Thursday, December 06, 2007

Shows going to The Show

So Les Moonves gave a speech the other day in which he said that CBS might incorporate cleaned-up versions of "Dexter," "Brotherhood" and other Showtime series into their schedule if the strike keeps on going, NBC is already grabbing "Criminal Intent" back from USA for the duration, and, as Mo Ryan notes on her blog, there's a possibility that NBC could start calling up more shows from its various cable partners.

I actually think "Dexter" might not be a hard fit on a broadcast network. Obviously, they'll have to cut 10-15 minutes of content, but if that means less of the supporting cast and their lame season one subplots, I'm fine with it. Deb and Masuka are the only characters who swear a lot, and most of the really graphic violence is implied. We hear the whir of Dexter's drill and then cut away without seeing the real gore.

So here's my question: if you hadn't seen them in their original forms, would you want to watch bowdlerized versions of edgy cable series during the strike, or if you cared enough about "Dexter" to see it without subscribing to Showtime, would you just wait for the DVDs? There's going to be some kind of audience for this stuff -- ABC did decent numbers during that brief period when they would rerun "Monk" episodes a few weeks after they aired on USA -- but how much? In this age where the distinctions between broadcast and cable are rapidly disappearing, how much larger would the audience for "Battlestar Galactica" be on NBC?

30 comments:

Karen said...

I really resent not watching the full, unexpurgated content of shows. I don't watch movies on commercial television, either. If I'm going to watch something, I want to watch what I was intended to watch.

I don't subscribe to Showtime, so I've waited for DVDs for both "Dexter" and "Weeds," and I've been fine with that. (Less fine, Alan, has been discovering that your early reviews of the first episodes of "Dexter" are now gone forever behind the Star-Ledger's archives barrier, since they were in a column and not a blog post!)

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, I actually prefer it when cable shows are edited and cleaned up...as it is, network TV keeps pushing the envelope further and further, and I personally don't need to see any more raunch or violence (or hear any more dirty language) than the network shows already contain. Call me a prude, but that's my preference. I don't pay for cable, no satellite dish, just free network TV and my trusty old VCR.
~~Grandma at age 39

Anonymous said...

P.S. I'm not actually a literal Grandma at age 39--I was just referring to my stodgy, prudish, old-fashioned TV taste. Though I know there are actual grandmas at that age, and even younger...

Alan Sepinwall said...

(Less fine, Alan, has been discovering that your early reviews of the first episodes of "Dexter" are now gone forever behind the Star-Ledger's archives barrier, since they were in a column and not a blog post!)

I know, I know. That's one of the advantages of the new Ledger blog. Where my columns used to disappear behind a paywall after 14 days, they now live forever on the NJ.com blog. If I ever had free time, I might look into reformatting some of my better stuff (or stuff on more enduring shows) onto that blog for archival purposes.

Andrew said...

I wouldn't bother with the bowdlerized versions of edgy cable series. Though I think it would be entertaining to see Deadwood edited for TV with all of the foul language bleeped out.

I think BSG (complete, in order from the beginning) on NBC would be good for the show. Even if it's up against Idol. While the gap between cable and broadcast audiences are shrinking, niche cable networks like SciFi (in particular) target a particular segment of the audience while the broadcast nets tend to have a broader appeal. Even if the numbers for something like BSG on NBC aren't up to the level of Lost, it's probably a different audience than SciFi gets. Or not.

Susan said...

It's hard to say, since I've watched Dexter on Showtime and I would know what I was missing, but I think if I hadn't seen it and was mildly interested, I'd check out a cut-up version on NBC. If I was REALLY interested, I'd wait for the DVDs.

I'm a big Sex and the City fan, and whenever I watch the reruns, I get annoyed on everything that's been cut. Sometimes Samantha's storyline doesn't even make sense with everything that's missing, and sometimes (like in the rerun of the finale, where the episodes were even longer), there's a lot of really moving moments that have just been snipped right out. I love the show enough to watch it on tv when I catch it, but also enough to have the DVDs and pop them in when I need the real thing.

Sean said...

This is such a win-win. The writers get paid for the reuse, under rates that they like, and it emphasizes the importance of scripted content vs. the unscripted wolves at the door. For me, it might be interesting to watch a show like Dexter, which I've never seen, as a sampler to determine whether it's worth my time and effort to get the DVDs, although I always prefer unexpurgated. For stuff like Psych or Battlestar that I can never make time for, though, it gets those shows and their stars in the limelight. (Although where in the story would they possibly start showing Battlestar from?)

Andrew said...

