How Many TV Series Can Your Brain Take

logotyo“Game of Thrones” fan Travis Stevens experienced a familiar mix of feelings while watching the most recent episode of the HBO fantasy series: dread (during the horrific death of a young character), exhilaration (when a screaming dragon swooped in) and low-level confusion (Who in the heck was that creep in armor that budding assassin Arya Stark was stalking?)

Mr. Stevens, a 42-year-old film producer in Los Angeles, turns to Wikipedia and online recaps to identify second- and third-string characters in the sprawling series. “Maybe it has just too many white guys with beards,” he says.

“Game of Thrones,” which will leave multiple story lines dangling for a year with Sunday’s season finale, is notorious for befuddling even ardent fans with its many clans, lands and simmering subplots. But it’s just one of many shows taxing the memories of audiences who have been flooded with complex story lines and crowded character ensembles.

“Orange Is the New Black,” which returns Friday for a third season on Netflix, uses more than 20 characters to populate a fictional women’s prison with inmates and staff. On “Orphan Black,” finishing its

Why Reality TV Is Good for Us

Reality TV_0For eight single professional women gathered in Dallas, it is holy Wednesday — the night each week that they gather in one of their homes for the Traveling Bachelorette Party. Munching snacks and passing a bottle of wine, they cheer, cry and cackle as their spiritual leader, Trista Rehn, braves heartache, indecision and the occasional recitation of bad poetry to choose from among her 25 swains. Yet something is unsettling Leah Hudson’s stomach, and it’s not just the wine. “I hate that we’ve been sucked into the Hoover vac of reality TV,” says Hudson, 30. “Do we not have anything better to do than to live vicariously through a bunch of 15-minute-fame seekers?”

There you have the essence of reality TV’s success: it is the one mass-entertainment category that thrives because of its audience’s contempt for it. It makes us feel tawdry, dirty, cheap — if it didn’t, we probably wouldn’t bother tuning in. And in this, for once, the audience and critics agree. Just listen to the raves for America’s hottest TV genre:

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“The country is gripped by

Reality TV Works

reality-showHow does reality TV work?

People have been asking me that question for years. And I think that it’s my very eclectic résumé that led me to be asked to write this article. I first joined the WGA in 1989 when I wrote an episode of In the Heat of the Night. Since then, I have written for other primetime cop shows, daytime soap operas and had a feature film in development. Then there’s my other career in reality TV. What started as a day job when I was between writing gigs blossomed into a career and I now work as a showrunner for reality TV.

So how does reality TV work? The first thing to realize is that the term “unscripted” is a fallacy. No, we don’t write pages of dialogue, but we do create formats, cast people based on character traits and edit scenes to tell a powerful, intriguing tale. In short, we are storytellers just like you. We just get there a little differently.

So with the caveat that no two reality shows operate identically–CSI isn’t produced exactly like Everybody Loves Raymond–here are some

Netflix and DreamWorks Animation sign deal for original TV programs

DreamWorks Animation has signed a multi-year deal to produce more than 300 hours of original programming for Netflix Inc.

Under the terms of the agreement, DreamWorks Animation, creator of “Shrek,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar” franchises, will develop shows for Netflix based on its own past and upcoming feature films. DreamWorks Animation will also use the Classic Media library it acquired as a resource. That library includes the characters Casper the Friendly Ghost, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

The agreement marks the largest deal for original first-run content in Netflix history and also is the first time DreamWorks Animation’s characters will be introduced into the television market as a branded collection of shows.

The Glendale studio already produces TV specials and series based on its movies for Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon and is eager to further expand its television production as part of a strategy to become less reliant on animated feature films.  Last month, DreamWorks Animation acquired the YouTube teen network AwesomenessTV for $33 million in cash with plans to develop a digital family channel using the studio’s library of characters.

Netflix is expected to begin airing the new animated series in 2014 throughout its global service,

TV Show Goes Back to Rock’s First Wave

CARLSBAD — In the late 1950s and early ’60s, rock ‘n’ roll was really “happening,” 30-year-old Carlsbad resident Domenic Priore said just the other day.

“It was simple, innocent, upbeat and made for dancing. “And you can’t really do any better than that.”

Priore’s trying to bring some of the joyful sounds (and sights) of first-wave rockers back in the spotlight. He’s producing a weekly television dance show modeled after such long-ago teen tube favorites as “Shindig” and “Hullabaloo.”

The half-hour program with the ’60s-style title “It’s Happening” has aired on public-access cable TV stations in Los Angeles since last September and Austin, Tex. since April. “It’s Happening” makes its San Diego debut tonight.

The show consists of Priore and his co-host, Audrey Moorehead, spinning classic rockabilly, Mod, surf-rock, soul, girl-group, and British Invasion discs; screenings of vintage music film clips like the Castaways doing “Liar Liar” and the Spencer Davis Group doing “I’m a Man,” and live performances by a handful of house bands, including the Event and the Nashville Ramblers from San Diego, and Fresno’s Quagmire.

Throughout the program, the makeshift dance floor inside the studios of Daniels Cablevision in Carlsbad, where the show

TV networks build drama and ratings with diva model

Diva Rule No. 1: Know how to make a big entrance. Diva Rule No. 2: Know how to make a big exit.

Diva Rule No. 3: Do these things as often as humanly possible.

The return earlier this month of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” marked the end of the midseason premieres. By the end of the month, the premieres of the midseason replacements should also have concluded, giving us a few blessed weeks of “normal” television viewing before the actual season finales begin.

If you’re confused about the difference between a midseason premiere and a midseason replacement premiere, the answer is increasingly “not much.”

 

Technically, a midseason replacement is a brand new series held from the fall lineup to be debuted after the first of the year. But with all the pomp and publicity surrounding the return of fall shows from the winter hiatus, they might just as well be new shows.

Certainly, the writers are happy to hit the reset button, often using the opportunity to shift narrative focus and tone. Instead of a broadcast season of about 22 episodes and a cable one that is roughly half that, viewers these days are often being served