Tag Archives: genre

The Return of the Adventure Show

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A few years ago, I taught a History of American Television Genres course, in which I lamented the apparent death of the adventure show following its peak in the 1980s.  Shows like Quantum Leap, The A-Team, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island, and The Greatest American Hero seemed worlds away from the broadcast schedule in early 2012, but watching new shows like Sleepy Hollow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, two of the successful new hour-long programs of this fall, I think the adventure show is returning.  However, despite the obvious debt Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. owes to episodic adventure shows like The A-Team, purely episodic dramas outside of procedural franchises are nonexistent. Even one of the 1980s cycle’s closest descendants on cable, Psych, has some drawn-out serial arcs.  Although the 1980s broadcast adventure shows lay the groundwork for this genre’s apparent resurgence, I’d argue that the 90s spate of first-run syndicated adventure shows are the most direct antecedent to the new broadcast adventures. For these shows, syndication freed them from the weight of legitimation and network brand identity allowing for fun to be their watchword.

“Adventure show,” like most generic designations is a discourse, a construction that provides a way of organizing the media we interact with. While certain elements of the adventure genre mixed, evolved, or fused with various other genres (notably spy and crime shows), the particular generic construction I am looking at is exemplified by that 1980s cycle and picked up again in the 90s syndication mode. These shows are most clearly characterized by their tone: breezy, fun, and often alternating between formulaic storytelling and kitchen-sink narratives that seem to throw together multiple disparate genres, formulas, character types, and plot developments with a wry wink, knowing full well exactly what they are and how they operate in their generic and narrative worlds.

Xena, Hercules, and Taking the World Seriously Without Being Too Serious

The adventure show’s winking tone provides levity without condescension toward the show’s characters, plots, and worlds. The characters and viewers both realize and occasionally acknowledge the ridiculous and/or strange elements, but everyone is in on the joke, not the butt of it.  This is one of the key characteristics that spans all three cycles. Quantum Leap would put Sam Beckett in ridiculous situations, but always treated the characters’ emotions with serious attention. The 90s first-run syndicated shows Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess excelled at this winking tone. They nodded to popular culture and their own fans often without diminishing the weight of the core character relationships. Hercules and Iolaus’ and Xena and Gabrielle’s platonic (or not so much) love for each other and genuine desire to help people was not part of the “wink.” Among ludicrous squabbling gods, cartoonish sound effects, and the often juvenile take on the fantasy genre, the characters’ sacrifices and victories were taken seriously.

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This balance is one of the strongest elements in the success of Sleepy Hollow. The premise is complicated and potentially alienating: Ichabod Crane was a Revolutionary War spy for the colonists who was tasked by George Washington to protect various mystical artifacts while fighting the British and fending off Biblical prophecy; he met the Horseman Death on the field of battle, cut off his head, accidentally mixed their bloods together, mostly died, then returned to life in 2013 Sleepy Hollow to combat the apocalypse with Sheriff Abbie Mills. Various reviews have praised the show for its “insanity” or “bonkers” storytelling (not hyperbole given its premise), and the characters are fully aware of the ridiculousness of their situation but carry on through the fantastic adventures, finding humor in the absurdity.

Death may be serious, but that doesn’t mean shows that feature the weekly threat of death need to be heavy with that seriousness. In a television landscape with a lot of “grim” and “dark” anti-heroes and gray morality, shows that are fun are sadly rare. The adventure show may have dark moments, but there is always comedy to keep the show moving without being ponderous.

Trusting the Audience: Complexity, Rapidity, and Genre Confidence

Another element of that “insane” descriptor for the contemporary adventure show is their full commitment to the genre(s) they engage in and the viewing audience to keep up as they speed through their complicated premises. Hercules and Xena used voice-over opening credits to provide the background for the fantastic world in which the heroes existed. Sleepy Hollow, toohas been using voice-over recaps of the premise in addition to the standard “previously on” bumper before the credits. Despite these voice overs indicating an audience that needs reminding, the shows move their characters quickly through disbelief into pragmatism. Both Sleepy Hollow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. place a lot of faith in the audience to keep up with their relatively rapid movement through complex premises and to use their generic knowledge to fill in the gaps. Why is no one reacting to Ichabod Crane reawakening in Sleepy Hollow?  This is a fantastic narrative world with an alternative history that doesn’t include Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” of course. How did that tech company get their hands on alien technology? Because that’s the way of comic book villains, of course. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  also assumes audience knowledge of the Marvel franchise of which it is an off-shoot, so they don’t waste time explaining what Extremis is or recapping the Battle of New York from The Avengers.  The adventure show moves at a quick pace and because it has confidence in itself and its attendant genres as well as its audience to keep up, it can wind its way through more locations, set-ups, and pay-offs than many other series.

