If you're European, have you ever wondered why, when given a choice, you'd prefer to throw your own poppy under the bus than watching a series produced in your country? (with a few exceptions of course)
Well, I have. Many times. Even if I don't own a puppy yet. (I wished I would.)
I'm tired of overrated stuff and copycats, which is a plague on numerous European TV networks. Ok, I'll give you that. Americans are the kings of remakes (which is practically copying).
In most cases, except for some recent and exceptional European productions, like Dark or Borgen (And I know... There are more), I don't really feel enthusiastic about European series.
Watching most of them feels like homework to me. It's mostly unimaginative and leaves me under the impression (especially in Germany) that a total lack of self-awareness is responsible for this.
In other words: Dull TV made by boring people who full themselves into thinking that they're the Elon Musks of television.
That's right, being humble enough to check if your work is worth watching, is a skill that many European productions are lacking.
So, even if you don't feel as strongly about this topic as I do, and if you haven't been living under a rock for the past 15 to 20 years, you've probably noticed the rising quality of American series compared to the rest of the world.
So, I'm going to assume you prefer American series as well. Presuming you do, the interesting question here is to know:
Why do you prefer to watch American Series?
The answers are numerous and maybe obvious to you, but it has something to do with humility and work ethic.
One of the first reason that comes to mind is...
For many years now, America has built its TV success on the back of teams and not a single guy sitting in his closet until he delivers a finished product.
In case you didn't know it yet - and nothing wrong with that - American series aren't written by one single guy but by a whole team of guys and gals.
They gather together, brainstorm, discuss, and change the fate of the show in accordance with the reaction of the audience. In other words. If nobodies watches, they have to find a solution to wrap it up properly for the remaining fans out there.
That may sound strange since a writer is a writer, you could think. But in some writer's rooms, everybody on the team has its specialty. Some are good at writing jokes, some are good at typical genres, some are good at writing dialogues - I think a crucial skill for a writer -, some are good at writing slapstick scenes, etc.
So everybody completes the other and group work is highly valued. Which can be pretty humbling for people who like to get all the credit for themselves.
Sounds evident but gathered brains can produce good stuff faster and more creativity than one guy sitting in his bedroom. Assuming the team's dynamic is good.
That would be one reason, why Americans dominate the world of series.
But how do all these authors manage to work together and produce something that makes sense in the end?
You guessed it, the writer's room isn't an anarchists' meeting - although there is always something funny happening from that - they do have a king or a Queen who leads the ceremony: The Showrunner.
The Showrunner or the showrunnress (I wished that word would exist) are the people who make sure that everything makes sense in the end. They're the leading television producer and often the creators of the series. They have a creative as well as a management responsibility.
Successful and famous showrunners you may know are people like Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy) or David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones).
As you've learned, American series' pros prioritize collaboration for creating a series. Young writers can learn the craft from more experimented ones and bring some fresh blood into the writer's room as well, which plays a role in the creativity and quality of a show.
This still is lacking in Europe but also changing slowly since television networks start to accept this model.
If you want to read more about the evolution of European TV networks based on the example of Britain, here is an interesting article by Variety.
Americans are smart enough to use classical storytelling techniques.
Now, wait! I'm not saying that every other way of telling a story is uninteresting. On the contrary. But, if you're determined to leave that path, you better have to know your craft if you don't want to lose, bore, or confuse your audience.
Think of it as a Jazz musician.
Most of them won't sit in a bar and start to tinkle the ivories by magic (hm... I mean the black keys) without any prior musical education, A mojority of jazz musicians have an extended musical background and years of training until they can start improvising.
And that's the same for storytelling. You can leave the classical path, but you have to know what you do.
And American TV networks do. Their series are often built on an epic narrative, meaning, the ancient storytelling technique of the hero's journey.
Simplified, you can understand the hero's journey like this:
A hero is given a starting point where everything is okay. Until a disturbing factor comes along. He has to live his comfort zone, accomplish a mission and will encounter many obstacles on the way. His biggest problem is the antagonist. Which, by the way, isn't per definition a bad guy or even a person.
If you want to understand more about antagonists and protagonists, read this article I wrote a while ago.
Americans aren't only famous for their innovations in entertainment but also in other industries.
A supposition I have on this is that they're less concerned with getting things perfect by the first time than their European peers.
Put differently, they're humble enough to try something (of course, with preparation and a concept), throw it out into the world, and see what happens.
They confront their work with reality as soon as possible so that they can make it better as fast as possible.
Certainly, I know that in Hollywood isn't that democratic since, a.o., so much money is at stake. There are enough filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors who never get a job because they're too unconventional, ethnic, old, young, or because they're a woman.
I still think that a piece of the American success in TV, as well as in many other areas, is due to their pioneer mentality and the will to follow challenges rather than to fear them.
It's written in their story. Because let's face it, it was a necessity.
This leads to what I think is the most important factor in what makes American series so popular around the world...
Of course, not only Americans TV pros have pressure. Every TV pro around the globe has pressure.
If you're working in media and entertainment industry and you don't like what you do, it's going to be difficult to keep up.
The hours are crazy. The recognition, for the majority, inexistent. And the salaries, if you're not a rising star, often an insult.
But, in many European countries, they are systems in place, that preserve TV redactions. This sounds maybe amazing, but in fact, I think that having financial resources secured in this business kills the quality of the productions.
Because you're not pushed to get constantly better in order to survive.
For example, Germans have one of the worst models one could ever think of. And I know I'm going to make some enemies here. but I'll have to say it.
It doesn't matter if their program sucks or not, they'll get paid.
Yes. If you're American and you read this, you'll probably won't understand what I mean, but, in Germany, you're forced to pay for TV programs by law (and a very strange law by the way), regardless of if you have a TV or not.
They're even considering to raise their fees because people can watch some of their programs on a smartphone.
So, in brief, you're obligated to pay around 18 boxes (euro) per month to finance programs designed to fit the taste of a population over 60. Not that it would be a problem to be over 60, your age doesn't say anything about your capacity of processing complex concepts - many times, due to life experience, on the contrary - but those shows make you stupid and aren't even entertaining.
And that's what has made the gap grow between American productions and European ones.
If American productions don't deliver, they get canceled. Period.
And many times, even if the show is great.
And that certainly gets you motivated.
I'm curious to know your opinion on this. What do you think makes American series stand out so much in the end? Or not? Please, leave a comment in the section below the related posts.
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