Let’s take a moment to talk about how people discriminate against basic cable channels that try to expand out into original, scripted programming. There are a couple of exceptions. The same people who tend to hate USA or TNT shows out of hand are probably fine with slates from Comedy Central or AMC.
I realize that not every cable show can be Battle Star Galactica. I wish that for every BSG there weren’t 5 Rizolli and Isles. Though, for every terrible cable show, there’s an equally bad network show. Have you tried to watch Saturday Night Live without drinking lately? That’s not really fair, I know, SNL is highly dependent on each week’s host. I suppose a more apt example would be Last Man Standing or the always-blurry NCIS.
It’s an image problem and not a content problem. I fully understand that people would have trouble taking a serious recommendation for a show on ABC Family. That channel has the reputation of guilty-pleasure-to-terrible TV. Pretty Little Liars is one thing but, Melissa and Joey is a different ball game. It takes an amazing show to change a channel’s reputation.
When Bravo enters into scripted programming next season, will anyone expect it to be good? I doubt that a show about 22 Birthdays will turn out to be remotely bearable to watch. Bravo is for Housewives and Drunk Andy Cohen! I certainly don’t want a grown-up Gossip Girl.
What about USA? I have many a friend who I would say have great taste in TV that watch a few USA originals. For the most part it’s Psych, Burn Notice, or White Collar. Let’s be honest, all USA shows have a distinctly clean feel to them. You won’t confuse any of them for the Walking Dead or Mad Men any time soon. That certainly doesn’t mean that their shows aren’t worth watching, though.
As the numbers for network TV continue to fall closer and closer to Cable, the gap in viewers—and possibly money—is closing. Effectively, this grows the pool of programming options. USA’s numbers are often larger than corporate cousin NBC. TNT doesn’t exactly turn in low numbers, either. The next few years will prove interesting as the cablers try to continue their growth.
The bigger question will be if they can overcome their own reputations, though. Can USA be taken seriously as more than the home to 12 hours of NCIS reruns everyday? Is Falling Skies worth watching? Does TNT know more drama than the reruns of Angel that I watch? Can TBS sustain an original comedy that isn’t created by Tyler Perry?