The Adventure Aesthetic Bind: Exotic Locales and VFX a Must, But On a Budget

That rapidity of both storytelling and often travel, however, comes at a price. Although visual effects (vfx) have become more widespread across all media, television budgets are still much much smaller than film or video game budgets, yet adventure shows are expected to present travel to exotic locales and/or create believable dangers to the heroes using vfx.  For the 90s syndicated shows, the small budgets’ resulting vfx were expected. No one tuned into Cleopatra 2525 on a Saturday morning expecting state-of the art vfx, so the laughable images were part of the levity.

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For today’s adventure shows, however, television bears the weight of 20 years of a discourse of cinematic progress regarding acting, writing, and aesthetics. At the same time, the audience for broadcast fictional programming continues to shrink and networks continue to struggle to boost their revenue streams.  The result is broadcast adventure shows in 2013 that share an astoundingly similar vfx aesthetic with their 90s syndicated counterparts.

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yellowbrick(The second image is from ABC’s Once Upon A Time In Wonderland which may fit this genre if it focuses more on Alice’s time in Wonderland and doesn’t go the Lost route with flashbacks to her time in the “real world,” but after one episode, it’s difficult to tell.)

New/Old Industrial Logics: Diving In with Trusted Producers

Both Sleepy Hollow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were guaranteed at least 13 episodes before even their pilots aired, and both have since been renewed for a second 13-episode season and the back nine for a full 22 episode season, respectively. Because these adventure shows are relatively outside the standard logics of successful television–they may have procedural elements but they aren’t procedurals nor do either have big stars heading their ensembles–they are high-risk-high-reward series. Yet that risk is mitigated by the backing of producers with proven track records and industrial relationships that the networks want to maintain. These relationships likely allow a bit more freedom to take risks and try new (or new-old) approaches to television: breezy instead of grim, more episodic than serial, more generically complex than simplified categorization.

Joss Whedon, king of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and cult television demigod, executive produces Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman are in-demand film and television writers with close ties to J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions via Star Trek, Alias, and Fringe.  Kurtzman and Orci were also key writers on both Hercules and Xena, and they cut their teeth on those syndicated shows (as shown in their fictionalized representation in this self-reflexive Hercules episode).

Escapism, Seriousness, and the Weight of Legitimation

For all these parallels between the earlier cycles of adventure shows and their apparent resurgence in 2013, why now?  The 1980s adventure shows were trying to lure back the dwindling mass audience, one of a few strategies broadcast networks attempted at the time. The other main strategy was the move toward televisuality, which is the strategy that persisted. Nearly 30 years later, and that push toward legitimating television has weighed the medium down, leading to a current conflation of quality and serious, heavy, serial dramas. Cable used to be a haven for “blue skies” fun programming, but the push toward serialization and movement away from the apparent frivolity of fun has even shifted USA Network’s anchor programs toward seriousness. Thus, a niche has been opened for fun shows, and broadcast is well positioned to fill that niche, as they have historically been the provider of escapist of television (and at various historical periods been criticized for that), and they cannot compete with the ability of cable to portray the adult situations that are required of this turn in quality. Instead, they can turn into the skid, so to speak, and return to the strategy they tried in the 1980s for appealing to more of a mass audience: fun, adventure, escapism, levity, and giving certain trusted producers the space (though not very large budgets) to build programming that winks as it throws everything but the kitchen sink at the audience.

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On “Trojan Horse” Television and Genre

Today, I jumped into a twitter thread started by a retweeted response to Alyssa Rosenberg’s recent post about the rise of “Trojan Horse” television shows.

