On Premium Television and Cable

Have you seen True Blood? Have you seen Weeds? How about Dexter? Hung? Sopranos? Dead Like Me? Six Feet Under? Really, have you had the pleasure of watching anything on the premium channels? Unless you’ve been living under or rock or lack an internet connection, you probably have. Chances are, you’ve raved about at least one of these shows to your friends. Makes sense. Want to know why? These shows all share one thing in common:  they know how to create damn good stories. Can you say that about regular cable?

Let’s do some comparison between shows on the premium networks and your basic cable.

Hit or Miss Factor

On your basic cable channels (including ABC, NBC, and CBS) there’s a higher chance of “miss” versus “hit.” Granted, these channels produce a lot more content than the premium channels, but most of them are just garbage. NBC and TNT are great examples of this as they surround their flagship shows with forgettable tripe. Really, what show was worth staying to see after Chuck on Mondays? Heroes? Maybe back in season one. How about The Office? Does anyone recall what shows surrounded that hit?

With TNT, were ANY of their “originals” any good? It seems like every week they put out ads for some new, bland show that rocks a tired premise. HawthoRNe? Gimme a break. I think we had enough of the nurse with a heart of gold story line. ER, anyone? A few shows had some promise, but then faded due to lack of viewership, which brings up an issue I talked about awhile back with the way that TNT advertises their shows versus USA. Point being that these channels flop way more often than they succeed.

And then there’s TBS. The only show worth watching on that channel is the syndicated episodes of The Office and Family Guy that they air.

With the premium channels, the chance for hit or miss is skewed more toward hit as they put more “oomf” into their marketing and have much better storylines in general. It’s almost worth the infrequency of new shows when each season of their flagship shows are continually solid and entertaining. Dexter’s second season, although not my favorite, is still leaps and bounds superior to a lot of the regular cable fare.

Freedom of Subject Matter

The basic cable networks are limited out of the gate in what they can put into their shows in terms of adult content and graphic violence. If you know me at all, you’ll know that those are the two things I’m a huge fan of. I like that my shows are gritty, and I like it when my favorite television characters swear like real adults do. I like when two characters cut the flirtatious bullshit and get to the sex. Witty, flirtatious dialogue and camera suggestion are all that the basic cable channels have (to protect THE CHILDREN) which oftentimes leads to some HORRIBLE exchanges.

GUY: Hey there.

GIRL: Hey.

GUY: Are you a thief? Because you stole my heart!

GIRL: I have an apartment.

Next Day

GUY: OH YEAH!!!!

Granted, the more successful basic cable shows can work around these limits and still produce engaging content (see: anything Joss Whedon does). But oftentimes I find myself wishing that the characters in a show weren’t so damn bound to the rules of basic cable. With premium channels, anything goes. Kind of liberating, ain’t it?

Story Arcs

Premium cable shows have the benefit of having a better handle on their story arcs than that of their regular cable counterparts. You ever find yourself wishing that something more significant would happen to the characters of The Office ala Jim’s transfer? Ever wish that someone in Heroes would JUST FREAKIN’ DIE ALREADY? *cough*claire*cough*sylar*cough*peter*cough* Again, the point is that a majority of these regular cable shows need to keep going if they’re successful, so any major changes that get rid of favorite characters or dramatically alters the formula just can’t happen. It’s not really the writer’s fault for this, since it’s a mandate from above, but it really hurts the show’s ability to grow and evolve with the characters. The only shows that I know of that can escape this issue are the procedurals, which aren’t necessarily about the characters themselves.

Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts on the matter. Agree? Disagree?

  • Cocobeane

    I agree, to an extent.

    Well, for one thing, just because a show is on a premium channel doesn't make it good. Just because a show has more sex and more violence doesn't make it good. I'm not saying that premium shows with a lot of sex and violence AREN'T good, but sometimes the writers seem to take the “being liberated” factor too far and just throw sex, swearing, and violence in where it isn't pertinent to the storyline, just because they can. Case in point, both Weeds and TruBlood. By the way, I'm not saying these shows are OH MY GOD HORRIBLE, because I watch and like both of them. I'm just saying a lot of the sex and violence they have in there isn't pertinent to the storyline, they just seem to add it in because they can show it. I like having more liberation as to how much sex/violence/swearing you can have, but sometimes I actually get SICK of how much sex/violence/swearing I see in a premium show. And that's saying a lot, because I like those things.

    So…everything you said plus this.

  • Cocobeane

    I agree, to an extent.

    Well, for one thing, just because a show is on a premium channel doesn’t make it good. Just because a show has more sex and more violence doesn’t make it good. I’m not saying that premium shows with a lot of sex and violence AREN’T good, but sometimes the writers seem to take the “being liberated” factor too far and just throw sex, swearing, and violence in where it isn’t pertinent to the storyline, just because they can. Case in point, both Weeds and TruBlood. By the way, I’m not saying these shows are OH MY GOD HORRIBLE, because I watch and like both of them. I’m just saying a lot of the sex and violence they have in there isn’t pertinent to the storyline, they just seem to add it in because they can show it. I like having more liberation as to how much sex/violence/swearing you can have, but sometimes I actually get SICK of how much sex/violence/swearing I see in a premium show. And that’s saying a lot, because I like those things.

    So…everything you said plus this.

    • I agree. Sometimes these shows really do go wild with their freedoms to the detriment of the story, which almost makes the case for restricting the writers in what they can and can’t write into their shows.

  • I agree. Sometimes these shows really do go wild with their freedoms to the detriment of the story, which almost makes the case for restricting the writers in what they can and can't write into their shows.

  • I agree. Sometimes these shows really do go wild with their freedoms to the detriment of the story, which almost makes the case for restricting the writers in what they can and can't write into their shows.