The Death of Broadcast Network Series

One thing you've got to love about the Golden Globe Awards is that they get straight to the point -- ixnay on the song and dance in favor of just handing out awards. The practical necessity for this, too, is that the stars are imbibing during the show and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association needs to get through the categories while the A-listers are still relatively lucid.

But these awards also got to the point in another way, and have ever gradually for a number of years now: Broadcast networks cannot make shows anymore that can even hold a candle to the original series of cable networks.

Sure, when it comes to awards time, Hollywood gets all gooey about the shows that portray, well, Hollywood -- think 30 Rock and Entourage. But as a whole, Hollywood's network offerings have been irreversibly overtaken by cable -- and it's not because you can drop F-bombs or have Roman orgies on HBO without being chased by the FCC pack. Years ago, who would have ever thought that AMC, TNT, or the USA cable networks would be doing much beyond edited movies and syndicated re-runs? (And you can bet that HBO is kicking itself for having passed up Mad Men, created by a onetime Sopranos producer and writer.)

Some of those old TV shows were great; who could pass up a marathon of The Jeffersons on TVLand nowadays? I was a child during the fun, campy era of Magnum PI, Simon & Simon, and Night Court, but as I got older -- and reality TV made inroads against scripted fare -- the choices of entertaining series pretty much narrowed to Frasier and Alias, and the brilliant variety show In Living Color.

Meanwhile, here came Comedy Central with South Park, a refreshing blast of political incorrectness and libertarian messages wrapped up in side-splitting humor and crudely drawn characters. There was HBO stalwart Sex and the City -- with a strong theme of friendship, witty writing, and the uncanny ability to, over six seasons, include a profile of every type of man modern woman has ever encountered -- and fellow awards darling The Sopranos. Sure, there have been cable duds -- anybody remember the Showtime series Sherman Oaks? -- but all in all, cable networks have ironed out the magic formula of how to make shows that audiences love and will pay to see, and also garner critical acclaim and rack up awards in the process.