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EMMYS: 2011 Drama Series Overview

This year’s Emmy race for Outstanding Drama Series will continue cable’s dominance in this most prestigious category. Cable claimed 10 of the 13 nomination spots over the past two years, and 13 of 19 since 2008. By contrast, cable earned a mere nine nods combined in the seven years between 2001 and 2007 when the networks still ruled. The shift from broadcast is so extreme in 2011 that CBS’ The Good Wife is considered the only network series with a solid shot to earn its second nomination in as many years. (Though not in that league, NBC/DirecTV’s Friday Night Lights, NBC’s Parenthood, and CBS’ Blue Bloods deserve consideration while ABC has entered a rebuilding phase.) The sad reality is that the broadcast networks, which just signed a new eight-year deal with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to carry the Emmys, are facing a possible first-ever shutout from the top drama series category. That’s because of the continuing strength and ambition of programming on cable — in particular, HBO in a return to form, and AMC still on a roll.

HBO’s Prohibition-era hourlong Boardwalk Empire drew the most critical attention this Emmy season because of its pedigreed producer team, headed by the legendary Martin Scorsese and creator/showrunner Terence Winter, a Sopranos alum. How interesting that the pay channel’s expensive serial will compete against another period drama from that other Sopranos alum Matt Weiner. AMC’s first acclaimed original series, Mad Men, has won this category three years running and is bidding this year to be the first series to win four in a row since NBC’s The West Wing (2000- 2003). Though the frontrunner, Mad Men could be hurt by a long hiatus.

AMC has seized the mantle from HBO as TV’s preeminent quality-drama purveyor with a pair of newcomers that could crack the series field this year: the zombie-themed hour The Walking Dead, and the dark murder mystery The Killing. Even though two-time category nominee Breaking Bad is not eligible for 2011, AMC could still land three nods, becoming the first network in 10 years to do so in this category, after NBC scored the hat trick in 2001 with The West Wing, ER, and Law & Order. No cable network has ever managed the feat to date.

And then there’s Showtime, whose Dexter is in the running for its fourth consecutive Outstanding Drama nomination, along with first-season Shameless. FX is pushing its increasingly buzzed-about Western, Justified and, to a lesser extent, Sons Of Anarchy. TNT wants attention for The Closer, Men Of A Certain Age, and Southland. USA is pressing Covert Affairs and White Collar. Here’s our assessment of the chances for this year’s drama series in alphabetical order: Read More »

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CABLE RATINGS: ‘Big Love’, ‘Skins’, ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Finales Up

By | Tuesday March 22, 2011 @ 4:25pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

HBO’s polygamy family drama Big Love ended its five-season run on Sunday with 1.6 million viewers tuning in for the series finale at 9 PM. The combined finale viewership of 2.3 million viewers across 2 telecasts was up by 7% from last season’s closer. But the 9 PM airing was down 6% from last year.

MTV’s new series Skins wrapped its freshman season last night with 1.2 million viewers and a 1.21 rating in persons 12-34, both up 9% from last week and the racy teen drama’s best ratings since Episode 4, which aired on Feb 7. No decision has been made on the future of the series, which, after the initial slide, showed some ratings growth in the past few weeks and has delivered solid on-demand numbers.

The spring finale of ABC Family’s hot freshman drama Pretty Little Liars last night became the series’ second highest-rated telecast, behind only the January premiere, in total viewers (3.64 million) and all key demographics, including adults 18-34 (1.28 million) and persons 12-34 (2.51 million). Pretty Little Liars has already been renewed for a second season.

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‘Big Love’ To End Its Run After Season 5

Nellie Andreeva

It is the end of the road for HBO’s polygamy drama Big Love. The series’ upcoming fifth season will be its last, with Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer writing the closer as the series’ finale. Despite gripes about the most recent fourth season, the series, from Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone Prods., has remained for the most part creatively solid. It earned a best drama Emmy nomination last year and boasts a solid ensemble cast of established pros Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Chloe Sevigny as well as ingenues Amanda Seyfried and Ginnifer Goodwin both of whom went on to star in movies. “It has been an honor and pleasure to work with series creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer on this unique and provocative series, and I’m happy that they will be able to bring the story to its close the way they always envisioned,” HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo said. “We look forward with great anticipation to collaborating with Mark and Will on their next venture.” Olsen and Scheffer are working on a new project for the pay cable network, which will be announced shortly. ”When we created Big Love in 2002, we had a strong conception of the journey the Henrickson family would make over the course of the series, of the story we had to tell,” Olsen and Scheffer said. “While we were in the writers’ room this year shaping our fifth season, … Read More »

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Sky To Become HBO’s Home In Britain

The pay-TV giant has struck an exclusive output deal to be the only place to watch HBO shows from now on. Boardwalk Empire, Martin Scorsese’s series about Atlantic City gangsters, will be the first show to air through the deal in the autumn. Future HBO shows airing exclusively will include Game of Thrones and Luck, executive produced by Michael Mann and starring Dustin Hoffman. The next series of HBO shows such as Entourage and Big Love will also air exclusively on the channel.

The output deal also gives Sky on-demand rights to hit HBO shows such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under.

Sky is throwing huge amounts of money at programming. It wants to get away from the downmarket image it’s saddled with. Many early adopters lived on council estates – think housing projects – peppering the skyline with satellite dishes. Sky is pulling strenuously upmarket. It’s just announced that it’s taking over ITV’s prestigious arts programme The South Bank Show. And it’s pouring big money into original drama such as Terry Pratchett TV movies and adaptations of crime author Martina Cole.

This year, Sky will spend £1.7 billion ($2.7 billion) on content – most of it on movies and sports rights though. By contrast, ITV will spend £1 billion, Channel 4 £550 million and Channel Five £165 million.

Meanwhile, BSkyB has just announced its fourth-quarter results for the year ending … Read More »

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