If we don't learn a thing or two from all the hours we spend watching television, what's the point in watching in the first place? Entertainment? I think not! Now that the 2011-2012 TV season is officially behind us, it's time to take a look back and figured out where we got edumacated.
We get it, you see Banana Republic roll out a Mad Men line and you just can't wait to see duds inspired by your super-cool show on a T.J. Maxx rack. So you decide you're going to do a '60s series of your own with people dressed all shnazzy. Well, in case you haven't noticed, network audiences and cable audiences are quite different. And cable's is much smaller. Jimmy Bob Middle America doesn't give a Steak 'n Shake about mid-century men in slick suits, even if they're surrounded by ladies in leotards with bunny tails on their butts. Innovate by making smarter network shtick, not by making dumber cable shows. And when you DO come up with something that's legitimately good but really belongs on cable (Awake), people just don't tune in. Sigh. Don't ever forget that you are network television.
One of the biggest to-dos of the 2011-2012 season was the number of shows about pussified men living in a world full of nagging women/women with dirty mouths and quirky habits. Well for the first time in the history of anything, women were more successful than men (kidding, ladies!). Work It was Work It and How to Be a Gentleman was just plain awful. And I have a question for ABC: WHO WERE YOU TARGETING WITH MAN UP? If that show was for men, that's just dumb. If that show was for women, that's just oblivious. Wussy men are supporting characters, not centerpieces.
On the flip side, women are back in a big way and deservedly so. Zooey Deschanel and Kat Dennings are breakout stars on breakout hits, and female-skewing (but man-friendly) Suburgatory, Happy Endings, Don't Trust the B---- are all coming back for more.
We bought into Terra Nova because we thought we'd be knee-deep in dinos each week. But instead we got a teen soap and saccharine family fun with sporadic Syfy-quality special effects. The show's real problem was that it relied too much on a logline and not enough on writing, but the insult was that Fox thought we wouldn't care and never bothered to deliver on Terra Nova's promise. Same goes for Alcatraz. The serialized network drama is in grave danger, but to see how it can be done right, check out Person of Interest, which incorporates plenty of standalone elements to appease the masses. That's how it's done, Spielberg!
I mean really, it's not like the word is any bluer than what's said in anatomy class. But the V-word was uttered all over network television by garbage-mouthed ladies talking to men like the term was pepper spray. It's not that it was offensive, it's that it wasn't offensive enough to be funny. Maybe get a little more specific next season? I hereby declare 2012-2013 to be the "Year of the Labia." You're welcome, Whitney.
Too often, we blame networks for canceling shows that shouldn't be canceled and hold grudges against them forever. Some of you are still boycotting Fox over Firefly, for cryin' out loud. But this season, the networks mostly played nice and did us all a few favors. Fox didn't cancel Fringe, even though it should have from a business perspective. NBC didn't cancel Community even though its numbers were crummy. Sure there are other factors behind those shows' renewals, but we like to think our love for our favorite TV series is reciprocated by their networks. This was the year that networks tried to keep fans happy. (Unfortunately, they've set up a bloodbath for next season, but we'll get to that when it happens.)
Despite being outnumbered by comedies, almost twice as many dramas were canceled than comedies this season. And the pilots this year are so top-heavy with laughers that NBC will air at least an hour of comedy four nights a week next season and every network (except for The CW) now has multiple comedy blocks. This is a trend that's been building for a few seasons, but this was the year it really broke out. Don't expect things to change for a while, as serialized network dramas continue to disappoint and cable remains the go-to place for good drama.
What lessons did YOU take away from the 2011-2012 TV season?