Sean,

This isn't win-win. It will draw out the strike even longer if the networks have more programming with which to fill time. The few writers who will benefit from residuals from the episodes would probably rather not have them air if they had a choice. Essentially, by re-airing these shows on network TV, the networks are making the writers scab themselves.

In the long run, the only winners in this situation are the networks. The writer's lose leverage, the pay channels lose value, and the fans see bastardized versions of shows that the creators didn't intend. I am not saying Lila's boobs are integral to every episode of Dexter, but the creators have it there for a reason. You wouldn't ask to see a Dali painting after they removed all of those annoying metling clocks, would you?

BigTed said...

What with all the blood and bodies on shows like "CSI" and "Bones," I don't think they'd have to cut that much out of "Dexter" for it to fit into the current prime-time climate.

Of course, they would have to censor Lila's nude scenes, which means they may as well drop her character completely.

Dave said...

I've actually only seen cleaned-up versions of Dexter season one - I caught them when they were on Comcast OnDemand right before season two. All of the swearing was dubbed and the only scene with nudity was Julie Benz strategically placed so that you didn't see anything.

I'm addicted to the show now and don't think the cleaning up hurt the show at all. In fact, I've been pleasantly surprised at how well the Sopranos holds up on A&E, and the Wire when it was on BET was enjoyable as well.

Like "Grandma at age 39", I'd prefer it if all of these acclaimed shows could lose the gratuitous nudity and sex, and while the swearing doesn't bother me, sometimes it too seems gratuitous.

As for shows like BSG, I think they would benefit from being on a network if only because a wider audience would see promos and be aware of its existence. If you don't already watch the SciFi network, you might not even be aware that BSG exists, and while fans understand that the 'SciFi' tag is a bit simplified for a show like BSG, the average joe might not watch it simply because they aren't into science fiction. On NBC though, I think there'd be less resistance. I mean, the show's frakking brilliant. A move to NBC would be (with apologies to the strike) a good move for the show.

Dave said...

Really? We're comparing Lila's boobs to the clocks in a Dali painting?

That seems like a stretch. It adds literally nothing to the show, other than justifying itself as a Showtime-worthy show.

Bobman said...

Wow, some real uptight folks 'round here huh? :)

I'm usually very annoyed when shows are cut up and edited for normal TV. However, Dexter seems like the type of show that could survive it, and I'd love to see it get a broader audience.

I'd miss some of Deb's swearing, if only because it really is a defining trait of her character and pretty damn funny. And I always miss nudity, but that's just because I'm a pig. Beyond that I don't think too much will be detracted. As others have said, most of the crime shows already show lots of gore and violence, and Dexter usually isn't that graphic in that regard.

I think they'll actually have trouble cutting out the fifteen minutes they'll need for commercials.

Tosy And Cosh said...

If a show fell into that sweetspot for me between "not interested enough to rent on DVD but curious" and "interested enough to rent on DVD," then sure. After all, I have a lot of stuff waiting to be watched on DVD as it is, so am not actively looking for more shows to add. But if I can grab it on the DVR, or watch live without adding a subscription (which I ain't doing), then sure. Dexter probably fits right into that grey zone for me.

John said...

I think the few times BSG has been shown on NBC before, its ratings were abysmal. Granted, I believe they only showed it on Saturdays with minimal advertising but still...

Kat said...

I would much rather see the full versions.

Personally, I'm using my time away from The Office and House to watch Veronica Mars, which I never saw when it aired. It's fantastic. I'm now regretting not giving it a chance before.

Steve said...

Why do they have to edit it for time? It's not like they have a full schedule of hit shows that they won't want to mess with.

It would make a lot more sense to me to add commercials to Dexter and make it run for 75 minutes, and then produce a 15, 45, or 75 minute version of Who Wants to Marry a Monkey or whatever crappy reality show they're turning to in desperation.

Andrew said...

Ignoring complaints about cursing and various scenes being edited, I think a main advantage is being able to let people start at the beginning of a serious. If NBC promoted and showed BSG in the Heroes timeslot, starting with Episode 1, season 1, I for one would be excited. I hadn't heard of the show until it got popular, and by then, I didn't want to jump in mid-season and mid-plotlines. Same goes for other shows on distant channels.

I can only assume there are more people like me.

SJ said...

I thought The Wire on BET was just "ok"...it didn't really work that well imo. But maybe Showtime could work. I think another crucial aspect of premium cable shows is the lack of ads, which I absolutely love.

Speaking of The Wire, Alan did you get the first few episodes of season 5? Oh God I can't wait for that show.

SJ said...

^ I didn't mean "Showtime", I meant to say Dexter.

