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Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Death of Network Sitcoms

Seinfeld is not only the greatest sitcom ever made in the history of television, but it might be the greatest show of all time. The show ran for nine seasons, and still holds up remarkably well 15+ years after it went off of the air. Despite the fact that multiple stations (and now Hulu) run Seinfeld multiple times a day and we've all seen every episode at least 50 times, the show is still hysterical. And yet Seinfeld almost didn't happen. The pilot episode of the former NBC show (at the time it was called The Seinfeld Chronicles) was so bad (and it is bad) that it almost never made it to air. Luckily, there were executives at NBC who believed in the show and kept it around, and Seinfeld went on to become a mega-smash hit.

Unfortunately, we might never see another Seinfeld again. We live in an Era of Too Much Good TV. There are many benefits to Peak TV, but one of the major downsides is that you need to be good immediately. There are just too many other good shows to exist, that if your show if just mediocre, people will bail and watch something else. That creates a problem for sitcoms, as they're rarely great (or even good) right away. Seinfeld deserved its bad ratings and negative test focus reviews, but it also deserved to stay on the air and get the benefit of the doubt from NBC. Comedies almost always get better, and just because you're bad now doesn't mean you can't be great later.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Marvel's Small World Creative Success with Daredevil and Jessica Jones

In 2015, Netflix released two Marvel produced television shows- Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Both shows are excellent and will earn a spot in my end-of-year Top 20 list. There are many reasons why both of these shows are so good, but the main reason they work is because their stories are simple and their world is very small. Both of these stories take place in a small section of New York City (Hell's Kitchen) and tell a straightforward hero vs. villain story. Despite the fact that Daredevil and Jessica Jones will eventually team up and form The Defenders (along with Luke Cage and Iron Fist who will eventually get their own stand alone shows), their stories are self-contained.

Daredevil is an origin story telling defense attorney Matt Murdock's (Charlie Cox) rise becoming the superhero vigilante Daredevil in Hell's Kitchen. Early on, Daredevil discovers a crime syndicate run by Wilson Fisk (a.k.a Kingpin) played by Vincent D'Onfrio. Kingpin runs his gang mainly within Hell's Kitchen, and Daredevil spends 13 episodes finding and fighting Kingpin. Daredevil spends the first act discovering a sex traffic ring, the second act figuring out that Kingpin is the head of that ring (among many other criminal activities), and the third act bringing him down. It follows traditional superhero tropes (albeit the execution is darker and more effective that most), but its story follows one hero and his journey.