Tag Archives: Rubicon

Hiding Behind the Brand: How The Killing Threatens the Future of AMC

I haven’t seen the first season finale of AMC’s The Killing.

In fact, I haven’t seen the last five episodes of the show’s first season – I fell behind a few weeks ago, struggled to find the motivation to continue, and then traveled away from my DVR before I could get around to catching up.

Accordingly, this is not a piece about the emerging debate regarding the show’s first season finale, which has sharply divided the show’s viewers (and created some extremely strong reactions from some television critics, with Maureen Ryan’s being the most pointed). While it is quite possible that I will some day watch those final five episodes of the season, and that I will have an opinion regarding the show’s finale (which I’ve willfully spoiled for myself) at that time, this piece is not about the finale.

What I’m interested in is the way that this response reflects on larger questions of brand identity that are unquestionably caught up in this response to The Killing. This weekend, I read a piece on AMC’s growing dominance at the Emmy Awards at The Hollywood Reporter in which Sud was quoted quite extensively as she waxed poetic on the freedom of the AMC model. Her first quote was perhaps the one that stuck out most, as she notes that the AMC approach is perhaps best defined by the following: “Always assume that your audience is smarter than you are.”

Given how often I felt The Killing insulted my intelligence as a viewer, this quote struck me as odd. And then I read the rest of her quotes in the article, and discovered the same issue: when she was only spouting a series of platitudes regarding the genius of the AMC brand that we hear from other writers (including a Breaking Bad writer in the same piece), I could take none of them at face value given the fact that The Killing has done little to earn them. In a climate in which The Killing has squandered nearly all of its critical goodwill, Sud’s comments were charmlessly naive, and this was before she made many similar comments in defense of the season finale.

I have nothing against Sud personally, and I think she is entitled to her opinion that her show wasn’t a failure. However, so long as her defense of the show is being framed in the same terms of the AMC brand, the network has a serious problem on their hands. This is a network that feeds off of critical attention, and that has been very protective of its brand identity, but it now finds itself becoming represented by a showrunner who has none of the credentials or the evidence to back up her rhetoric.

It’s a scenario that risks turning AMC into just another brand hiding behind rhetorical statements of superiority, and which should be creating some big questions within the network’s executive structure as they head into an important period for their future development.

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On Zombies: Community and The Walking Dead

On Zombies: Community and The Walking Dead

October 31st, 2010

I’ve already written enough about Halloween episodes (both in my review of The Office at The A.V. Club and in my piece on Halloween-themed TV episodes at Antenna) that writing a review of Community’s “Epidemiology” in that context seems like a waste of time. In fact, part of me feels as if it’s too late to really add anything new to the discourse.

However, having now watched the first two hours of AMC’s The Walking Dead – which premieres tonight at 10/9c with a special 90-minute opener – I think that I want to talk about zombies, and their function as genre. In a movie, zombies are easy: you introduce zombies, chaos ensues, heroes emerge, a conclusion is reached (which is either the heroes proving themselves capable of subsisting within a zombie-infested nation or the zombie outbreak being contained, presuming a happy ending is desired). Admittedly, I’ve only watched a handful of zombie movies thanks to being largely averse to suspense, but the point I want to get across here is that there’s a clear timeline. There is a situation, there is a conclusion, and you move on from there.

When you move this notion into television, however, you’re forced to live in that space, which is a problem that The Walking Dead will have to face should it join the rest of AMC’s lineup. Community, of course, is a very different situation, but it is nonetheless interesting to note that seriality plays a pretty substantial role in how their zombie story is told, and so I think tackling them both simultaneously will speak to some of the things which impressed me about Community and some of what concerns me about The Walking Dead.

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Off-Site Learnings: More Thoughts on Familiar Topics

When writing my Across the Pond column for Jive TV, I often draw upon things I hint at in reviews, or discuss on Twitter – as a result, the material may not be new to you, per se, but I hope the column has become a decent repository for those ideas and more broad analysis of the industry. In some cases, I was ahead of the trend: I wrote about Steve Carell leaving the Office weeks ago, and now news emerges which confirms that he plans on departing after the show’s seventh season.

In my two latest pieces, though, I’m less predicting the future and more wondering just what that future might bring. First, I took a further look at AMC’s Rubicon: while my review stuck to the reasons why I have my doubts about the series creatively, the column focuses on the ways in which the series seems to clash with AMC’s other drama series, and how the experiment of stealth premiering the show behind Breaking Bad draws attention to that conflict.

Across the Pond: Rubicon vs. Scheduling

There is, of course, no perfect way to experience a series that starts quite as slowly as Rubicon. Even online viewing would also be problematic thanks to the wealth of distractions, and when the show premieres without a lead-in on 1 August it will still face certain challenges. However, AMC learned a lesson in terms of trying to leverage previous success in marketing new series.

In my latest, column meanwhile, I spilled more virtual ink on Treme, specifically addressing some of the claims that the show was a “failure.” I wrote a lot about the show last week, so I’m sure you’re all a bit fatigued about it, but in light of David Simon’s post-season interview with Alan Sepinwall there are some interesting tidbits in terms of why Treme met that response, and why it doesn’t affect the show’s momentum going into its second season.

Across the Pond: Treme vs. Failure

I would argue that Treme is flawed, as The Wire was at points within its run, but I would also argue that its willingness to go out on a narrative limb is bound to fail for some people, and that Simon has nothing to apologize for. No television show, if it’s a particularly good television show, should please everyone, and the freedom of HBO (and other cable networks like Showtime) is that shows like the ones Simon creates have a space where they can evolve at their own pace and afford to lose viewers who aren’t on the same wavelength (or the same rhythm, if you prefer).

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