Over the past decade or so, it is hard to not notice how HBO and other cable networks dominate the award shows. Network television used to be the standard in which all television was compared, but not anymore. If the major networks want to be respected, competitive and watched more frequently again, they need to take some notes from HBO.
1. As all of us know, the reason we like HBO is because it is a network that takes risks. HBO is known for its high production valued miniseries, for example, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, John Adams, Mildred Pierce, Angels in America and Generation Kill, just to name a few. The last miniseries on network television that had people talking is Lonesome Dove back in 1989. Miniseries as a genre, is a great way to connect an audience to a subject that is talked about for months and maybe years, take Roots for example, people still talk about that miniseries and it aired 35 years ago.
2. Adapt a book series into a groundbreaking television show. Network television isn’t the most original, but they don’t have to be. Network television over the last 10 years has gotten lazy. The five major networks have franchised multiple shows just because of its popularity at the moment. None of these franchise shows, ie. CSI, Law and Order, are shows that are going to stay relevant over time. They are procedural shows that don’t bring in DVD sales or fan addiction like HBO shows. I haven’t heard anyone ever say, “Oh man, I can’t wait until the new season of Law and Order starts.” On the other hand, I have heard people say, “When does Game of Thrones new season start? I miss that show!”
3. Don’t be afraid to show the dirty side of life. Who do the major television networks think they are fooling? It is hard to become obsessed with shows like Once Upon a Time, when they sugar coat the stories and make the characters one note, because it is broadcast at an early time on a Sunday night. Network television dumbs down the storylines so to include the whole family, when in reality, children and adults understood the Harry Potter book series just fine. Network television could take some pointers from HBO. HBO doesn’t back down from violence or sexuality for the sake of the audience. That is HBO’s appeal. They will break barriers and question the status quo for the story. Network television doesn’t have to be as graphic in its sexuality or violence, but the element of implication is a powerful tool to fuel the imagination.
4. The only reality television shown on HBO is documentaries. There is something wonderful about a thought provoking, fully realized documentary and HBO is the king in bringing interesting, entertaining documentaries that resonate with the viewers. Documentaries are a great vehicle to show each point of view to get the whole story of a moment in time, about a person, event or tragedy, that gives viewers a glimpse into the human condition, for the sake of getting people talking and most importantly, moving for change.