Prestige TVLatest News and Opinion
Posted Thursday 1/10/19 at 6:47PM EST
The Sopranos at 20: Television learned the wrong lessons from the show responsible for Prestige TV
Source: The New Republic
The joy of The Sopranos, which premiered 20 years ago today on Jan. 10, 1999, "lies in its script, so packed with symbolism and clever half-jokes, and the way that its cast executed that script," says Josephine Livingstone. "What is there even left to say?" she adds. "From the beginning, everybody knew that The Sopranos was to be a watershed. There would be before, and there would be after. In every commemorative article about the show, the author inevitably cites the list of prestige shows that followed The Sopranos and that adopted its central conceit of a flawed antihero—Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Deadwood, and so on." Yet the promises of Prestige TV have been wasted in our current glut of TV shows. "Instead, we’re in a weird new era in which everything on TV looks so good that you can’t tell whether it’s prestige or not," she says. "Call it post-prestige television. By this I mean that every show is cut beautifully, every soundtrack is great, and—crucially—every main character is rounded out by psychological flaws that make them seem human." The writing on contemporary television, she adds, is "lusciously easy on the eye, always. But is the writing as good?" Even the best-scripted shows of the past year -- from Killing Eve to The Americans to Atlanta -- can't match The Sopranos in its understated wit and its high-stakes investment in human relationships, she says. "Part of it stems from the way The Sopranos was received and defined by critics," says Livingstone "In its early years, much commentary focused on the show’s brutal depiction of women, which in turn prompted defenses of its sophisticated portrayal of women complicit in evil. But it’s the male critics who have profited the most from the Sopranos-commentary boom—the men who were fascinated by the whole 'flawed antihero' concept and pumped its meaning up to outsize levels." She adds that the legacy of The Sopranos TV criticism is "of a genre almost exclusively manufactured by men, for a male readership, about the nerdy nitty-gritty of a TV show about masculinity. This has contributed, I think, to a new culture of television-making dominated by psychological portraiture, usually focused on men. It has also led to hyper-lush production, at the expense of scriptwriting, simply because it’s easier to throw money at a show than to write a good one. This is the danger of allowing superfans to define the meaning of a television show."
- David Chase sees The Sopranos' influence in TV news coverage of President Trump: When The New York Times asked what Sopranos influences does he see when watching TV, Chase responded: "The use of a deeply flawed hero and his problems. And when news shows talk about Trump, for example, they’ll say it’s like The Sopranos. People, including your own paper, use The Sopranos as an example of crookedness and culpability. I don’t watch a lot of series television. Unfortunately what I do is spend my time watching CNN, Fox and MSNBC. So I get good and depressed, and angry." Chase, who thinks A.J. Soprano might be working for Trump in the White House, also thinks Tony Soprano wouldn't buy Trump's (expletive).
- What’s most impressive about The Sopranos is how well it has held up after 20 years
- A rebuttal to complaints that The Sopranos ran too long with 86 episodes
- Chase recalls how The Sopranos could've ended up as a Fox drama starring Anthony LaPaglia
- The Sopranos stars reunited Wednesday night: Edie Falco recalls saying "I don’t know what the hell we just did" after Season 2 renewal
- Dominic "Uncle Junior" Chianese, now 87, says: "It's a very humane thing for HBO to do, bringing us together. We really liked each other"
- Michael Imperioli is blown away that a whole new generation of viewers are just starting to watch The Sopranos
- Here are the faces of The Sopranos 20 years later
- HBO has been handing out Sopranos nicknames to everybody and everything from Olive Garden to Stephen Colbert and Lin-Manuel Miranda -- read all the responses
- Read an excerpt from The Sopranos Sessions
- 11 writers share the moments from The Sopranos they think about a lot
- Carmela Soprano was an unsung style icon
- Adriana's brutal death was the "whack that changed everything"
- The Sopranos succeeded in making New Jersey cool
- HBO sent out baked ziti in honor of the 20th anniversary
- The West Wing, The Wire, The Shield and The Leftovers: Here are the 20 best dramas since The Sopranos premiered
- The Sopranos is nearly perfect except for one Season 1 flaw
- Check out how The Sopranos locations look like 20 years later
- The ultimate debate: Does Tony Soprano live or die at the end?
