When NBC announced the renewal of “Parenthood” and the CW OK’d a third season of “Hart of Dixie” on the heels of Fox committing to “Glee” for two more seasons, the only thing that could make song pitchers and publishers happier would be ABC signing up for season two of “Nashville.”
Collectively, those four shows are markedly the biggest players in network TV when it comes to music, just about the only series left that lay out cash and license songs in bulk. Others may pay more here and there, but these are the last vestiges of shows that fit the now clichÃ©d adage “TV is the new radio.”
The Big Four–ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox–roll out their 2013-14 schedules May 13-15 with the musically significant CW following on the 16th. CBS has the fewest holes to fill as 18 of its shows have already been renewed; NBC, expected to bring the curtain down on its musical experiment “Smash,” has the most. (The welcome return of “The Sing-Off” is afoot, this time with Mark Burnett producing, most likely for a holiday season run.)
TV is a cyclical business where hit shows beget imitators, and no one is looking for another “Glee.” Wasn’t it just two years ago that the pilot season was filled with such elevator pitches as “‘Glee’ in a church” or “‘Glee’ at a dance academy”? Now the demand is for serialized programs about cops, families and the metaphysical, shows that generally rely only on the music of a composer.
Within the list of pilots produced for 2013-14–we’re talking 100 shows here–is one that may be a winner for music: ABC’s “Venice.” Yes, it’s a soap, but it comes from McG, former producer of “The OC,” the show that ushered in the “TV is the new radio” business. It’s set in Venice, Calif., and has a Montague-Capulet theme of rival families, and one has to figure star-crossed lovers tooling around a beach town on the DL need a quality soundtrack.
Naturally, that’s every music supervisor’s dream. Anecdotally, I hear, it has been a tough winter/early spring for freelance music supes as the early stages of securing synchs have largely been handled in-house by the producing entities. Advertisers have been shown pilots loaded with music that will never make it to air, so it’s never fair to judge a series’ appetite for music from its premiere at the upfront sessions in New York.
A decade ago, summer films bubbled over with featured songs and soundtracks, a trend that was taken off the boiler five years ago and is now down to room temperature. Likewise, network TV is feeling the sting of low viewership levels that in turn force down the price of advertising. Budget cuts in TV are no different from those in film-music, the final piece of the puzzle provided it’s not in a performance sequence, is the easiest line item to cut.
Here’s an idea: Take a chance and step back to a time when music was of little matter to serial TV. Leaving music in–or increasing the number of synchs in a returning show–might well be a path to distinction this fall. With night after night of lawyers, guns and money, perhaps a soundtrack could be a difference-maker.