Thursday, September 24, 2015

TV's Reign of Delicious Fucked-Upedness

Jessica Lange in American Horror Story: Freakshow. Fabulous.
Scream Queens, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. No it's not a retrospective on the 90's, it's some of TV's most successful shows. Let's get down to business. We all watched the Emmy's we know who wins all of the awards, but TV is all about ratings in the end isn't it? With the TV renaissance appearing to be nearing its tail-end, there are those who grasped the medium and refuse to let go without a fight. Mad Men is over, Breaking Bad is over, Downton get the idea. Now, if we could just get Girls to wrap up quietly, we'll be great! We're left with two major camps who dominate in ratings and have given us a specific point of view and auteur-like quality to their bastion of shows. 
In one corner we have the incomparable Shonda Rhimes; the brainchild behind Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and most recently How to Get Away with Murder, a problematic and I'll say sometimes laughably outlandish show, but it did win Viola Davis her history-making Emmy, proving that Shonda is a solid force to be reckoned with in the TV industry. 
In the other corner we have a creative team the likes of which I haven't seen since Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse; Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk who have proved versatile in genres including both comedy and horror with shows like Glee, Nip/Tuck, and American Horror Story, their marriage of the two genres culminating with the recently premiered, Scream Queens
Emma Roberts in Scream Queens, previously of AHS fame and Ryan Murphy's current muse.
Both of these camps have a clear cut voice and vision, and their shows, although niche, are widely popular to the point where you'll tune in just because you heard that Shonda is exec producer on something, regardless of content. The age of shows that take themselves very, almost too seriously are over. And we've ushered in the age of highly imaginative content and wildly outlandish premises and characters. I would say that both Shonda and Murphy/Falchuk are very camp in their approach. In the immortal words of Blanche Dubois; 'I don't want realism, I want magic', and that's just what shows like Scandal and American Horror Story provide. Both teams provide a hyperactive reality and prefer style over accuracy. It's actually a genius strategy. Let's take Shonda. There are already countless courtroom and political drama shows that are in syndication and still airing on television. How do you go around that? Make the premise totally implausible and put as many twists and turns imaginable in it. It's so much more fun when you don't adhere to any rules except your own. Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), the epicenter of Scandal is a feminist and television icon by now. We can forget that every situation she finds herself in is highly unlikely to happen in actuality, but who cares? There's no limits to the creative imagination and that's what both camps have proven. 
Olivia and President Fitz; the love story that we are all talking about and yet totally implausible and highly imaginative. 
Murphy and Falchuk have really grown to impress. Nip/Tuck was campy but it was ridiculous. And who wants to see a scripted show about plastic surgeons when we can see it on E!'s Botched for real? Glee, I wasn't the biggest fan of, perhaps because I couldn't stand its fan base...the Gleeks. Let's face it, that show was just pretty people in a kareoke bar without the booze. But they totally redeemed themselves with American Horror Story which has the inventive bravado of a show like Lost. It's completely implausible, and very unrealistic, but honestly how much does that matter? Were we all on board with secret hatches, black smoke monsters and time travel on a mysterious island? Yes we were. 
The highly anticipated new season of American Horror Story (Hotel) will feature Lady Gaga as a member of the principle cast. And when we all heard about this we collectively lost our shit. 
Scream Queens, their latest endeavor, had a brilliant premiere and seems to marry both Murphy's and Falchuk's penchant for horror with their fabulous nose for comic timing. Both camps also share something with every successful show right now and that is a multi-protagonist show. A la Lost, both Scandal and Scream Queens, Grey's Anatomy and American Horror Story have well over 10 main characters, and aren't afraid to kill anyone off. If you have 20 people in the main cast, you have more freedom to end their trajectory without losing your audience, because there are 19 left to keep the story moving. 
Viola Davis, star of How to Get Away with Murder and the show's creator Shonda Rhimes. 
We have to admit that at this point, each teams plethora of shows kind of bleed into each other. We can see parallels and similarities between Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, just like we can see them between AHS and Scream Queens, but when you have that much content and that many active shows, how can you not use your powers as a storyteller to create a distinct voice that resonates through all of your work? That's the mark of an auteur after all. 
The new TGIT campaign really says it all. We don't have to roll up our sleeves and sit among the most self-righteous tv snobs for an hour of Breaking Bad where a general bleakness and way over-the-top deaths married with an existential darkness dominating the premise. We can pour ourselves a comically large glass of wine and have fun with our friends who take no shame in totally believing what is happening on Scandal
Banner for the current TGIT fall campaign.
I for one, believe that this is a brilliant time for TV, where anything goes. Yes, it can be a 'drama' but it doesn't have to be bleak, and serious, and harsh. Most of us watch TV for a break from our lives, we yearn for the unrealistic; the magical. I just finished yet another Buzzfeed countdown, this one about some of the greatest one-liners on the premiere of Scream Queens. None of them are anything you'll ever ever EVER hear in real life, and all of them totally ridiculous, but they are hilarious and genius. Where else are you going to hear 'good evening, idiot hookers.' Probably on Vanderpump Rules, but hey at least this one is scripted. With based-on-real-events shows like Masters of Sex and Halt and Catch Fire tanking, we can see that it's not what the viewing public hungers for anymore. 
With the most recent Emmy's, it's been proven that a show that doesn't take itself too seriously can still be taken seriously as something of worth, and that's the genius of both Rhimes and Murphy/Falchuk. I don't think any of them set out to write shows that garner awards, in fact they are usually the kind of shows that don't. But ratings don't lie, and now award shows are catching up to the trend. As should you. I've mentioned a lot of shows in this blog post, if you don't watch at least one of them, well you're not a very good person. So get on that. Please and thank you. 

Below the new TGIT campaign.

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