The fall television line-up is abundant, complex, and almost impossible to keep up with. Those successful in the industry have learned that in order for their program to stick, the content needs to stand out. With a constant influx of new series and continuing seasons, storytelling structure needs to be reinvented every once in a while to keep viewers on their toes.
But changing structure means taking risks, which in the quote-unquote golden age of television strays from the low-risk production mantra that’s been drilled into the head of every industry student. Shows like Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience” and NBC’s “The Good Place” are taking meteoric leaps of faith with their notions of storytelling. This week on Very Good Television Podcast, Indiewire’s TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers discuss the most innovative television they’ve seen recently.
Starz’s adaptation of Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film of the same name, “The Girlfriend Experience,” has audiences buzzing for a few reasons. First, “it approaches hardcore pornography,” so maybe indulge when the kids have been put to sleep. Second, every Sunday night viewers are met with a serialized half-hour episode of “The Girlfriend Experience” directed by Lodge Kerrigan. Then directly after, a new half-hour begins with different characters and a story arc completely separate from the one they’ve just seen, directed by Amy Seimetz. These two stories remain completely separate, but continue in a serialized manner through the season.
Starz isn’t the only network switching things up. “The Good Place” shocked fans with its Season 1 reveal, but left many wondering how the show would move on from such an important and epic gamechanger. As Season 2 currently unravels on NBC, it’s delightful to witness the show evolve in real time. The unusual structure allows for the embrace of other characters we haven’t spent time with alone, like Michael and Janet in last week’s episode.
A unique structure is undeniably better for finding the TV worth watching, but it also opens up amazing story opportunities. There are no rules in TV, except for obvious FCC violations and non-obvious FCC violations. As television series continue to accumulate faster than bad Rick and Morty tattoos, the shows that are taking the structure risks prove to be the ones to watch. Listen to the podcast above to find out what Liz and Ben think about the current television landscape, and be sure to leave comments below or e-mail the hosts directly.
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