Originality Takes a Back Seat as Television Mimics the Movies

If you thought your TV was a safe haven unsaturated by comic book adaptations, think again.

Culture writer Vincent Mancuso laments television's lack of originality in this piece up at New York Observer. Sure, this being the so-called "Golden Age" of television means that we've got great shows built on original concepts like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. But so much else is based on tried-and-true faces, formulas, and franchises. And that bothers Mancuso:

"Television quality has no doubt changed recently - overwhelmingly for the positive, mind you - but how so? Let’s take a look at the majority of shows generating buzz for Fall or recently getting greenlit: Gotham, Constantine, The Flash, Daredevil, Teen Titans, Supergirl, iZombie, etc, etc ad infinitum. 

Adaptations, spinoffs, re-tellings. Familiarity, familiarity, familiarity. Comfort. Being able to say 'oh I’ll watch that as TV, it was really good as that other thing.'"

In a way, Mancuso is accusing television of chasing the bait that has served Hollywood so well in recent years. Sure, if you live in New York or L.A. you have the opportunity to see indie and art house films whenever you like. For everyone else, the menu selections are almost wholly adaptations, sequels, and remakes. Is this the direction that television is trending toward?Mancuso thinks so. He points out that even "original" shows tend to feature established stars or be headed by familiar showrunners. Any new debut that doesn't fit the paradigm meets a swift end. To Mancuso, it's all becoming "security blanket" entertainment.

Of course, the counterpoint is that television has always been a security blanket. For example, very rarely has traditional sitcom structure been tinkered with over the past 70 years. Multi-camera shows like The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men are popular because they play by the same rules that Lucy Ricardo and Jack Tripper did generations before. Things are this way because, as the numbers will show, it's what the people want. A television is a mirror. Stare into the screen and you'll see but a reflection of the society tuning in. 

So perhaps Mancuso's gripe isn't actually with the shows, but rather the audience. It's an interesting thing to think about. What say you?

Read more at New York Observer 

Photo credit:  BrAt82 / Shutterstock

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