Trends, trends, we've got trends in the TV racket. Let's survey.
Here's one – the trouble with quality television. If you want it, you have to watch it.
Recently we've seen some superb dramas. HBO's Olive Kitteridge sets the bar high, offering one of the more compelling screen characters in recent memory, and it is female-centric, eloquent drama in stark contrast to the distinctly male locus of so much cable drama.
There are The Honourable Woman and Strange Empire on CBC. Both have rather low viewing numbers, mind you. Both are focused on strong women and neither show qualifies as light entertainment. And, as the Canadian TV racket has noted, both shows are drawing around 300,000 viewers an episode, while CTV is sometimes getting three million for its U.S. network shows.
The hand-wringing about this issue is redundant. It's about quality, not quantity. CBC is shifting its programming and no, it doesn't matter if there are 757,000 people watching CBC's Heartland and 300,000 watching Strange Empire.
Oddly, but interesting to note, when a Strange Empire episode is repeated, it draws about the same numbers.
HBO doesn't have to fret about viewer numbers for Olive Kitteridge. It has subscribers. CBC is a public broadcaster and is mandated to be different. The only thing to worry about is outside forces pointing to the low numbers and using the figures to attack the CBC.
Remakes of movie and old TV shows. That's something to fret about.
It is estimated that each of the four U.S. networks is pitched about 400 show proposals every year. About 60 will become scripts, and from there the decision is made to actually film about 10 pilot episodes.
Thus it seems peculiar – and an indication of poverty of imagination – that a large number of old TV series and movies are being used as development material for new TV shows.
ABC is developing a series based on the 1989 John Hughes movie Uncle Buck, which starred John Candy. There was already a TV version in 1990, a failure. (The estates of both Hughes and Candy went public with their disapproval, but the show is still being developed.)
Coming in early 2015 on CBS is a remake of The Odd Couple. Thomas Lennon will be the fastidious Felix, while Matthew Perry will be the slovenly Oscar. Like, that's gonna work.
There is also talk of turning the movie American Gigolo into a TV series. Meanwhile, NBC is looking to turn the movie of John Grogan's book Marley & Me into a weekly series.
Steven Spielberg has announced the use of his movie Minority Report as the basis for a new series for Fox, and NBC intends to turn the Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino supernatural drama Devil's Advocate into a series.
There has always been an urge to turn successful movies into TV shows. Many have failed; a handful have succeeded. However, what's happening now is a mad fad, one born of desperation.
Coupled with recent reports that as many as 10 Marvel comics are in development for possible TV series, we might be witnessing the withering of all originality in network TV.
And that's a real worry.
Benched (Comedy Network, 10:30 p.m.) isn't a terrifically original comedy but has real promise. The gist is this: A high-powered corporate lawyer, Nina (Eliza Coupe), loses her job after a workplace hissy fit when passed over for a partnership and her boyfriend dumps her.
So Nina takes a job as a public defender, dealing with low-life criminals and acid-tongued workmates. An awful lot is made of her expensive clothes and sheltered existence, but there are flashes of good comedy. Coupe goes for it with gusto. It's a kind of new Night Court with better jokes.
Also, know that it is midterm-election night in the United States. Most major networks start live coverage at 10 p.m. The all-news channels are on it from 8 p.m.
And both The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy, 11 p.m.; CTV, midnight) and The Colbert Report (Comedy, 12:30 a.m.) go with live shows for the occasion.
All times ET. Check local listings.