This year’s Fall TV falls amidst the fog of writers and actors strikes. Networks have been slow to adhere to their schedules, and are still reorganizing their lineups for September and beyond. Cable outlets changed the release dates for pre-made shows, fearing they would fade away without promotion by their stars, an activity the actors union banned during the strike. Broadcast archives beckon.
At first glance, the network’s fall schedules suggest that the hiatus has had an impact: It’s filled with reality competitions and game shows, whose staffs generally work under different contracts than those of the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA.
ABC The Wednesday prime-time lineup consists of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” Followed by the “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” followed by the “$100,000 Pyramid.” Thursday CBS It added a new competition called “Buddy Games” to go along with the long-running “Big Brother” and a sequel to “The Challenge: USA”. on Foxcelebrities undergo military training on Mondays (“Special Forces: The World’s Toughest Test”), guess songs on Tuesdays (“Name the Celebrity Who Melody”) and sing in ridiculous outfits on Wednesdays (“The Masked Singer”).
However, with the exception of “Buddy Games,” which are summer camp competitions for groups of adult friends, none of the shows in the previous paragraph were new — the networks had been producing unscripted shows in prime time for many years. Overall, their lineups seem eerily static, more like an extended summer season of familiar titles and reruns than an unusually barren fall slate.
So the timelines ultimately mirror the strikes not because they look radically different, but because their striking similarity is a reminder of the issues that led to the work stoppages—that everything is simply “content,” and the only kind of value is monetary value.
What are we to assume about studios’ feelings toward the people who make television when their shows indicate indifference toward the people who watch them? Or perhaps these lackluster lineups are a product of corporate strategy, as all TV programming now seems to have been consolidated into a few mega media outlets that are changing how shows are delivered and creators get paid.
It’s no wonder ABC is happy to offer singing competitions and celebrities spinning the wheel when Disney, which owns it, wants to subscribe to Hulu and Disney+ for family and prestige shows as well as franchise shows like Marvel and “Star Wars.” series. CBS? Oh, you mean the streaming home of the Paramount Global empire, where you can also watch repeats of Paramount+ shows like “FBI True” and “Yellowstone?”
(This shift isn’t limited to the networks, of course. Don’t think of HBO as an upscale tastemaker in a television world separate from home renovation shows and bugs taken from people’s bodies — imagine instead a collection of treasures, trash, and “Friends”‘ entire catalog stacked under one title. Meaningless: max.)
This isn’t the first fall filled with reality shows. ABC was always going to air another season of “Dancing with the Stars” (this would be the 32nd season); NBC was always going to air “The Voice” (season 24); CBS has always aired “Survivor” (45) and “The Amazing Race” (35); Fox has placed “Hell’s Kitchen” (22) in its fall lineup several times. Although The CW has largely waived any claim to original programming, choosing instead to fill its fall schedule with a host of current foreign shows, it is still airing new episodes of its version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, which It begins its twelfth season in November.
NBC has been popularizing reruns of the “Law & Order” and “Chicago” series, and its reliance on the Dick Wolf universe has been a core programming strategy for much of the past three decades. ABC will keep “America’s Funniest Home Videos” alive until the sun eats the Earth. Fox’s animated comedies are sitting on the shelf for now.
Even most of the new fare colors are comfortable within the stripes. ABC’s ‘The Golden Bachelor’ is a ‘Bachelorette’ with a 71-year-old widower at its center. NBC has two scripted drama series: “The Irrational” and “Found,” each based around crime procedurals, lest any American go more than a few minutes without seeing someone hiding under yellow crime scene tape. Fox has a new cartoon from Dan Harmon (“Crapopolis”), his third current animated series. CBS is airing the original British version of Ghosts as a companion to its American rerun, an inspired choice in its way, but also a simple one, given the success of the adaptation.
Otherwise, our newcomers include the previously mentioned “Buddy Games,” hosted and executive produced by Josh Duhamel, who has previously produced two films based on the same concept, and two CBS game shows: “Lotería Loca,” hosted by Jaime Camil, which TV program. A bingo-style version of the lottery game; and “Cage Raid,” an adaptation of an Israeli series that involves people snatching trophies from a cage. Finally, there’s Fox’s Snake Oil, a mix of Shark Tank and Bullsh*t, hosted by David Spade.
To be fair, networks have been counted many times before, and shows like ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” which received eight Emmy nominations in July, and “Ghosts” show that there’s still plenty of fun and uniqueness to be had In a TV series. Broadcast format. These sitcoms, procedurals and more could return with new episodes in the new year. (Or maybe even sooner, if the strikes are resolved soon somehow). But such sparks are rare.
Back in the early 2000s, premium cable shows began often outperforming network shows, and plenty of streaming series have done the same since then — winning awards, making money, and draining our wallets. fair enough! After a while, it seemed as if the networks were barely putting up a fight; Cop shows and singing competitions as far as the eye can see, plus “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Simpsons.”
But now, the show’s new flashy ride is no longer an expensive or more luxurious platform; It is free and ad-supported streaming TV. The growing popularity of these platforms, like The Roku Channel, Tubi, Pluto, and Amazon’s Freevee, suggests that viewers want to recreate the basic cable experience of yesteryear with long runs of classics, but they also want original shows that are fun and interesting (Jury of Freevee “Duty” received four Emmy nominations this year, including Best Comedy) and are happy to accept ads. This is the network television audience.
This also means that the grids can occupy a different space in the public imagination – the main floor is not the penthouse, but it is not the garden unit or the basement storage either. Mass-appeal comedies and long-form dramas still have value in the streaming age, perhaps now more than ever as a way to lure parents and children away from their individual screens.
Perhaps the decline of game shows will ultimately alienate viewers and thus convince program directors of the value of actual creativity. This may lead to more adventurous attitudes in Hollywood when the strikes eventually end. Maybe the next time the networks have to put things on hold, we’ll actually feel the loss.
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