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PERSPECTIVE

Who's winning this race?

By Pat Quinn 09-06-2017

On November 9, 2017 Hollywood woke up in shock. Phones were silent. Executives reported disbelief that Donald Trump had been elected.

Then all of us began asking questions, not just about the baffling results of the election, but about how it might impact the business of entertainment in Hollywood.

For example, what about the pollsters who predicted Hillary Clinton’s victory? On election day, television news showed maps of the US with states coloured red (Trump) and blue (Clinton). Slowly during the day, the red filled the middle and the South. The only blue states were on the West Coast and the East Coast.

Was the Hollywood community in a ‘bubble,’ cut off from the reality and sentiments of over half of our country? Was there something vital yet unexplainable happening ‘over there’ in the flyover states?

CBS’s SEAL Team was among several military shows in LA

Now many of us are asking what is the ‘Trump effect’ on the recent batch of new network shows that will launch in 2017/18. Most of these shows were bought and developed before the election. The pick-up and programming decisions were made after January 2017.

In these unpredictable, tense and provocative times, network television is inviting us into a world of family values, loyalty and heroism — and superheroes.

Heroes fighting evil
Notice that we have three military ensemble shows: Valor (The CW), SEAL Team (CBS) and The Brave (NBC).

Gone are the ambiguous, noir characters that typically populate cable shows. These military units are well synchronised and have a clear chain of command. They have an arsenal of sophisticated technology, weapons and equipment to spot and strike a target or accomplish a rescue.

Our brave heroes save people in dangerous situations and, conversely, the rescued are grateful and overwhelmed.

There is a clear-cut enemy, sometimes located in the Middle East. Our fighters demonstrate old-fashioned wartime values and are courageous, fearless and heroic.

Superheroes and the supernatural
Even more dramatic than the military hero soldiers are the Marvel superheroes who use their powers to fight crime and quash their enemies. These superheroes are not just comic-book characters — often they are exceptionally skillful and successful human superheroes. Watch these Marvel superhero shows on The CW, Freeform, ABC, Hulu and Fox?

You can go home again
During these uncertain times, another comforting theme prevails: if all else fails, you can go home. Last season NBC premiered the phenomenally successful drama This is Us.

In it, a group of people share the same birthday and they are entwined by their extended family. The season’s highlights are very much in the spirit of Hallmark moments as these normal, middle-class — make that red state? — people share Christmas, Thanksgiving, death of a parent, childbirth and falling in love. Every episode captivates us with sentimental and tear-inducing plotlines.

This Is Us captured our imaginations and our viewer loyalty. It garnered high ratings and in its brief two-year history, eight awards, including a Critic’s Choice and People’s Choice Award.

The series theme is reminiscent of Dorothy’s timeless quip from The Wizard of Oz: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.”

CBS’s spin-off comedy Young Sheldon

All in the families
Several new comedy series have taken their cue from audience interest in ‘real people’ and a renaissance of middle-class family values and settings, with CBS setting the pilot pace.

We see recurring scenes involving family dinners, sibling rivalry and childhood friends. At the Eye network, Young Sheldon examines the family and childhood of The Big Bang Theory character as he grows up in East Texas.

In AP Bio on NBC, an Ivy League professor loses his dream job and has to return to his home town to teach high school. In 9JKL on CBS, recently divorced Mark Feuerstein has to move back to an apartment — uncomfortably sandwiched between his parents and his brother, sister-in-law and baby. In CBS’s Me, Myself & I, the biggest adventure is examining one man’s life via single cam over 50 years at ages 14, 40 and 65 — in 2042.

All comedies celebrate family and community as identity and a safe haven.

Don’t miss the wink at the Trump election in ABC’s comedy, The Mayor with Brandon Michael Hall. A struggling teen rapper runs for the mayoral office as a stunt, a clever promotional prank for his music. “It’s super easy to run for local office,” he says. When he wins unexpectedly, he says: “What? This job is four years?”

Yes, and so is the US presidency. With 3.5 years to go, no doubt we haven’t seen the end of the influence on our network programming.

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today's correspondent

Pat Quinn Founder Quinn Media Management

Pat Quinn, of Los Angeles-based media consultancy Quinn Media Management, creates strategic partnerships for international companies that also open doors to profitable new revenue streams in the US. Her company specialises in routes to market, acquisitions, programming and business development.

Pat is an international format expert and represents the creators of international television series. She led the Big Mountain Productions team, setting up Geneaology Roadshow on PBS. She was also instrumental in Wild Rover Productions’ summer run of Take the Money and Run on ABC.