Posted Monday 11/19/18 at 6:36PM EST
Prestige TV of 2018 looks a like the movies of the 1970s
Source: The A.V. Club
Sam Esmail's Homecoming -- which has the same vibe as 1970s classics like All the President's Men, Taxi Driver and The Parallax View -- isn't the only show resembling 1970s cinema, says Noel Murray. Escape at Dannemora also pay homage to the legendary film decade, resembling the grime and grayness of movies like Dog Day Afternoon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. "The cinema of the 1970s has lately become an apparently common inspiration for prestige TV dramas," says Murray. "Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe it’s just that writers, directors, and producers who grew up watching those movies see within them a visual grammar and storytelling approach that describes life in our own anxious, angry era."
Posted Saturday 10/13/18 at 3:11AM EDT
The Romanoffs tries and fails in creating Prestige TV in the form of self-contained movie-length episodes
Matthew Weiner's eight-episode Amazon anthology series, like its characters, "continuously puts its worst, least interesting foot forward, aristocratically expecting you’ll stick around to see the next step," says Willa Paskin. She adds: "It has become a cliché for the makers of TV shows to tout them as movies, as in: 'It’s really like a movie, stretched out over eight episodes.' The run time of each episode of The Romanoffs, all of which Weiner directed and wrote or co-wrote, suggests an ambitious corollary: 'It’s really like eight movies.' ... But despite running the length of a movie, The Romanoffs unfolds at the unhurried pace of a prestige TV drama, and this makes for an unhappy combination. A TV show is a long-term relationship: Plot holes, underdeveloped characters, fuzzy motivations are also potential rabbit holes, places for the story to go. But in a self-contained, 90-minute burst, in a story that you know is supposed to end relatively soon, this pacing is a kind of provocation: How long until you pull out your second screen?"
- The Romanoffs is proof that creativity without limits can be dangerous, even for someone as gifted as Matthew Weiner
- The Romanoffs episodes play together like a nice long weekend at an independent film festival in the mountains somewhere
- It's like a Black Mirror of relationships, privilege and ruling classes in decline
- The Romanoffs is a series with an uneasy relationship to plot in a format that thrives on it -- it favors character, but hasn’t the time to delve into it
- Matthew Weiner is trying too hard to escape Mad Men's shadow
- The show is probably the biggest blank check in TV history -- all of Amazon's money is up on screen
- The Romanoffs is very close to being something extraordinary, but Weiner indulges too much
- When the story lets the series down, the impeccable production value lifts it back up
- It's the ultimate vanity project: The Romanoffs somehow moves both too quickly and too slowly
- The Romanoffs satirizes the desperation of white privilege in decline
- Corey Stoll's wife is actually married to one of the Romanovs
- Matthew Weiner: The Romanoffs is a "wildest-dreams scenario"
Posted Thursday 8/02/18 at 3:05AM EDT
When do acclaimed TV shows peak?
Source: The Ringer
Using IMDb user rating data for individual TV episodes, The Ringer generated graphs showing "TV aging curbs" that reveal when comedies and dramas are at their best.
Posted Tuesday 7/10/18 at 12:09AM EDT
HBO's profits would go down, not up, if it vastly increased its amount of programming
John Stankey, the AT&T executive now charged with overseeing HBO and other Time Warner properties, sounds like he wants HBO to become more like Netflix by producing more programming that can be consumed throughout the day, rather than weekly, according to a report published Sunday. But while Netflix is way more valuable than HBO, HBO's "quality over quantity" model greatly outshines Netflix when it comes to profit. Basically, it sounds like Stankey "wants to both have his cake and eat it," says Felix Salmon. As Salmon explains, Stankey says "that he wants more profits from HBO—that while HBO is currently making money, it’s not making enough. The problem is that if he starts ploughing billions of extra dollars into the HBO budget—the kind of money that would enable the unit to put out more content and get more hours a day—then that will bring the unit’s profits down, not up. Spending more money on premium content will probably bring in some new subscribers, but not nearly enough to cover the cost of the new content. That’s why the old Time Warner never did it. Lowering the cost of a subscription would also bring in new subscribers, while reducing profits and angering many cable operators. HBO was the crown jewel of Time Warner precisely because it was so incredibly profitable, year in and year out. If Stankey wants higher revenue, he can get that through investment. He can get more engagement, too. But he’s probably deluding himself if he thinks that he can hit the trifecta and get higher profits to boot." Salmon adds: "It makes sense for Stankey to want to compete with Netflix, but HBO is simply not the best platform to use to do so. HBO cares about nothing more than its reputation for quality: It will make Veep, but it would never make Fuller House. That obsession has turned it into one of the most valuable brands in the media world. HBO is worth much more than the $4 billion that Disney paid for Lucasfilm, plus the $4 billion Disney paid for Marvel, plus the $7.4 billion Disney paid for Pixar: The New Yorker estimated it was worth more than $30 billion in 2015, and it has surely increased in value since then. "