Full disclosure, I have never met this person and have no idea of his or her background or context, but it was an interesting idea that I wanted to push a bit. The use of genre television here, as in much popular uses of the term, seems to refer to the fantastic genres: fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and the further examples used in the twitter thread follow this line.

In case you’re new to this blog or have never met me, you should know that I tend to work through this idea–that genres, particularly fantastic genres, can “make safe” challenging social topics through displacement–in a lot of my writings. Also, thanks to taking a general genre theory course pretty early in my graduate career, I am highly conscious of the shifting boundaries around the definition(s) of genre(s).  Now heading toward taking a comprehensive exam on the subject, I find questions about genre as a term coming up again and again: Why use this new term when “genre” will do? Why does this other term seem like it’s trying to swallow “genre”? How are industry and audience discourses shaping how we think of any particular genre?  In short, I am both aware and wary of the often fraught shorthand of “genre” in both popular and academic circles. That’s what happens when you spend an entire semester defining, undefining and redefining an idea and then think, “Yeah, let me continue doing this all the time forever.” That’s me. Hello!

So, genre. I think about it a lot. Some might say overthink it. But one of the fundamental things about most definitions of genre (at least most that are studied and taught today) is that audience plays a role, even if it’s just a fantasy of their expectations. There is some sense when discussing genre that the audience is engaged with the text. They expect certain things, are savvy enough to “read” the genre.  This is a movement away from early text-based genre definitions and toward Jason Mittell’s definition of genres as discursively constructed. In Genre and Television, he writes:

[I]nstead of reading outwards from a textual interpretation to posit how people make sense of a genre, we should look at the meanings people make in their interactions with media genres to understand the genre’s meanings. (5)

This is a way of looking at genre befitting the cultural-studies-skewing television studies.

“Trojan Horse” television, however, is a relatively new term, at least as it’s being used in the popular discussions now.  Meaning has not settled in its use. The Trojans have yet to be agreed on: Showtime President David Nevins and author of Difficult Men Brett Martin imply the audience are the duped Trojans, but Orange Is the New Black showrunner Jenji Kohan configures network executives as those who are tricked to let something past their gates.  This leads to two distinct ideas of “Trojan Horse” television, both explored by Rosenberg in the essay that started this whole post, that nevertheless appear to me to share a similar idea of superiority over the intended audience. As Rosenberg defines it, Trojan Horse television uses “characters and ideas with whom audiences think they’re familiar to lure viewers in, and then taking them to entirely unpredictable places . . . For a Trojan Horse to function as such, of course, it has to offer up something to lull audiences into accepting its outward appearance.” For Kohan, a woman trying to get other women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and kinds into the representational field, the “audience” is the mostly white, mostly male cohort of network executives. For her, “Trojan Horse” television is a tactic used to help the subaltern speak and be seen. It’s not about sneaking into the home of Netflix subscribers and surprising them into feeling for a transgender woman or a former drug addict. It’s about circumventing the power structures that have barred so many such representations from the powerful worlds of fiction and changing the industry from within by playing on the very ideas of the audience that shape the other kind of “Trojan Horse” television. In her NPR interview, Kohan describes Piper, in terms of selling the show to networks, and even when audiences figure, it’s still the business of television that is foregrounded.

In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it’s a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it’s relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It’s useful. (Fresh Air,emphasis mine).

This is the kind of thinking of that other mode of “Trojan Horse” television that uses sensationalism or popular tropes to draw audiences. For those who think in this mode of television, like Nevins and Martin, deep, complex, troubling, taboo, and under-represented issues or characters will not draw the attention of the audience quick enough to gain traction. Thus, the audience needs to be lured in, lulled into complacency, then basically tricked into engaging. When Rosenberg calls for television (read: producers, executives, and other cultural gatekeepers) to learn the lessons of both modes of Trojan Horse television, the audience is barely a factor.  Which brings me back to why I must disagree with the idea that genre television is always Trojan Horse television.

