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Panel OKs state librarian despite initial concerns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
North Korea insults John Kerry over his looks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 4 Comments

Ukrainian govt troops take over much of Luhansk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Picture emerges of officer in Ferguson shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 9 Comments

Navy kicks out 34 for nuke cheating

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 2 Comments

 
CHP says officer may face serious beating charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

8 homes destroyed, 1,500 threatened by wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Drought has state debating its unregulated pumping

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 2 Comments

Holder says he understands mistrust of police

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 6 Comments

 
Liberian slums barricaded as Ebola sets new record

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoons: Aug. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
California needs pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7, 8 Comments

Tell the story, don’t be it

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A7

 
 
We’re spending way too much on raising our kids

By Megan Mcardle | From Page: A7

.

Living

Today in History: Aug. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Aug. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Aug. 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
Why do parents drink alcohol after their children’s games?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

 
Emmys: Billy Crystal to pay tribute to Williams

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6 | Gallery

And the Emmy winners are…? We’re happy to guess!

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Aniston, Hamm, Hudson set to Stand Up to Cancer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Peavy pitches Giants to 8-3 win over Cubs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
WR Stevie Johnson adds depth to 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Fairfield boxer Avila set to put perfect 15-0 record on the line

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Giants win protest, rain-shortened game to resume Thursday

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

A’s stumble and must regroup with Angels coming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders FB Reece’s injury not as bad as feared

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Reality check for Phelps at Pan Pacific Champs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Kent State starting center dies at 21

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Serena Williams seeded No. 1 at US Open; Halep 2nd

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tony Stewart skipping 3rd straight race after Ward’s death

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Las Vegas spoils Mo’ne’s night, beats Philly 8-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Sharks F Torres undergoes surgery on right knee

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

US routs Dominicans in exhibition as Rose rests

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Schilling blames chewing tobacco for mouth cancer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sports on TV for Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B4

 
This date in sports history for Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

.

Business

BofA reaches $17B settlement with US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Brine firm sues over biblical fracking billboard

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Apple’s stock bounces back to hit a new high

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
.

Obituaries

David G. Gibson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Charles (Chuck) H. Doty

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9