Are TV Shows Still Being Made for Television?

All organisms adapt to their surroundings in order to survive, this is true of television shows too. The early experimental shows of the 1930s developed into more regular broadcasting. Regular television series such as Come Dancing have evolved into Strictly Come Dancing and have subsequently continued for years. So, has the concept of a television show changed throughout the years? Initially they were solely produced and broadcast on television sets however since the rise in the use of streaming services many shows are now available to view anytime, anywhere, on any platform. The phrase ‘television show’ takes me back to watching Doctor Who on a Saturday night in the late 2000s. It was an exciting, family event which involved a race when the adverts came on, with everyone hoping to make it back before the show resumed. Now, television shows can be watched on any device, at any time and on various different platforms which have made it somewhat more of a solitary pastime. 

The budgets of television shows have overall increased. New Marvel television series, such as WandaVision and the more recent Moon Knight were budgeted roughly $25 million per episode. To put this in context, WandaVision had more special effects than Avengers: Endgame, which begs the question: are these series more like films? WandaVision seemed to capture the balance between film and television by maintaining the characteristics of shows, with its references to previous influential television programmes, and adhering to the style of the Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise. Before 2021, the MCU was a collection of films therefore in order to maintain their audience they could not stray too far from the familiar. Even though their format, structure and length are more like television series their visual dynamics remain similar to the films.

Television shows such as This is Going to Hurt, based on Adam Kay’s book of the same name, keep to the format of a television show whilst breaking the fourth dimension. Filmed during the pandemic when the NHS was, and still is, under immense pressure, the show received immense praise for its harrowing portrayal of the NHS, in a time where the NHS was struggling to cope due to a lack of funding, whilst also comedically lightening the bleak situation. 

Weekly comedy shows, such as Have I Got News for You, beginning in 1990, Mock the Week, 2005, and The Last Leg, 2012, all discuss, mock and challenge current events. The format of these shows has remained the same with the occasional set change and revamp, remaining on BBC and Channel 4. Despite their weekly release, they are all available on the corresponding streaming services which allows the viewer leniency regarding when they watch the show. 

There have been fluctuations in the popularity of streaming services, most recently shown through Netflix who took a $50 billion drop in their market value, with shares slumping 35%, after many customers cut back on streaming services due to the increase in the cost of living. This was also due to the amount of content released during the pandemic, when there was an increase in the amount of users Netflix had. Streaming services require regular paying customers in order to keep producing new content which in turn keeps their audience paying to watch.

So, will this change? Will the concept of the television show become obsolete? Television shows have adapted alongside the concept of a television, which now include streaming services alongside their channels. Personally, I think television shows, as programmes with multiple episodes and developing content, will remain because they bring joy to people. They will adapt to survive.

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Elena Rodgers

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May 2022
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