It’s an intriguing idea, but one that configures the audience in troubling ways and ossifies too much of genre’s plasticity. One of the great values of the fantastic genres has historically been and continues to be its openness to allegory by reconfiguring reality into a fantastic past, present, or future, but this has also often been a weakness of the genres as well. Allegory is interesting but when layered onto generic formulas can come across as trite or heavy-handed. Where “Trojan Horse” television implies some degree or kind of producerly or authorial intent (packing the Greeks into the horse, if you will), genre allows for more audience agency in the creation of meaning. Certainly authors and producers of fantastic television shows can create their shows as “Trojan Horse” television, as Gene Roddenberry famously did, but Star Trek gave rise to slash fiction as much as it preached tolerance. Fantastic genre television operates through displacement that provides space for “safe” approaches to complex and potentially ratings-crippling topics and ideas, that space should not be given wholly to the producers’ side of meaning-making. Without the producerly intent of “Trojan Horse” television, fantastic television fans can find or build a religion or a political movement or a charity out of an ethos or a character that was created as exposition or characterization. They can construct a “Trojan Horse” from within the walls of Troy, to belabor the metaphor. But then it’s just a regular construction, an idea that has taken form and created something from the scattered materials provided, purposeful but not forced upon them. What does thinking of fantastic genre television as always “Trojan Horse” television give us that continuing to develop its genre discourse does not?  I think it gives us nothing extra an diminishes the importance and power of the fans in building meaning from and within the fantastic space of displacement. Perhaps it will be a new buzzword or way of diminishing ratings failures by talking about a new type of quality, as Faye Woods suggested on twitter.  But if so, let’s talk about it as an industry term and not let it invade the negotiated space between industry and audience that genre gives us.

Fans of Misha Collins and Supernatural didn’t need a Trojan Horse to engage in random acts of kindness.

“I’m not alright, but neither are you”: Fetishized Objects and Melodrama on Supernatural

Thursday night, I found myself in the unusual position of trying to explain to someone why seeing a Supernatural character (Dean) throw away a necklace emotionally wrecked me. I had trouble articulating all the symbolic meanings in that one act, particularly the complex emotional construction that had imbued the amulet over the last five seasons. Being an aca-fan, I figured I’d turn my consternation into analysis: Why is this one object so powerful and how did it get that way?  What is going on within the text to so fetishize (not the Freudian psycho-sexual use of the term) this amulet?  It’s gone beyond symbolism to have a power–relational though it is–within itself.  Are there other objects that operate similarly on the show?

Season one Dean (with amulet): so happy, so long ago

First, the scene itself.  In the foreground is Castiel, the angel who is helping Sam (background) and Dean (midground) fight the apocalypse.  Earlier in the season, Dean had loaned Castiel his amulet because it was supposed to aid in Cas’ quest to find God (who through the angel Joshua just told the boys God’s not going to intervene).

The last thirty seconds of that clip (and the episode) are entirely wordless.  The moment is so emotional that it moves beyond words.  It emphasizes the melodramatic mode that has increasingly become a part of the series.  As Thomas Elsaesser writes in “Tales of Sound and Fury,” in melodrama there is often “the feeling that there is always more to tell than can be said” (Film Genre Reader III 377).  Melodrama–be it as a genre or mode–tends to sublimate that which cannot be said (usually complex emotions or emotional complexes) into mise-en-scene: music, lighting, framing, decor, etc.  In this scene, the music, the cuts from Dean’s back and hand to Sam’s face in close up highlight the significance of the act, but only regular viewers would be able to read the various powers and emotions the amulet holds as fetish for their brotherly bond.

The amulet itself is an aspect of costume design for Dean since the pilot but whose origin wasn’t explained until the third season, in Christmas flashbacks:

This scene explains why Dean has never taken off the amulet in the 50+ episodes to this point: it’s a fetish for Sam’s love and trust for him that by his wearing it becomes an active pact of brotherly trust.  The Winchester brothers live transient lifestyles with very few permanent objects in their lives, so the amulet’s ever-presence gives it more authority in this show and its context than it could have in another context.

Sam keeps their covenant alive by wearing the amulet while Dean is dead (the four months between seasons 3 and 4), implying that the bond symbolized by the amulet is reciprocal.  It’s not just Sam’s trust in Dean that give it power for Dean; Sam wears it as a reminder, remnant, and seed of his brotherly bond, continuing even after Dean is dead. When Sam gives it back to Dean, it recalls the earlier, original scene of giving which heightens the power of the amulet-as-fetish.  Both brothers inscribed their bond into it by wearing it.