Kensington said...

I won't watched santized versions of adult television programs, at least not the first time I see them.

If I've already seen the uncut versions, and I just want something on in the background, then maybe, but otherwise, no way.

cms said...

I think they'd have to cut Dexter much less than one might assume. I'm a very squeamish viewer and don't watch CSI because I find it gross. During ER, I have to hold my hand up during the gory scenes, or fast-forward through them. I never come across those issues on Dexter. They show less gore than many shows on television now, which is completely counter-intuitive.

Mrglass said...

Dave, Lisa's naked scenes in Dexter are not meaningless. Ever heard of the opposition Mother/Whore for women? Lisa's sensual body puts her in contrast with the shy Rita. How many hot Rita/Dexter nights have we seen since season 1? His relation with Lisa is completely different.

On the edited-shows topic, this reminds of this hilarious MadTV spoof of the Sopranos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFYN8loUboA

R.A. Porter said...

I think it would be great for some of these shows (though bad for the WGA) to get wider exposure, and I'd definitely take the opportunity to shove some of them harder down the throats of others who avoid the "niche" networks.

As for the people who prefer the "cleaned up" versions of shows, I'm reminded of Steven Black (Wayne Brady) on 30 Rock who caught Zoolander on a plane and found it so much funnier because they took out all the swearing and stuff.

Stef said...

I'm willing to wait on the DVDs to see the full shows, as is. I also don't like the edited versions of SATC in syndication, and that makes me think I wouldn't want to see any of my other favorite shows "cleaned up" for the network... and even worse, with commercial interruptions!

That being said, I do applaud efforts to put actual scripted shows on rather than only relying on gag-inducing reality concepts.

Anthony Foglia said...

I haven't seen "Dexter" (outside of barely paying attention to one episode a month ago). I'd like to get into it, but I doubt I'll watch it editted for broadcast TV.

Christy said...

Not having cable, I caught the first two episodes on line at the Showtime site after you raved about it, Alan. Then as soon as iTunes had them I downloaded the remainder of the season. I don't remember that much nudity, but certainly lots of foul language. Would I have seen cleaned up versions on iTunes?

I became so addicted to the show I haven't been able to wait for them to become available for download and have been reading the full recaps at TVWP. How sad is that? So yes, I'd certainly enjoy watching them on network TV. I'll take them any way I can get them.

RandomRanter said...

While I of course hope the strike is resolved quickly enough that most of this becomes academic, I do think BSG would benefit from an NBC showing. I don't have Showtime and all that so I can't speak for the other shows, but I know several people who have cable but don't really look outside the broadcast networks for series - they have cable for better reception or so they can watch sports or cooking shows. So if some of these other programs showed up on the channels where they look for prime time entertainment, I more would tune in.

Robin said...

I would watch network-ized versions of some shows, some not. I don't have cable, so I would pay someone at NBC to actually show S3 of BSG on network...even on Saturday night. I'd watch Dexter or Psyche, mainly to see what all of the fuss is about, but if I liked it, I'd probably switch to the DVDs. I think shows on premium channels will need ALOT more editing than shows on channels like FX and SciFi (based on what I remember from my cable-watching days).

I think the biggest problem comes when, as Susan pointed out with SATC, edits are made that obliterate a plot line. Since I've never seen Dexter, I don't know how much this would be an issue. My biggest pet peeve is the dubbing that is done to get rid of the swear words. It's usually done poorly, you can easily figure out what was originally said, and in this day and age, is it really necessary to protect the masses from words they can hear walking down the street?

What about cable shows that wouldn't need editing, like Project Runway from Bravo? I know that NBC showed the first 2 or 3 episodes from last season after they'd aired on Bravo. Any chance they would do that with either PR or Top Chef? Then I could finally join in the love for all things Tim Gunn!

jenmoon said...

I don't have cable, so it's a long wait for me to see Dexter. I would watch edited versions of that show.

Sex and the City, however, is the one show I can think of that should never have been edited and cleaned up. It just doesn't work. I can't speak for the boobies in season 2 of Dexter, but from what I've seen of season one, the swearing and the naked aren't core parts of the plot the way they are on SatC, and it's not that gory of a show. So Dexter seems like it'd be a better bet to me on that score.

Alex said...

We usually subscribe to Showtime once every few months, gorge on episodes of Dexter and Weeds and then un-subscribe after a few days. Costs about $15 after all's said and done, for about 8 episodes of each show. We would watch cleaned-up versions of those shows on network TV, although we do prefer our shows dirty. (Especially because Dexter's sister is so hot. Yay, partial nudity!)