Yesterday, The Mindy Project made its online debut. After being canceled by FOX at the end of its 3rd season, the show found a new home on Hulu to go along with their exclusive streaming rights to the first 3 seasons. It’s not the first loved-but-low-rated comedy to be rescued from cancellation by an online service. Netflix started the trend when they revived Arrested Development and Yahoo jumped on the bandwagon with Community last year. However, based on the first episode, I would argue that The Mindy Project is the show that has best made the transition.
Transitioning a show between broadcast and streaming not only gives its creators and stars a second chance to tell their story but also comes with some creative perks. Online services tend to give fewer notes on individual scripts meaning that more of the creative control rests in the hands of the showrunners. They are also not tied to traditional episode lengths of 21-22 minutes for a comedy. They can get away with racier or more controversial material because there aren’t concerns about the FCC or, I’d imagine, quite as many viewers complaining about the content.
As the first up at bat, Arrested Development had a lot to prove. It had been years since the last episode had aired and just getting the cast back at all and coordinating filming schedules was a feat in itself. As a result, we ended up with a season that produced mixed reactions. In order to work around external complications, they had to change the basic format of the show so that it could be told by as few actors as possible at any one time. It took me a while to get through the 13 episodes and ultimately, I appreciated what they tried to do with the show more than I actually enjoyed the results. I hear it works better on a second watch, but it’s not a high priority for me to test that claim. It was much more of a reboot as opposed to a pure transition.
Continue reading The Same but Better: How The Mindy Project Transitioned from FOX to Hulu
A month ago, Netflix released season 4 of Arrested Development after 7 years of being off the air. In order to revive the show, there were several challenges to overcome, the biggest of which being cast availability. To work around the problem, they opted to try something new. Each episode would primarily focus on one character and the timelines would overlap throughout the season. While the reception for the season was not as positive at it was toward previous seasons, it was a distinct departure from traditional methods of storytelling and for that, it deserves praise.
I will be honest, I’m not a huge Arrested Development fan (as evidenced by the fact that it took me a month to watch season 4). I think it’s a clever, well-written show but it’s not really what I’m looking for in a comedy. That said, even if the execution of the new season fell flat for people on a personal level, I think they did the best they could in doing what they tried to do.
Arrested Development fans typically say that it’s a show that gets better upon rewatching it because you catch more of the set-up for future jokes that you didn’t get the first time around. This is certainly going to be true of the newest season. Two events bookend the timeline for this season. Opening the season is Lucille’s arrest for commendeering the Queen Mary, as seen in season 3 of the show. Closing the season is Cinco de Cuatro, a Bluth-invented holiday that has turned into a fairly large event. Each member of the Bluth family reveals to us a small piece of a larger picture that doesn’t come together until the final episode. We get impressions of what is to come but they were almost always recontextualized by the final episode. We get to see how interconnected the Bluth family really is, even when they are avoiding each other. It’s a very clever technique and one that I really enjoyed.
I don’t think that it is a method that would work for any other show but I’m glad that Ron Howard and the rest of the Arrested Development team were bold enough to take a risk. It pushed limits and I can appreciate it for that. It’s through shows like this that television will continue to improve in quality and artistry.
Last Friday, Netflix released their second attempt at original programming, a remake of British mini-series House of Cards. While it’s interesting that Netflix is persuing original content in the first place, what is most notable about House of Cards is the way it was released. Unlike most shows, which are relased on a weekly basis, all thirteen episdoes of House of Cards were made available at once, allowing viewers the option of marathoning the season in just a few days or spacing it out more like traditional teleivison models.
In the past few weeks, dozens of articles have been written about what this means for the future of television. There is no doubt that the way we watch television has changed in recent years. I’ve touched on this idea in a previous post, but I want to expand on the idea a little further and talk the way that Netflix and online streaming have revolutioned the act of watching television, even if the industry hasn’t quite hit its own revolution yet.
Continue reading The Future of Television