- The New York Times story on John Stankey's comments didn't tell the full story of AT&T's plans
- Applying Netflix's "more is more" approach would only dilute HBO's exclusive and valuable brand
- It's perplexing: HBO makes billions in profits while Netflix operates at a loss, yet AT&T wants HBO to be more like Netflix in order to become more profitable
- AT&T's plan for HBO is eerily similar to Season 2 of Westworld
- Why AT&T's plan to scale HBO's quality just might work
- HBO's deliberate approach to developing shows has led to numerous Emmys, while Netflix has yet to win an Emmy for best drama, comedy or miniseries
- AT&T's plan sounds as bad as its one for your phone
Posted Monday 5/07/18 at 5:09PM EDT
Prestige TV keeps co-opting and repurposing pop music
Source: The Ringer
Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale are the latest offenders, says Rob Harvilla. "What’s frustrating is that as we’re bombarded with more and more allegedly top-tier shows, they’re forced to bombard us with more and more bygone musical splendor, all clamoring for the right combination of sentimental nostalgia and modern internet-breaking audacity. It’s an arms race we are all bound to lose," he says. "There is simply too much TV dredging up too much of the music we love in a usually vain quest to steal some of that love for itself. The results can be appalling, sometimes intentionally so."
Posted Friday 2/09/18 at 3:08PM EST
Elizabeth Olsen to star in a half-hour dramedy on Facebook
The untitled 10-episode female-driven comedy has Olsen playing a widow, though no other details have been divulged. As Deadline notes, this series is “among the first high-end series ordered by Facebook as the social media juggernaut is making a push in premium original content.” Olsen will also serve as an executive producer.
Posted Tuesday 1/30/18 at 8:39PM EST
HBO’s Watchmen taps The Leftovers favorite Nicole Kassell to direct the pilot
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Kassell, a Prestige TV favorite, will reunite with Damon Lindelof on the TV adaptation of the beloved graphic novel.
Posted Friday 1/26/18 at 1:32PM EST
A Muhammad Ali limited series is in the works
8 Fights from CBS TV Studios will chronicle eight distinct moments from Ali’s legendary life, with each episode focused on one of his fights. The project is based on Jonathan Eig’s recent biography Ali: A Life.
Posted Wednesday 1/17/18 at 12:03AM EST
What does AMC mean when it says it aims to make “prestige popcorn” TV?
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
“We’re looking for things that we are internally calling, for want of a better phrase, 'prestige popcorn,' thoughtful genre shows that are truly human but are immersive and fan-focused," AMC’s new programming chief David Madden said at the TV press tour. Which begs the question: What exactly does he mean? “It's a great aspiration, because who doesn't want to make something that's both popular and good?” says Daniel Fienberg. He adds: “Like I said, I enjoy classification, and "prestige popcorn" is a good name, not necessarily for what AMC is aiming for any more or less than any other cable or streaming network, but it's a good name and a great way to avoid just saying, ‘We're looking for the next Game of Thrones,’ even if that's exactly what ‘prestige popcorn’ really means.”
Posted Wednesday 11/29/17 at 12:21AM EST
Prestige TV comedies tackled sexual misconduct in the past, but will the post-Harvey Weinstein era change their approach?
Source: The New York Times
Master of None, Girls and One Mississippi were among the comedies that had sexual misconduct storylines pre-Harvey Weinstein, as Amanda Hess points out. But those storylines were more complicated, including a focus on “the bystander’s predicament” when it comes to sexual harassment. “It seems unlikely that these more fleeting television moments would be scripted exactly this way today,” says Hess. “When the details about big-name industry abusers were still in the shadows of the popular consciousness, it allowed for some comedic freedom. Sexual harassment could safely be raised as a serious-but-not-too-serious offense, one that might allow for some nuance in the telling. But now that the grave details of abuse lodged against people like Harvey Weinstein have been made clear, they feel too weighty to play around with, at least for now.”
