Monday, February 06, 2012

Netflix Jumps into Scripted TV Series World with Lilyhammer

Netflix launches its ambitious move into original TV series programming today.  It’s new streaming TV series is available today with all 8 episodes of its first season available all at once today, February 6th. 


The new Netflix Inc. original series starring and co-written by E Street Band guitarist and “The Sopranos” actor Steven Van Zandt. 

Mobster Stuck in Norway

The series brings back the mobster character we knew from “The Sopranos,” played by Steven Van Zandt.  He stars as Frank “The fixer” Tagliano who gets forced into the witness protection program and moved to the town of Lillehammer in Norway.  This is a dark comedy that looks pretty promising.  This series might be successful for Netflix in the U.S. although I wonder if American’s distaste for subtitles might get in the way.



The series was filmed in Norway and the only English dialog spoken in the movie is by Van Zandt.  All other characters in the Norway setting are speaking Norwegian with English subtitles.  I haven’t seen the first episode yet, but I look forward to checking it out.  The series is already a hit in Norway and will be premiering in the U.S, Latin America and Canada as well.

Netflix Original Programing – More Coming Soon


This is only the beginning of Netflix’s move into becoming a “channel” of TV & movie content.  Netflix will be bringing David Fincher & Kevin Spacey’s political series “House of Cards,”  the new Netflix-exclusive season of “Arrested Development” and “Hemlock Grove”, Jenji Kohan’s (Producer of Weeds) new comedy “Orange is the New Black.”  As you can see, Netflix is very serious about this “experiment.”  Netflix has been bidding against HBO and AMC for some of this original content and they fully intend to bring original programming value to it’s network.  This should be interesting as Netflix becomes more HBO-like and HBO becomes more Netflix-like with their HBO-go setup.

American TV Transforming before our RealityTV watching Eyes

I begin this with an obvious fact.  Reality TV has invaded nearly every facet of American TV networks.  This change is driven by the massive changes in the advertising world but the end result will be the complete transformation of the television industry as we know it.  It’s not something coming in the next decade – it’s already begun.



I began writing this story after tweeting this:



This is the new face of History Channel:

Swamp People on the History Channel


A La Carte TV Programming Coming?

In the near future, network and basic cable TV channels will have nothing but the cheapest programming available to them.  That means realityTV programming known in the industry as unscripted television and lower-tier sports.  The rest will be reruns of older tv series or older programming from pay channels.  If you’re one of those who has been anxiously waiting for the A La Carte programming where you decide which channels you get with cable or satellite TV, well you’re going to get something close to that.  But you might not like it once you realize what it means.

1999 – It Begins

Around 1999 and 2000, American TV watched the success of unscripted shows like Big Brother and Survivor.  The late-night talk show hosts liked to make fun of these shows, but it was very obvious that many were watching these shows – in numbers that were large enough that networks realized this could be a gold mine.  Inexpensive production, no money to pay stars, and the fact that these were treated like “live” events made audiences watch it as it aired instead of “DVR’ing” them like they were doing with many of the other series.  Then in 2001 ratings dropped.  Network executives and press began saying it was a passing fad that would eventually dwindle.  But they didn’t dwindle.  The number of realityTV shows continued to slowly increase in the 2000s.

RealityTV Multiplies in 2007

Fast forward to the writers strike in 2007.  Network executives and programmers literally had thousands of television hours to fill and no new scripted shows to fill that time with.  An easy answer for the executives was to ramp up reality series and fill the void.  No actors or writers to deal with during the strike and they were cheap to produce.  Add in the fact that TV audiences had nothing else to watch either and you have the perfect storm.  The strike was finally resolved in early 2008, but rumblings of a Screen Actor’s Guild strike kept the industry hesitant to commit to very many new scripted shows for another year.

This time allowed for reality TV programming to take hold.  Network executives came to the realization that while the quality of the programming took a serious hit, the profit from these shows many times INCREASED the advertising revenue because more people were watching these shows live.

Fast Forward to 2012:  RealityTV is Everywhere

If you watch much TV you already know this.  But I’ll point out the obvious and show how much unscripted TV has taken over.  Doing a simple search for reality programming on Monday, February 6th from 7pm EST through 10pm EST and you will find more than 70 airings of reality TV programs across the networks (cable and major networks).  And it’s all over the channels, not just Spike and TruTV.  You find things like Paranormal State on Biography, Pawn Stars on History, Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC, World’s Strictest Parents on CMT, Supernanny on Style, Keeping Up With the Kardashians on E, and The Bachelor on ABC. 

