2015 has been a year of significant growth in television. So much so, that some TV executives have speculated that there is simply too much content. The exponential growth of television content means that viewers can continually narrow their focuses without reducing the number of shows they consume. As the year comes to an end, TVEnthusiast is analyzing the medium of television. Throughout Christmas week, we will run a series of articles that look at television in 2015. Each article will focus on a different market of the industry. From Network to Streaming, if there was a means of consuming content in 2015, we will be covering it.
The Year in Basic Cable
While not as exciting as the developments in Streaming and Premium Cable this year, Basic Cable has had a few exciting developments in 2015. USA Network, for example, started shedding their quirky fun image in favor of more gritty content. Another great example of development within basic cable is the re-commitment SyFy made to science fiction after years of silly ghost hunting reality shows. Lets take a look at what else happened in Basic Cable television.
What We Liked
The best new series of 2015 wasn’t on Networks, nor the bastion of quality shows that is premium cable, nor was it on the explosively growing streaming services. The best new series of 2015, Mr. Robot, came to us through basic cable. In addition, we actually got some outer space set hard science fiction this year. SyFy recommited to the genre they got their name from by bringing us 3 new space set science fiction series, Killjoys, Dark Matter, and The Expanse. They also brought us a series adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s classic time travel movie 12 Monkeys, and even a mini series adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. AMC doubled down on the phenomenal success of The Walking Dead when they introduced their new spin off series Fear The Walking Dead. The network also brought us a spin-off of their beloved series Breaking Bad with the debut of Better Call Saul.
What We Didn’t Like
FX had a pretty big flop this year with Kurt Sutter’s The Bastard Executioner. Sutter had just finished up his highly successful FX series Sons of Anarchy, and FX was eager to get him back to work for them. The Bastard Executioner’s medieval setting didn’t mesh well with the Sons of Anarchy audience and Sutter’s own storytelling style. While it was a sad misfire, I am not mourning the end of the series, and am actually looking forward to what Sutter is working on next, a Sons of Anarchy prequel series. 2015 saw the end of a few great cable series, though most seemed to go on their own terms. FX lost their amazing series Jutsified, AMC lost their critical darling Mad Men, and FXX lost their hit comedy series The League. The biggest surprise cancellation for cable, however, came with the news that The Soup had been cancelled. The Soup (originally titled Talk Soup) had been on the air since 1991. The TV highlights series launched the careers of Greg Kinnear, John Henson, Hal Sparks, Aisha Tyler, and Joel McHale.
What Were the Trends
A few notable trends presented themselves in Basic Cable television this year. First off, there is a lot of movement towards hard science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other geekier genre categories. As a site that caters to fans of these genre shows, we couldn’t be happier. The first big step in this direction was made by SyFy who brought us various series this year that we would have not expected the channel to bring us the year before. First the debuted 12 Monkeys, a great new time travel series, then they brought us 2 space set adventures in Killjoys and Dark Matter. Killjoys and Dark Matter presented us with casts of lovable rogues in space western settings. The parallel to beloved Joss Whedon series Firefly is obvious, and surely intentional. While neither show is at the caliber of Firefly (few are) they are both fun and engaging adventures. Lastly, SciFi brought out their big guns with the big budget flagship series The Expanse, and the Arthur C. Clarke miniseries adaptation of Childhood’s End. Less noticeable trends included USA’s move towards more serious content, and AMC’s scramble to cover the losses of their 2 tent-pole series Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The biggest moves, aside from SyFy’s content shift, will seemingly come next year, but the roots of change have started to grow.
Aside from a few notable exceptions, 2015 was not a significant turning point for basic cable as a whole. That being said, the signs of change are on the horizon, and the forecast looks good.
What do you think? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast throughout the holidays as we continue to roll out articles on the current state of TV in 2015 and what to expect in 2016.