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The Oscars and the MCU Prove, Once Again, That Good TV Is Hard to Make — TV Podcast

Helpful tips include: narrative progression and visual storytelling.

The video above was produced by IndieWire’s Creative Producer Leonardo Adrian Garcia.

Making good TV is hard.

This isn’t (or shouldn’t be) some mind-blowing revelation, but it’s a truth that appears to be taken for granted more and more these days.

Take Marvel’s two major players in the streaming game this year: “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” The latter released its sixth and final episode last Friday to a lackluster response that left many fans channeling Peggy Lee and wondering, “Is that all there is?”

Part of the problem that Marvel keeps running into is that it doesn’t seem to realize TV shows still need to go somewhere. Great television picks the viewer up in one location and transports them to another. It’s a trip that might be long or short, but it’s a journey and on the way, the status quo changes.

But as “Millions of Screens” co-host and IndieWire’s Creative Producer Leo Adrian Garcia points out on this week’s episode, the stories that the MCU are telling on TV don’t go anywhere. They’re completely extraneous and made to be plucked out of the universe completely, all the better to avoid disrupting the primary story engine found in the Marvel films: movies. If a person watched “Avengers: Endgame” and decided not to watch “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” they would still be fine when the next franchise film hit theaters because the series’ titular characters are largely the exact same as when the viewer last saw them.

In the final moments of “Endgame,” Steve Rogers gives Sam Wilson the Captain America shield, with the implication that Wilson would take over the mantle. When Wilson inevitably shows up in “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” as Captain America, fans who missed the side journey that the character went on in “The Falcon and the Winter Solider” won’t be the wiser, making the series literally disposable content made only for the most obsessive of fans.

It’s not just the MCU that makes this mistake with regard to good TV. You need to look only to this year’s Academy Awards ceremony to see another example of good intentions gone awry with the introduction of an absent audience.

Ceremony producers Steven Soderbergh, Jesse Collins, and Stacey Sher had high hopes when planning this year’s ceremony in the wake of the pandemic, committing themselves to a new venue — Los Angeles landmark Union Station — and a new feel for the event, banning Zoom speeches to distance themselves from other awards shows from the last year.

But what seemed to be lacking for all of the producers’ planning was how the ceremony would play for TV audiences. Like it or not, the Oscars are ultimately just another variety show, so decisions to feature more chatter and less video made for a slightly alienating experience for those watching the event from their couch.

While the future of awards shows may very well move toward industry-first, inside-baseball festivities that largely eschew the outside world’s opinions, for now the events must take into consideration the structure and appeal of even the most basic of TV events. If you’re actively engaging in a visual medium, then it probably wouldn’t hurt to have an Oscars ceremony that leaned harder into delivering a visually-engaging event.

Making good TV is difficult. Leave it to film and the MCU to remind us just how difficult it is.

But now, check out this week’s episode of IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens” as hosts TV Awards Editor Libby Hill, Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers, and the aforementioned Garcia dig deep into the failures of recent TV endeavors.

Plus, the crew again revisits Kate Winslet’s limited series “Mare of Easttown,” which aired its second episode on Sunday and already has some people banging their heads against the wall trying to untangle the twisty murder mystery. Stick around for Leo’s Murder Suspect Power Rankings, which we’ll be revisiting in the weeks to come. In keeping with ongoing social distancing mandates, this week’s episode was again recorded from the comfort of everyone’s respective apartments, and we’re again offering viewers a video version of the podcast, as embedded above.

Millions of Screens” is available on AnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher. You can subscribe here or via RSS. Share your feedback with the crew on Twitter or sound off in the comments. Review the show on iTunes and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the gang address specific issues in upcoming editions of “Millions of Screens.” Check out the rest of IndieWire’s podcasts on iTunes right here.

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