October 25, 2020

Advertising: In TV Pilots, Paranormal Is the New Normal

Fans of the supernatural will be superserved by the five big English-language broadcast networks as they add to their prime-time schedules series like “Grimm,” on NBC; “Once Upon a Time,” on ABC; “The Secret Circle,” on CW; “Terra Nova,” on Fox; and “A Gifted Man,” on CBS, which will join returning shows like “Fringe” (Fox) and “Supernatural” (CW).

In fact, at 9 p.m. Friday, “Grimm,” a detective series with a twist out of Grimm’s fairy tales, is to face off against “Fringe,” about a parallel universe, and “Supernatural,” devoted to a pair of demon-busting brothers.

The new fantasy series are among 27 newcomers for fall that television executives presented to advertisers last week in New York during the upfront week, called that because it takes place ahead of the coming season. The advertisers will soon begin deciding in which series to buy billions of dollars’ worth of commercial time — and which to bypass.

There are additional scary, fairy, fantasy shows on the bench, waiting to be introduced in midseason, among them “Awake” on NBC, and on Fox, “Alcatraz” and “Touch.”

The networks that appeal to Spanish-speaking viewers are also climbing aboard the spectral band wagon. For instance, Galavisión, a Spanish-language cable channel, is planning a series called “Kdabra,” about a mysterious teenager.

The trend is an escapist sign of the unsettled times, said Shari Anne Brill, a longtime media industry analyst, who noted that Walt Disney’s first animated feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” was released in the Depression year of 1937.

The focus is on “magic, happy endings, things people can’t quite see,” said Ms. Brill, who runs a consultancy, Shari Anne Brill Media.

And the darker manifestations of the trend, like the zombie drama “The Walking Dead” on AMC, “are a metaphor for our fears,” she added.

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Fantasy has long been a popular programming genre, as evidenced by shows like “The Twilight Zone,” “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The X Files,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Ghost Whisperer.” It has even been played for laughs in sitcoms like “Topper,” based on the “Topper” movies, and “The Charmings.”

But “it’s usually not a strong draw” in the ratings, said Lisa Quan, vice president and director of audience analysis at Magna Global, part of the Mediabrands division of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

For example, several new series in a fantastic vein during the 2010-11 season were canceled, among them “No Ordinary Family” and “V,” on ABC, and “The Event” and “The Cape,” on NBC.

As a result, “it’s kind of a stretch for the networks” to schedule so many series of this type, Ms. Quan said.

Steven Sternberg, the longtime television research analyst, agreed, writing in an e-mail that such shows “almost never succeed on broadcast TV.”

Mr. Sternberg, who writes a blog, The Sternberg Report, said that “Once Upon a Time,” scheduled at 8 p.m. Sunday, “doesn’t impress me.”

Ms. Brill, who is to join Mr. Sternberg in releasing in July a preview of the 2011-12 season for all English- and Spanish-language networks, said she was “worried” about the chances for “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” (although, she added, she would reserve judgment “until I see the pilots”).

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3f1e86327939855d6dc519a502f1b67d

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