This is just a small sampling of shows on TV these days.  The History Channel is no longer about… well about history.  Instead primetime this week on the History Channel you will find the following:  Pawn Stars, Cajun Pawn Stars, American Restoration, Swamp People, Mudcats, Top Gear and American Pickers.  Not a single history-centric airing on the channel they call “History Channel.”

Move on to the channel formerly known as SciFi, now renamed SyFy.  You will find reality TV programming littered in its primetime lineup like Face Off, Ghost Hunters, and WWE Friday Night SmackDown.  We could go through nearly all channels and see much of the same thing.  Scripted series are surviving here and there, but they tend to fall in two categories:  the less expensive to produce like sitcoms and the mass appeal series like CSI, House and Criminal Minds.

The Future of Scripted TV – You Will Pay For It

So what does all of this mean for you and me when we look for quality, scripted TV programming?  It means we will have to pay for it.  More on that in the next segment – stay tuned.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

TV This Week-Premieres & Finales 2/5/2012

February is here and the list slowly moves from premieres to finales.  But there are a few notable premieres in the list for this week including Smash and The River.  Check out the complete list below.


Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty both posing as Marilyn Monroe for the new musical series Smash – premiering Monday on NBC (Photo by Mark Seliger/NBC)

NOTE: All Times are Listed for EST – TV schedules subject to change

Sunday, February 5

Super Bowl XLVI (3pm on NBC)

The Voice (10pm on NBC) Season 2 premiere


Monday, February 6

Trailer for the new Netflix Exclusive TV Series Lilyhammer

Lilyhammer (Netflix) Netflix launches its ambitious new streaming TV series with all 8 episodes of its first season available all at once on February 6th.  The new Netflix Inc. original series starring and co-written by E Street Band guitarist and “The Sopranos” actor Steven Van Zandt.  I’m betting this one is a huge success for Netflix and is an example of the future of scripted TV.  More on that on GeekTonic this week.

Smash (10pm on NBC) New music/drama series from executive producer Steven Spielberg.  It’s about the making of a broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe.  Starring Katherine McPhee, Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston.  The buzz and early reviews on this one are very good.  Will be interesting to see if the ratings are good also.


Tuesday, February 7

The River (9pm on ABC) New mystery series written by the writer/director of “Paranormal” and filmed much like the “Blair Witch Project.”  Six months after adventurer Dr. Emmet Cole goes missing in the Amazon, his location beacon sends out a signal; Emmet's wife, Tess, along with her son and Emmet's film crew, embark on a journey to find him; a crew member goes missing.

Doomsday Preppers (9pm on National Geographic) New documentary series

The Real Housewives of Orange County (9pm on Bravo) Season 7 premiere


Wednesday, February 8

Person to Person (8pm on CBS) New news series with the same name and format as the one that was once hosted by Edward R. Murrow.  This version is hosted by Charlie Rose and Lara Logan.  The focus is on celebrity interviews in their homes.  Should be interesting to see how this one does.

Guess Who Succeeds (8pm on Food) New series where three real-life food entrepreneurs fight for their business.

Inside the NFL (9pm on Showtime) Season finale


Thursday, February 9

Love at First Byte (6pm on CNBC) A special all about online dating

Swamp People (9pm on History) Season 3 premiere

Mudcats (10pm on History) New reality series where six of Oklahoma's most respected hand fishing teams hit the water, braving hundred-degree plus heat and severe drought conditions, in hopes of bagging colossal flathead catfish.  And the “history” channel continues its slide into irrelevancy.



Friday, February 10

Valentine’s Day Massacre (10pm on National Geographic) A special about the 1929 slaying ordered by Al Capone


Saturday, February 11

Parking Wars (9pm on A&E) Season 5 premiere

Billy the Exterminator (10pm on A&E) Season 5 premiere


Sunday, February 12

Wild Mississippi (8pm on National Geographic Wild) New nature/documentary series

Worst Cooks in America (9pm on Food) Season 3 premiere

Full Metal Jousting (10pm on History) New reality series

Comic Book Men (10pm on dAMC) New reality series

My Strange Addiction (10pm on TLC) Season 3 premiere


Tuesday, February 14

Cougar Town (8:30pm on ABC) Season 3 premiere

Teen Mom 2 (10pm on MTV) Season 2 finale

Top Shot (10pm on History) Season 4 premiere


Wednesday, February 15

Survivor: One World (8pm on CBS) Season 24 premiere

Top Guns (10pm on History) New military/tech series about…. guns.


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