Networks Rely on 'Panic TV' Programming Model

August 6, 2018

By Max Godnick

CBS's fall primetime lineup will feature ""Magnum P.I.," "Murphy Brown," "Hawaii Five-O," and "MacGyver." No need to adjust your dial. You didn't step into a time machine ー it's still 2018.

Though the shows have proven popular with TV audiences for decades, programming executives' reliance on familiar hits may soon yield diminishing returns among viewers craving original content, said Andy Swift, the executive editor of TVLine.

"I would almost call it panic TV," Swift said Monday in an interview with Cheddar. "They don't know what they're doing, we're entering a new age."

With 319 original scripted series having their TV debut this year, Swift said there's more pressure to find the next big hit that can stand out in a very busy content landscape. That's one reason why so many Hollywood decision makers are revisiting past ideas and beloved characters.

"From a business standpoint, it kind of makes sense," Swift said. Choosing to green-light a show that's already proved successful in the past is relatively low-risk compared with spending millions of dollars on an untested concept.

Television's reboot fever shows no signs of cooling: "The Facts of Life" and "Star Trek" are the latest classics to be revamped for modern TV. Those shows follow "Roseanne," "American Idol," "One Day at a Time," and "Queer Eye," new versions of old shows that have all drawn big ratings and critical acclaim for streaming platforms and broadcast networks.

In the past decade, TV has arguably surpassed film as the main source of prestige entertainment. Sophisticated series crowd network lineups while superheroes rule the big screen; but not every new show can be the next "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," or "Game of Thrones." Sometimes, Swift said, networks are forced to take a safer route.

"There are so many networks and streaming services that have to fill time and fill space," he said. "They're not all going to be gold."

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