How Gritty is TOO Gritty?

You know what? I love TV.

I was practically raised on the stuff, and to this day I have an unhealthy knowledge of most major television shows that aired between the 70s and 2000s. (I even have a collection of television theme songs somewhere around here.)

In the turn of this current century, after almost a generation of being left behind for the movies, television is made its big comeback. Now big name actors aren’t ashamed to be on the small screen, and the quality of television programs have spiked overall. With shows like Oz, The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Breaking Bad, and the Walking Dead, it seemed that TV was set for a renaissance.

Notice the above shows I mentioned are found only on cable. You see, in finding television’s new gravitas, an unspoken rule of thumb had appeared. Cable shows,(what, with their relaxed censorship rules and all) were perceived as infinitely “better” than their broadcast counterparts. For some reason this bothered me. Perhaps it was because I didn’t have access to cable growing up, and finding a good broadcast show (That is a show on CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, UPN/WB/CW, PBS in the USA) wasn’t that hard for me. It also implied that a show can only be good if it benefited from being on cable television, and the lax censorship that entailed.

Oh and for the record, I’m not hating on cable itself. Some of my favorite shows of all time were behind a paywall.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a Hollywood gossip news program where the talking heads on the screen were discussing the 2014 NBC series, “Chicago, PD.”  As the title suggests, the show is about cops in the Windy City. Here’s an actual promotional picture:

Don't what? Asterisk?
Don’t what? Asterisk?

The gossip program did a quick montage of the cast describing the show. It was called “gritty,” “dark,” some more “gritty,” and “a cable show on broadcast television.” Now, as of this writing I have yet to see the series, but the whole thing struck me as odd for two reasons: 1) How can you describe your (or any) product by saying it’s “just like” the competition? and 2) Are “gritty shows” the only programs people will watch?

The head of the Fox Network, Kevin Reilly touched upon this on his press junket for the first season of (another “gritty” procedural) “The Following” last year.  He more or less said that the country is leaning towards more mature, violent  programming as a whole, and he had to compete with demand.

I’m no old-fogey. I like guns, guts and explosions as much as the next guy, but even I can’t have that ALL THE TIME. You need something to break that up for a change of pace.. If not for you, then for those times the in-laws are in town and watching something “gritty” would be inappropriate.

All in all, I think gritty has a place. That is until people tire of grit (I’m not a physic, all art comes in waves) and move on to the next big thing. Want to take a guess to what that is?

5 Replies to “How Gritty is TOO Gritty?”

  1. Right on. The gravy train comes around and lo and behold guts and gore or whatever is the flavour of the day and then EVERYBODY starts doing it until saturation point a la comic book adaptations from the 2000s onwards although that’s obviously the big screen.

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