Cable’s Graveyard

Although it shares some qualities with its network FOX, such as a penchant for materialism and mainstream romance, The Mindy Project always seemed like an outcast among a lineup of redundant crime dramas and live contest elimination rounds. In a set of vibrant colors, Mindy Kaling assumed the role of Dr. Mindy Lahiri and charmed viewers with the level of relatable self-deprecation and candor for which Kaling is famous.

From the beginning of this ambitious show’s run, network restrictions, lack of advertising, and censorship caused the show’s offbeat humor to feel caged at times. With the show’s writers and network executives at odds, it came as no surprise to the show’s fans and crew alike that in spite of critical success, this quirky and witty romantic comedy never truly found the viewership it deserved. After three turbulent years of airtime on Fox, an increasingly low view count spelled out a certain death for The Mindy Project.

Cancellation was made official in early May, and Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s story dropped off into resounding silence. Just like countless shows before it, the half hour of escape and comedy provided by The Mindy Project was quickly replaced by something in the vein of a repeat episode of the Big Bang Theory or the six hundredth season of some undying cartoon. That was until Hulu, a popular streaming service, stepped in at the last moment and commissioned a fourth season.

The Mindy Project joins shows like Community and Arrested Development in a special, but rapidly growing class: the online revivals.  This upward trend of prematurely cancelled shows being reincarnated via the Internet solidifies what media analysts and those who fear change have repeating for years: the reach of the internet on legitimate entertainment is expanding. Although the appeal of live television still exists, the new face of alternative television that is popular among millennials, like the abovementioned shows, is undoubtedly the Internet.

Television has always transfixed Americans. Ever since radio gave way to Technicolor, people have craved the release of immersing themselves in fiction. It seems intuitive that the Internet, which has streamlined so many other aspects of modern life, would be the medium to make television more accessible, uncensored, and binge-watchable.

With 9 out of 10 Americans surveyed by TiVo readily admitting their tendency to binge watch, this union of the Internet and television proves to be mutually beneficial. 78% of American bandwidth represents video streaming, and some of the Internet’s most profitable and innovative companies, including Amazon, Youtube, Netflix, and Hulu, have been able to flourish (data provided by Cisco).

One question remains in this seemingly natural transition: why would companies put themselves in financial risk to save shows that the public already rejected? The answer lies in the fact that the way society judges television is going through a metamorphosis of its own. The Nielsen rating system, which dominated the entertainment industry for decades, is now obsolete in the face of immeasurable streams, clicks, and tweets.

Although the types of people who tune in to watch Criminal Minds live are not inherently different from those who’ve seen all ten seasons Netflix offers, they have, for the most part, different priorities and lifestyles. The very essence of online television is in its flexibility. It can be accessed from almost all wireless devices at anytime instead of just from a television at a specified hour. It can be re-watched, revisited, separated into fragments, or viewed ceaselessly.

Therefore, the average college student or twenty something can match their viewing schedule to their waxing and waning free time. For those younger generations, whose after school commitments are still scarce, the flexibility of watching television on the Internet is less of a necessity and more of just the entertainment to which they are accustomed. As these TV to web transitions are especially tailored to younger generations, comedies and teen focused shows are usually selected over dramas. Thus, Degrassi: the Next Generation, will receive another season while adult targeted shows are permanently cancelled.  

Moreover, without the heavy hand of a network censor, the humor of these shows is more likely to appeal to the younger portion of the population, provided that when these shows make the transition they do not lose their momentum. That last stipulation is where Community and Arrested Development faltered. Although the Internet can provide a second life for a show, it cannot prevent the departure of cast members, change of writers, and the subsequent disintegration of a show’s charm.

For that reason the population is not going to unplug entirely anytime soon. The realm of television is reliable and provides a certain comfort to those who are not already addicted to Netflix. Additionally, video streaming is a costly endeavor whereas Television, for the most part, cannot help but make money. The merits of this new realm of entertainment, however, are undeniable.

The first episode of Hulu’s The Mindy Project premiered this September. From its saturated colors to its bumbling characters, the show’s quality has not decreased in the slightest. In fact, with a new uncensored tone, it feels more true to Kaling’s and its writers’. The trailblazing move has proven to be a success for the show and for Hulu alike. Due its far-reaching appeal, it is likely that the show will attract more viewers than ever before now that it has found its proper platform. Proven by the show’s success, this trend of transitioning television to the Internet could be the future of entertainment. 

— Colette Juran, Science Editor 

Posted by on October 8, 2015. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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