- Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Television’s executives, producers, and stars just wrapped up the winter Television Critics Association press tour.
It’s an exhausting (and exciting) pageant of the networks’ best current programming and upcoming shows for hundreds of critics and reporters from all over the US (and even some international press) who flock to Los Angeles twice a year for the event.
In every press tour, certain themes and patterns from the TV world emerge. They tell us about what the industry is wrestling with and give us a snapshot of what’s to come.
Here are the biggest things the industry is facing in 2017:
Everyone wants in on the digital game.
- Joe Pugliese/CBS
Streaming shows and TV everywhere was the talk of TCA. Netflix is so ahead of the curve it didn’t even show up for the conference. Showtime is so thirsty (after losing its No. 2 paid cable network spot to Starz a couple years back) that its president, David Nevins, made the network’s streaming service a huge part of his executive session introduction.
And in the absence of Netflix, CBS All Access, Crackle, Hulu, and Amazon stepped up their presence at the conference. TV could learn (and is learning) much from the digital companies.
The broadcast network bosses were no-shows.
- Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
One of the most important traditions of the TCA press tour are the executive sessions. They typically kick off a network’s day of presentations and feature the top bosses facing reporters in an open Q&A. Depending on how their network is doing, they’ll be celebrated or verbally attacked by the journalists.
But this year, the broadcast networks decided to bail on TCA. Yes, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox (which later relented to pressure and decided it would attend after all) broke with tradition.
Is the TV industry so in trouble that its bosses couldn’t handle 20 minutes of grilling by critics? Are there not enough sports programming and cheesy staged musicals to make up for the lack of live viewing nowadays? Do Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming sites have the broadcast networks running scared?
The truth is nothing they could’ve said about the state of TV could’ve been worse than the theories being bounced around the media to explain them being no-shows.
There are still too many TV shows.
- Getty Images
You don’t have to be a statistician to know that the amount of TV shows exceeds any individual’s ability to watch them – quality programming or not. But for those of you who like your numbers, by FX’s count there were 454 scripted TV shows in 2016, a new record.
FX Networks President John Landgraf has been waving the red flag on the growing amount of TV shows for years now in a theory he refers to as “peak TV.” Though he admits he has been wrong before, Landgraf predicts that the amount of TV shows will hit its peak and thus start to reduce in late-2017 or 2018.
Of course, Landgraf’s theory has its opponents – those who believe that there could never be too much TV. That includes many of the digital players, including Netflix, Amazon, and Crackle. And now, even Apple announced recently that it would be getting into the original TV programming game.
How will Trump’s presidency affect TV?
- REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
One of the ongoing themes during TCA was the question of how TV shows will respond to Donald Trump’s presidency, as well as the clearly unhappy voters in Middle America who voted for him.
It should be noted that the Golden Globes and Meryl Streep’s speech – in which she called on Hollywood to help balance Trump’s controversial policies affecting immigrants, women, and gay people – occurred early during TCA and remained an ongoing topic through the conference.
The question was mostly posed to shows that dealt with politics and law. Producers for CBS All Access’s “The Good Wife” spin-off, “The Good Fight,” for example, said that they would focus less on Trump’s policies and more on how its liberal characters respond to them.
Conversely, ABC’s “American Crime” creator, John Ridley, said that its upcoming third season will deal with the immigrant experience but not in response to Trump.
“This story would’ve been told irrespective of who’s in the Oval Office,” Ridley said.
Remakes, revivals, and reboots aren’t going anywhere.
Despite the many, many recent reboots and remakes that have failed recently – “The Muppets,” “Limitless,” “The Exorcist,” “Minority Report,” and “Rush Hour,” among many others – TV keeps going back to the well.
This year, you can expect ABC’s remake of the film “Time After Time,” a TV movie version of “Dirty Dancing,” CBS’s TV reboot of “Training Day,” and NBC’s recently announced revival of “Will & Grace.”
Even the classics aren’t safe, with reboots planned for “The Honeymooners,” “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons.”
Diversity for diversity’s sake isn’t enough anymore.
- Ray Mickshaw/FOX
Just a few years ago, critics were happy with minority representations on-screen. Period. There were so few minority leads on-air that it couldn’t happen sooner. But that’s been done. So what now? We want those minority representations to have some depth.
There’s now a greater call for shows with minority characters to also have people behind the camera who can tell their story with some honesty. It’s not enough for Fox’s “24: Legacy” to have a black lead, for example. The show also needed to prove that it had writers who understood how to portray him. And it argued that it does.
Another good example of deeper storytelling for minorities can be found on CBS’s legal series, “Doubt.” With all the media surrounding transgender issues and Caitlyn Jenner’s very public transition, there was some thought among critics that Laverne Cox’s casting was a trendy choice. In reality, we found out that “Doubt” producers – the husband-and-wife team of Tony Phelan and Joan Rater – were inspired to write a transgender character from the start by their own experiences with their transgender son.