Sam wears it to maintain the bond while Dean's dead

Dean reclaims the amulet, reinscribing it as a fetish for their bond

Sam gave Dean the amulet when they were children; Dean wore it constantly for 16 years until he died; then Sam wore it during Dean’s time in Hell.  Dean reclaims it upon his raising from perdition, and wears it faithfully even through what he perceives as Sam’s betrayals and selfish actions, until he reluctantly gives it to Castiel to help him find God (and he warns Castiel explicitly not to lose it).  Yet when he gets the amulet back from Cas, he doesn’t put it on, doesn’t even put it among his things.  Instead, he lets Castiel call it worthless and implicitly agrees by dropping it in the rubbish bin, slowly, performing this act in front of Sam, because of Sam, for Sam’s benefit.  He understands the power of the fetish as much as he understands the power of his denial of the fetish.

There is, however, some precedent for this act.  Dean is positioned as a character that strongly identifies a few key objects with the few people he loves.  In episode 3.10 “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” Dean faces his dark double in his dreamworld:

Dark Dean: I mean after all, you got nothing outside of Sam. You are nothing. You’re as mindless and obedient as an attack dog.

Dean: That’s not true.

DD: No? What are the things you want? What are you things you dream? Your car? That’s Dad’s. Your favorite leather jacket? Dad’s. Your music? Dad’s. Do you even have an original thought? All there is is watch out for Sammy! Look out for your little brother, boy! You can still hear your dad’s voice in your head, clear as a bell.

Dean’s esteem issues fill entire worlds of fan discussion, but the car is perhaps the most key piece of evidence for my argument.  The 1967 Chevy Impala is often said to be the third main character of the show and the only permanent home the boys have had.  So in 3.02 “Everybody Loves a Clown,” when Dean attacks the Impala with a crowbar, it’s another incidence of emotions bursting into the melodramatic mode by Dean’s desecration and denial of a key emotional/relational fetish.

In this scene, we can perhaps see hope regarding the final seconds of “Dark Side of the Moon” and the disavowal of the amulet.  Though Dean destroys part of the Impala as he is trying to reclaim it after an accident, the next episode sees the car back in full force as both a means of conveyance and a fetish for the Winchester home.

Metallicar, the third Winchester

Dean is still broken, but he knows that using the fetish to express his anger is not the end of the fetish’s power.  Similarly, though Dean discards the amulet-fetish in his depression and disappointment, from the look on Sam’s face and the ceremony of Dean’s action we know that the power of the fetish still exists, ready to be reclaimed and repaired, likely in a scene with more to tell than can be said.

Characters Welcome: USA Network Brand, Formula, or Genre

I watch a lot of television, obviously, and a lot of what I watch is on cable.  In the last year or so, I’ve had the growing sense that, in the immortal words of Buffalo Springfield, “There’s something happening here, and what it is ain’t exactly clear.”  The “here” being cable networks with original programming aimed at adults.  I’m not talking about Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, both of which have built their empires around original programming aimed at kids and teens.  They’re ahead of the curve in terms of original niche programming.  Instead, I’m interested in the success of USA network original programming.  I’m especially interested in the question of what ties the shows on this networks together: are they a brand, a formula, or a genre?

USA network: Characters Welcome

The 2005 rebranding, the first step

USA network has been showing original programming since the 80s, but the network began the push for quality series–accessible to both critics and fans that would last in prime-time–in 2002, with Monk and The Dead Zone.  Both proved successful for the network, lasting seven and five years, respectively, but it is in the former more than the latter that I see the kernel of the network’s current successful spate of programs.  Monk won Emmys (mostly for acting) and was seen as a breakout for cable programming in terms of both popularity and quality, but it was also the clearest reason for USA’s 2005 rebranding with the slogan “Characters Welcome.”  Monk was a procedural detective show that followed its formula closely, but what elevated it above similar formulaic fare was its central character, Adrien Monk, a “quirky” obsessive-compulsive detective.  From Monk the character, came the tone: comedy with a perpetual underpinning of drama (just as Monk recognized his OCD as somewhat ludicrous but an unavoidable and somewhat tragic part of his life).    Fittingly, Monk as progenitor of the current cycle, is the only original programming from the rebranding period to survive past 2007, the year Burn Notice premiered.

