Evolution in TV Programming: 4 Trends in TV Content

How people watch TV has changed dramatically in the 21st century. You can now watch your favorite shows when and where you want because of Internet technology that seemed like mere fantasy only a decade ago.

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Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon let you stream a season’s worth of episodes from your favorite TV show and watch it all at once. The days of waiting a week to see a new episode are long gone with VCRs and record players. Original programming is available through many avenues now. TV viewers can sign up for basic cable and satellite packages starting at $29.99 monthly. Viewers can also access more original content with an $8 monthly Netflix subscription or pay $79 a year for membership to Amazon Prime for access to instantly stream TV seasons and movies.

A similar evolution is changing available TV content. Networks are trying to entice a digital age audience with shows featuring familiar stories and characters amid sophisticated visual effects and a changing culture.


Few ideas stay original for long. Retooling a TV show from another country for U.S. audiences has been a huge part of the Hollywood playbook for decades. "The Office," which enjoyed a nine season run on NBC, was based on the BBC series of the same name from co-creator Ricky Gervais. Thirty new pilots ordered for 2013-14 are adapted from earlier TV shows and about a dozen of those are based on foreign shows, reports Neon Tommy. One doesn’t have to think hard to name a handful of adapted series: "The Walking Dead," "Game of Thrones," "Dexter" and the upcoming "Under the Dome" are all book-to-TV adaptations.

Adaptations can also revisit a popular series from past decades and revive the characters and stories for a new generation of TV viewers. CBS did that with great success with a reboot of "Hawaii Five-0." NBC will attempt to do the same when it brings back a new version of "Ironside" in the fall. Revivals of "Have Gun, Will Travel" and "The Brady Bunch" are in the works on CBS, mentions The Hollywood Reporter.

Movie Tie-Ins

Popular movies are always a source of ideas for TV series. "M*A*S*H*" started out as a hit movie before becoming one of the most popular TV series of all time. NBC has had success in recent seasons mining movies for TV series ideas, turning "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood" into hits. This fall,  "Beverly Hills Cop," "About a Boy," and "S.H.I.E.L.D." will serve as inspiration for several new pilots and series, according to Neon Tommy.

The Hummingbird

It is easy to spot many character archetypes in TV shows. You have characters like the crazy best friend, the loveable loser and the annoying neighbor that show up in all sorts of shows. Add "the hummingbird" to that list. In an interview with NPR, Emily Nussbaum, a New Yorker TV critic, defines the hummingbird as a single woman who is an idealistic dreamer with an irritating personality. They are driven to succeed and it makes them tightly wound and often annoying to other characters.

The hummingbird is usually a central character in a show and examples of hummingbirds have multiplied on TV. NPR noted that "Parks and Recreation" "Homeland" and "The Middle" offer examples of hummingbird character types. For viewers of the aforementioned series, see if you can identify the hummingbird next time you see Leslie Knope, Carrie Mathison or Sue Heck onscreen.

The "Homeland" Effect

When a winning formula for a TV show is found, networks expend effort to duplicate it through countless shows. "CSI" and "Law and Order" spawned a ton of police procedural clones. "American Idol" and "Survivor" drove the reality show craze. Now, "Homeland" threatens to spawn a bunch of political conspiracy thrillers in its wake. Interestingly, "Homeland" was actually an adaptation of the Israeli series "Prisoners of War." Several new pilots in 2013 are centered around national security and political conspiracy themes, Neon Tommy reports. "Hostages," "Reckless," "The List" and "The Wild Blue" will likely continue the political and military mystery trend instigated by "Homeland."

April Cambell is a film reviewer and TV gossip columnist loving the California life.

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