I was on WCCO News Radio 830 in Minneapolis today to talk about my Daily Beast story on series finales. Adam Carter and I had a great chat about some of the best and worst finales of all time, as well as this week’s fantastic Parks and Recreation finale. And we even touched on House of Cards a bit at the end. I can’t embed the audio, but you can find it here. Enjoy!
Tonight, Parks and Recreation says farewell after seven glorious seasons on the air. And like many long-running shows that are ending their runs this season — including Justified, Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy — the creators are under pressure to come up with a finale that sticks the landing, and validates all that came before it. As I wrote at The Daily Beast,
It’s a problem that TV creators are increasingly grappling with, as more networks are allowing them to end their shows on their own terms and their own timetable. But that freedom has intensified pressure for that final episode to stick the landing and in some ways justify all that came before it. Seinfeld’s everyone-goes-to-jail finale angered and alienated many fans back in 1998, but it didn’t taint our memories of the entire series the way that How I Met Your Mother or Dexter’s recent ludicrous conclusions did. These days, in order to cement their status in the TV pantheon, shows not only have to be great, they also have to end that way.
I spoke with Parks co-creator Mike Schur, Justified creator Graham Yost and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan about the increased spotlight on series finales since The Sopranos, as well as the finales they’re hoping to emulate. (“Everything is about the endings now,” says Yost.) And FX chief John Landgraf also weighs in on the importance of allowing a show to end when the story dictates, not when the networks have squeezed every last drop of money from a show.
Plus, you’ll want to hear Graham Yost’s joke about what a Deadwood-themed Justified finale could be like.
Farewell, Parks and Rec!
After a couple of months, I’m back at The Daily Beast with this fantastic chat with Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, who created the new Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul. I had a fantastic chat with them about the new show, the perils of spinoffs, the paralyzing fear of trying to come up with a proper Breaking Bad ending and, unexpectedly, O.J. Simpson.
While Gilligan was certainly entitled to a nice, long hiatus after wrapping one of the greatest TV shows in history, the Breaking Bad creator was back at work on Saul barely a month later. As he told me,
“It’s like that old thing about if the horse throws you, you’ve got to get back up on the horse or otherwise you’re never going to ride it again,” says Gilligan. “Breaking Bad was so beyond any wildest dreams I could’ve imagined that if I’d had more time to sit on my hands and contemplate it, I’d probably sit around and double- and triple-guess every subsequent new idea I had for a program and say, ‘You know what, it’s not as good as Breaking Bad; I’d better wait for something that is as good.’ Suddenly, it’s 15 years later and it’s like, ‘People magazine has photos of the old guy who used to do Breaking Bad. Whatever happened to him?’ It’s better to get back up on the horse.”
It was such a pleasure speaking with Gilligan and Gould, and that interview is packed with terrific detail from them. In even better news, I’m happy (and relieved) to report that Better Call Saul is no Joey: it’s much more ambitious and rewarding, and is a worthy companion to Breaking Bad.
Ever since Breaking Bad went off the air, AMC has been desperately searching for the next Breaking Bad. Now the network hopes it has found it…with their new Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul, which paneled today at winter press tour.
As I wrote at Adweek, Vince Gilligan, the creator of both Breaking Bad and its spinoff, says the sky’s the limit when it comes to Breaking Bad characters popping up on Better Call Saul — well, everyone except Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).
“Walt and Jesse don’t show up in Season 1. But everything else is on the table,” co-creator Peter Gould told reporters at today’s press event. “We want this thing to stand on its own.” (Also, as the AMC panel pointed out, Jesse Pinkman would have been in middle school during Better Call Saul’s first season.)
Before introducing the Better Call Saul panel, AMC president Charlie Collier talked about the “dramatic change” facing in the network, and why AMC is now operating in “a Live + 365 environment” (do advertisers know?).
Like everyone I know, and more than 1.4 million others around the world, I’m hopefully addicted to the podcast Serial, fall’s most riveting show. (Episode 9 is less than 24 hours away!) As I wrote at Quartz,
It’s also captured our imagination in a way no TV show has done this fall, and has the kind of deafening buzz and rabid fan base that any series would kill for. The unlikely global phenomenon is also the strongest proof in years that taut, weekly storytelling trumps the increasingly-popular binge-watching method that Netflix helped pioneer.
While my own tweets occasionally flourish and become stories, in this case I was inspired by a tweet from someone else, Veep actor Timothy Simons:
The success of @serial is a pretty stellar argument against the idea of releasing all eps of a tv show at once.
— Timothy Simons (@timothycsimons) November 6, 2014
That crystallized something I’d been thinking about myself, and gave me the perfect opportunity to finally write the anti-binging story (at least when it comes watching TV’s best shows) that I’ve been mulling for months.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to counting down the minutes until Episode 9 of Serial drops!
While I’ve been on Squawk Alley several times, they’ve always been remote appearances from CNBC’s Englewood Cliffs, N.J. office. This morning, I finally made my way to the New York Stock Exchange for my first in-studio appearance, where I talked about my recent Quartz story about why the best shows air on Sundays.
Here’s a clip from my segment:
Thankfully, they didn’t include the portion where my earpiece shorted out, just as I was being asked a question by someone remotely. Oh, the fun of live TV!
Homeland. The Good Wife. The Affair. The Walking Dead. Mad Men. Masters of Sex. Veep. Game of Thrones. When you think of the best (and most Emmy-nominated) shows on TV, almost all of them air on Sunday nights. As I wrote at Quartz,
It seems counterintuitive to pit all of TV’s best series against one another, as anyone who’s tried to program a DVR on Sundays can attest. But there is in fact a method to the networks’ madness, and five reasons why Sunday night’s quality TV overload exists—and won’t be going away anytime soon.
Through Nielsen numbers crunching (charts!), research and a great chat with Showtime Network President David Nevins, I came up with five very strong reasons — some of which surprised even me. Here’s one: airing on Sunday night is more important than being watched on Sunday night.
While many of the Sunday shows have drawn record audiences as mentioned above, it’s also true that premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime aren’t beholden to advertisers. So those executives don’t have the expectation or urgency that viewers need to tune in “live” during their shows’ initial Sunday night airing. “I always say, it doesn’t matter to me whether you watch it on Sunday; I’m fine if you want to want until Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday,” said Nevins. “You wait much past then, you’re going to miss the conversation.”
Yesterday after the Emmy nominations, I went on WBAL Radio’s Maryland’s News Now, to talk about the nominations and my Quartz story about Netflix’s big success. Here’s a clip from my appearance:
After I’d recovered from last night’s riveting Breaking Bad series finale, I finished up this Quartz story about the daunting task ahead of AMC:
But despite the stellar ratings, AMC is now in the same position HBO found itself after The Sopranos finale aired back in 2007. With no other clear-cut heirs to Tony Soprano’s throne, the network stumbled for a couple years (with poorly-received shows such as John From Cincinnati, Hung and How to Make it in America) before finally bouncing back with hits such as Game of Thrones and critically-acclaimed series such as Girls, Veep, Boardwalk Empire and The Newsroom.
With Breaking Bad now completed and its other media darling, Mad Men, about to start its final season (more on that later), AMC has hit a similar run of bad luck.
I have my concerns about AMC’s “everything old is new again” approach to its programming slate. We’ll have to see if they can avoid HBO’s post-Sopranos funk.