Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, March 25th, 2024

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Thursday, March 21st, 2024.

I have long been skeptical of any report that focuses too much attention on a drop of scripted programming in the U.S. during 2023. Thanks to a nearly six-month Hollywood strike, it's impossible to determine how much of the 2023 slump is attributable to the strikes and how much a byproduct of a real decrease in spending. And for that matter, the first half of 2024 is likely to also feel the impact from strikes. So my approach has been to mention any declining numbers that are reported. But also be mindful that they probably don't mean what a lot of people think they mean.

You will be shocked to learn that more often than not, newly released data on things such as content spending are delivered by journalists without a lot of context. Or even worse, by focusing on the wrong lesson because it helps deliver a headline that will resonate with readers. Even if the headline isn't entirely accurate.

Which brings us the ling way around to a story from today's Hollywood Reporter entitled U.K. Scripted Content Orders — Including From Streamers — Drop Sharply. BBC Holds Steady. It's quite the snappy headline, including the mention of streamers. Which is designed to provoke the "What? Even The Streamers Are Cutting Back? reaction that gets readers clicking in to read the story:

Scripted TV content commissions — including for dramas, sci-fi, crime and thriller programming — dropped 18 percent in the U.K. in 2023, a report from research firm Ampere Analysis has found.

“Major U.K. broadcasters cut spend and most global SVODs trimmed investment in international content,” but U.K. public service broadcaster BBC held steady, according to the report.

“Changes in consumer behavior and a weak advertising market saw pay TV operators and commercial free-to-air broadcasters slash scripted commissions,” Ampere explained. 

As far as I can tell, none of the stories about this study published in the trades today were written by a journalist who had seen the actual report from Ampere Analysis. Instead, they drew their stories from the same one-sheet release I received. Which is fine as far as it goes. But there weren't tons of details in the release. And even some of the details that were part of the release were skipped over because they didn't fit the narrative that brings in readers.

Yes, BBC spending and content production held steady year-over-year. And you no doubt read that part of the reason was due to a cutback in reality and unscripted television. But the report also highlights two things that I didn't see in any of the press coverage. The BBC ramped up kids programming - which counts in the scripted total. And it moved away from one-off specials in favor of multi-part shows because those perform better in the BBC streaming service iPlayer.

But I was also struck by how little context was given to the numbers. What factors could have contributed to the drop in 2023? It's one thing just to spit the numbers out like a parrot. But it seems to me that one of the values of an industry press is having reporters who can explain not just what happened...but why.

It's important to remember that the job of Ampere is not to deliver strategic assumptions, but simply to gather the data and lay it out for their clients. It's the client's job (or in this case, the job of the press) to try and determine what might have happened.

One huge factor that likely contributed to the slump in production were the dual Hollywood strikes. While the WGA strike didn't have an effect on the industry - the UK writers were prohibited from supporting the strike with their own work stoppage - the SAG-AFTRA strike shut down large parts of the UK production business.

While I don't know that anyone has a firm number on the number of productions shut down in the U.K., it was a substantial hit because many U.K. productions included at least one WGA member. A few productions were able to get waivers, but the impact was real and we have no idea how that is reflected in the Ampere 2023 production numbers.

The Nickelodeon Kids TV/Dan Schneider doc remains the most-watched TV series on Max more than a week after its release and interest remains high based on what I'm hearing from readers.

I've had a few people ask me what I thought of the TMZ piece that claimed someone close to Amanda Bynes and her family told them they had declined to participate in the documentary because Bynes never had a problem with Dan Schneider. I tried to resist, but the piece was sufficiently annoying that I wrote something about it earlier today:

But it would have been easy not to say anything...instead of releasing these comments on background, with no opportunity for a reporter to ask follow-up questions:

"As for her parents ... our sources say they're private people and wanted to stay out of the spotlight for this. Unlike Amanda, we're told they actually watched the documentary and were both saddened and disgusted by the allegations.

But again, we're told the family unit as a whole hadn't experienced what these other child actors did while at the network ... which is why it didn't make sense for them to sit for it."

The thing is, they could have sat for an interview and said that. Or they could have taken the approach Schneider did with producers and decline the interview but provide some statements outlining their point of view.

Instead, someone "close to the family" released these comments. And if you want to know why they chose TMZ, it's likely to ensure they'll get a story closer like this one:

"Amanda is much more low-key these days ... and she hasn't publicly addressed the doc. Now, however, we know how she feels about it -- and there's no bad blood with Nick."

No, we don't know how she feels. We have a pretty good idea about how her parents might feel. Or at least, the way they want to frame their feelings in public.

* Sky has decided not to pick up The Lazarus Project for a third season, which will disappoint fans who were hoping for a resolution of that big season two-ending cliffhanger.

* Every day I do a rundown of the top ten global TV stories of the day. Here was Monday's edition.

* BET+ has announced the season two renewal of Tami Roman led series Haus Of Vicious.

* Keith Urban will serve as "mega mentor" on season 25 of The Voice. No, I have no idea what that means. 

* Golden Globes and CBS sign a deal to air the awards on CBS and livestream on Paramount+ for five years, starting from the January 2025 telecast.

* Here is a look at some images from the upcoming Netflix animated film Ultraman: Rising. I'm looking forward to seeing this one.


* American Experience: The Life Savers (PBS)
* Gabby's Dollhouse Season Premiere (Netflix)
* Lethally Blonde Series Premiere (Investigation Discovery) - [first look video]
* Mean Girl Murders Season Two Premiere (Investigation Discovery)

* Constellation Season One Finale (Apple TV+)
* Dave Attell: Hot Cross Buns (Netflix)
* Good One: A Show About Jokes (Peacock)
* Just In Time (Great American Family) - [photo gallery]
* The Truth Vs. Alex Jones (HBO)
* Tig Notaro: Hello Again (Prime Video)