Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What Makes Yankee TV Tick?

Lee Goldberg (DIAGNOSIS MURDER, MONK, SHE WOLF OF LONDON, COBRA, MARTIAL LAW) does it again. This time with a great post about the differences between American television and the competition overseas. Lee was invited by television producers and studios from Europe to come over and hold seminars on the American Writer's Room and American Production Methodology. He's traveled to Germany and Stockholm speaking with the best these countries have to offer (including these guys).

In Lee's own words:

I've been surprised to learn that often American television shows do better than the locally-produced programs, despite the language and cultural differences. Production values play a part, of course, but I believe the success is due to the power of franchise in American television shows. Our series tend to have concepts so distinct that they are clear whether the characters are speaking French, German, or Swahili. Look at CSI, MONK, LAW & ORDER, HOUSE...the concepts and characters are so strong, you can immediately grasp what the shows are about regardless of where you come from.

I also think American shows do so well because of the four act structure, something that's missing from virtually all European TV shows. The four-act structure creates a narrative drive that's simply missing from most European shows that I've seen. All you need to do is spend ten minutes watching a German or Swedish cop show and the difference is clear.

And it probably also has something to do with the reliable consistency of U.S. shows...regardless of the series, viewers know that they are going to get the same show every week, only different. You know what you are going to get from CSI...the stories may change, but it's essentially the same show week after week, year after year.
1. Clear concept - "the franchise."
2. 4 act structure to provide narrative drive.
3. Brand identity.

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