Burn Notice and the current state of USA

Burn Notice, to my mind, appears as the turning point, the series that made USA executives take note of what they were doing right and how they could reproduce whatever that was.  Though Psych premiered the year before–to great ratings, no less–it remained a blip on the cultural radar until Burn Notice cemented USA as the cable network to go to for original programming.  Psych has always been a bit fluffier than its more dramatic USA brethren, with no central tragic mystery (like Monk) or driving arc for drama (Michael Westen’s titular burn notice) or even sense of moral purpose (as in In Plain Sight).  Burn Notice became the exemplar of the burgeoning USA Network brand, and perhaps its emerging genre.

Burn Notice took Monk‘s central “quirky” straight man and its structure of narrative complexity and folded in Psych‘s generic self-consciousness. All three central characters shared the distinction of being the best at what the do but lacking the social skills needed in order to properly function outside of the families of understanding they created around them.  Throw in an under-utilized, often exotic locale, shuffle the procedural episodic formula, and this is the “USA Network show” formula.  But could it be more than that?  Could it be a genre?

Brand or Genre?  Does it matter when it’s a success?

Genre is a slippery term; there are as many definitions as there are genres themselves.  At its core, genre is a categorization based on expectations.  Perhaps one of the better known theories of genre is Rick Altman’s Semantic/Syntactic method, wherein genre can be defined in terms of a group of signs (characters, images, iconography, etc.) that are arranged into syntactic formulas and plots, and together they form the generic conventions.  So, if I were to plot USA network series as a genre in this way, it might look something like this:

Semantic: “smartest guy in the room” central character (Michael Westen [Burn Notice], Adrien Monk [Monk], Shawn Spencer [Psych], Neal Caffery [White Collar], Hank Lawson [Royal Pains], Goren/Nichols [Law and Order: Criminal Intent]) [outlier: Mary Shannon (In Plain Sight), also the only female central character], under-utilized locale (Miami, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, the Hamptons, Albuquerque) [outliers: White Collar and Law and Order: CI are set in New York City), best friend/partner/family member that serves as emotional/moral/humor grounding force for central character (all of ’em), a “helping people” job (spy, detective, “psychic” detective, FBI agent/consultant, doctor, detective, US Marshal)

Syntactic: central character dismissed from/unable to pursue lucrative/traditional form of their job for bureaucratic/nefarious/mysterious reasons, chooses instead to help people/earn a living outside or ancillary to “the law” [variations: pursues traditional form of job in untraditional ways that make them both good at their job but forever in conflict with reigning authority]

The question I must ask is: can a brand become a genre?  Maybe.  The closest example to support an answer of yes is the idea of “Disney feature animation” as a genre that extended beyond the brand.  Animated musicals of the late 1980s and 1990s are dominated by Disney animation, yet when I talk with my peers about what constitutes that generic corpus, non-Disney film such as Anastasia and An American Tail sometimes get lumped under the Disney label.  Whether that is enough to argue for Disney as a genre, I don’t know, and certainly whether I can extend that analysis to USA network programming.  If USA network can be seen as a genre, TNT original programs like Leverage and The Closer become part of the generic corpus, as they could easily fit into the semantic/syntactic conventions of USA network programming.

Justified and the FX formula: Lawman or Lawbreaker

Regardless of what I can call USA’s programming as a group, I believe its success has become a model for other cable networks with increasing original programming.  Most notably, FX network is gaining a reputation for darker, “grittier,” and notably “masculine” dramas that push against the line between law and outlaw with successful hour-long programs: Rescue Me, The Shield, Damages, Sons of Anarchy, and most recently Justified.  To put the stakes of cable programming in perspective, the premiere of Justified attracted 4.2 million viewers, which would put it at #23 in the Nielsen top broadcast ratings for the week.  Increasingly successful cable programs are becoming successful programs without the need for the modifier of “cable,” and USA network was and currently is the leader of that change.  There’s something happening here . . .