Posted Wednesday 11/29/17 at 12:21AM EST
In defense of “boring” old-fashioned joke-telling sitcoms
Acclaimed traditional sitcoms like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Superstore and Fresh Off the Boat are often damned with faint praise, says John Schneider. Because they look conventional, they aren’t seen as boundary-pushing as shows like Atlanta and Bojack Horseman. “But this perception glosses over the fact that those conventions evolved for a reason,” says Schneider, “and they often allow traditional sitcoms to tell more resonant stories than more overtly innovative shows. Jokes are only the most obvious such convention. A series like Master of None and Atlanta will often go for entire scenes without anything resembling a joke. In many cases, this makes the dialogue feel more realistic, and can often set up bigger laughs later in the episode. But often, the lack of jokes in prestige comedies feels self-aware, a way of telling you this scene is supposed to be important. On the other hand, the comfortable patter of a sitcom like Brooklyn Nine-Nine allows them to sneak in discussions of issues like the NYPD’s credibility and racial profiling without feeling preachy."
Posted Wednesday 11/29/17 at 12:21AM EST
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is like a standup-comedy riff on Mad Men — If it were told from Peggy’s Olson’s point of view
“This handsome comedy is uneven, but like (Amy) Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls, it contains gifts that will appeal to fans of verbal combat and realistic depictions of complicated friendships among whip-smart women,” Maureen Ryan says of the Amazon series. She adds: “As fans of Gilmore Girls know, plot is not really the draw with Sherman-Palladino’s shows. Each of the first four installments of Mrs. Maisel contains a slightly altered version of the same formula: Midge’s marriage becomes more frayed, she tries to straddle the very different worlds of young Manhattan matrons and Village weirdos, and she eventually gets onstage to shape her pain and bewilderment into something sharp, incisive and even sweet.”
- What makes Mrs. Maisel intriguing is that the protagonist is rich, has it all and isn’t broken
- The near-perfect pilot is followed by three “bit baggy” episodes that suffer from the Prestige TV problem of being 10 minutes too long
- Mrs. Maisel isn’t simply a period piece — it’s a superhero story
- The main character is so engaging, and the cast is so strong, that it’s easy to look past the glacial pace
- Mrs. Maisel represents the height of Amy Sherman-Palladino fans adored in Gilmore Girls
- Six signs you’re watching an Amy Sherman-Palladino show
- Sherman-Palladino: “People still don’t f*cking think women are funny. There’s a lot of dudes out there doling out cash who don’t believe women are funny”
Posted Friday 10/06/17 at 10:24PM EDT
Report: Some Netflix show creators are grumbling over getting lost in the overwhelming amount of content
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Lately, Tim Goodman says he’s been hearing “deep background complaints” from Netflix show creators. “And it's been slowly increasing,” he says, noting that the grumblings could affect future relationships between Netflix and its show creators. “The gist is that the money is great to have but there's not a lot of promotion (advertising outside of the Netflix environment and exposure within it; because there's so much volume, press attention can be limited as well with advanced features and reviews). Some creators are annoyed (or hurt) that they don't get splashy premieres (and yes, that matters — particularly when all your episodes drop on the same day and that's pretty much the end of the hype). A similar complaint: It's easy to get lost on Netflix once the show airs. Others say the mysterious Netflix algorithms affect how much of a budget a show will get (for new and returning seasons) and even which actors need to be cast (meaning they're not exactly the ones creators want but they are the ones who will fuel suggestions to other series or movies in the Netflix archives).” This isn’t a sign of “impending doom,” Goodman adds. “But those are definitely cracks in the façade.”
Posted Thursday 10/05/17 at 9:47PM EDT
Tom Cruise needs a career reboot: Why not try TV?
Source: Entertainment Weekly
“Maybe just a little dip into the waters of Netflix?” says Tim Stack. “Or a brief stay trip to HBO? I’m not saying he should be the lead of NCIS: Weehawken. TV takes so many forms now but a limited series would be the best choice IMO. I would love to see him work with someone like Noah Hawley or Ryan Murphy or Damon Lindelof — someone who could take him out of his action-hero comfort zone and showcase his skills. Maybe even play an anti-hero. Some of my favorite Cruise roles were when he wasn’t likable, like in Magnolia or Interview with the Vampire. How great would Cruise be in an American Crime Story season? Or even a new Fargo installment? Or True Detective 3?”