Ray Richmond is a contributor to AwardsLine
Just when everyone assumed that the original television miniseries was either dead or restricted to being the loss-leader indulgence of HBO, up pops History Channel’s Hatfields & McCoys in May to show the world that if you make a three-night event on a compelling subject with big stars (Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton) and a quality pedigree, the masses will still flock. Hatfields averaged nearly 14 million total viewers nightly, building to 14.3 million on Night 3 to become the most-watched entertainment telecast of all time on ad-supported cable.
Despite that success, so few miniseries are being done that the TV Academy last year was obliged to merge TV movies and miniseries into a single category. There simply is no longer close to the number of ambitious, big-budget minis as were commissioned in the days of Roots (1977), Jesus Of Nazareth (1977), The Winds Of War (1983) and War And Remembrance (1988-89). When it happens now, it’s generally on HBO via the likes of Angels In America (2003), John Adams (2008), The Pacific (2010) and Mildred Pierce (2011). Yet even HBO’s once-abundant longform output has slowed in recent years just to a few projects annually. Blame the shifting economics of the TV business. (more…)