Although this was already a noted phenomenon, the phrase caught on as people continued to drown in TV options — and feeling the pressure to catch up. As Post TV critic Hank Stuever wrote in his Top 10 list, “the number of good, worthwhile shows long ago exceeded the number of hours we have to watch them.” This point was also hilariously proven by 2015 Emmy Awards host Andy Samberg, who opened the ceremony with a musical sketch where he stayed in a bunker and binge-watched every TV show. (And then emerged with a long beard and regrets about how much he missed in life.)
But besides the near constant feeling of panic as your DVR fills up, the show bubble — which Landgraf predicts will burst anytime now — also had a few more unintended consequences this year.
TV award shows are crazy, particularly the Golden Globes — the voters are edgier than the Emmys, so there are always a few surprises in there. However, this year’s best drama category was unlike any other: Nominees included “Empire,” “Mr. Robot,” “Game of Thrones,” “Outlander” and “Narcos.” Besides “Game of Thrones,” the nominees are basically newcomers. And how many people have really heard of “Mr. Robot” (USA); “Outlander” (Starz) or “Narcos” (Netflix)?
Compared to previous years — which nominated the usual prestige shows, such as “Downton Abbey,” “Homeland,” “The Good Wife,” “House of Cards” — this category is wildly different. Not that it’s a bad thing; in fact, it’s great to shake things up with newcomers. But throw in the fact that other little-known shows like Amazon.com’s “Mozart in the Jungle” and Hulu’s “Casual” also got best comedy nominations, and it’s clear that the sheer amount of shows is leading to an odd mix in major categories..
Really, it’s just a numbers game. There are so many solid shows out there that the voting base is going to be spread pretty thin. And in the future, that could lead to some even more random nomination lists.
Fox made a big move this year when it became the first “big four” network to no longer acknowledge live plus same-day ratings. In other words, the network isn’t going to bother with ratings that only show the people who watched a program the night it airs: On-demand and DVR viewings are simply too much of a factor these days. Translation: Live plus same-day numbers are essentially useless when judging a show’s performance.
This benefits the network’s new shows like “Scream Queens” and “The Grinder,” each averaging less than 3 million people actually tuning in on Tuesday nights — but both those numbers can double with DVR and delayed viewing factored in. It’s unclear if other networks will follow suit. Although again, the explosion of more shows and streaming networks only make it more inevitable that viewers will watch broadcast series on their own time table, throwing an even bigger wrench into ratings data.
Best way to compete with other networks who are offering a gazillion new programs? Keep your network or streaming service chock-full of shows, no matter what! As a result, networks are more prone to renew a series (regardless of ratings) that has a passionate fanbase, making sure the buzz continues. We saw this happen multiple times this year, even recently as shows like HBO’s “The Leftovers” and FXX’s “You’re the Worst” — which inspire think pieces and critical acclaim but don’t get big numbers — were renewed. Or, companies snag a show that was canceled on another network and keep it going, a la “The Mindy Project” on Hulu or “Longmire” on Netflix.
In fact, shows are having a tough time getting canceled — even broadcast networks are simply “trimming number of episodes” from their low-rated fall shows, instead of immediately pulling them off the schedule. These days, ratings have to be as bad as “Wicked City” (so, really bad) for executives to actually pull a show of the air. Instead, shows that normally would be canceled by now keep churning along.