Alan Sepinwall, the internet's foremost TV critic, has helped change the TV viewing experience for many Americans. First at the Newark Star-Ledger and now on his blog 'What's Alan Watching?' at HitFix.com, his episodic reviews have given people an outlet to discuss and dissect their favorite shows.
His new book The Revolution Was Televised documents the way twelve dramas, Oz to The Wire, Breaking Bad, Deadwood to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, changed the TV landscape forever.
Sepinwall was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for CL.
CL: How important is it for a show, especially the types of dramas detailed in your book, to have a strong showrunner in charge, i.e. David Simon, Vince Gilligan, David Chase? On that same note, is it possible for a someone to have too much control over a show, thus hindering its creativity in some regards?
Alan Sepinwall: It's the single most important thing. These shows are great because the people making them were very talented and were largely left to their own devices to make the exact show they wanted to. That said, creative free reign has its disadvantages. We've seen with both Studio 60 and The Newsroom what can happen when there's no one advising Aaron Sorkin about some of his weak spots, and we saw it on The Killing where AMC gave the same freedom they had granted Gilligan and Matt Weiner to a showrunner who didn't appear up to that level.
I’ve seen you mention that television dramas have gotten better and better over time. Can that trend continue? Can we really produce something better than The Wire, etc?
Once upon a time, it seemed impossible there would be a better drama than Hill Street Blues. Later, it seemed impossible there could be dramas better than NYPD Blue and Homicide. Much as I revere The Wire, I will be terribly disappointed if the rest of my life goes by without me seeing a better show at some point.
Are cable channels going to make any progress in improving the quality of their dramas in the near future? HBO, Showtime, AMC and now even FX have left the big four networks in their dust.
The competition among the cable networks forces each of them to raise their game in response to the others; we seemed to be in something of a creative lull right before Mad Men debuted, and now HBO is back doing a lot of great shows, FX has some of its best series ever, as does Showtime, etc. What I really want to see is what the entrance of Netflix does to things. And speaking of which...
Are there any new dramas beginning in 2013 that the people should look out for?
I haven't seen it yet, but Netflix has its own original drama series coming up called House of Cards, produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey. If it's great, that's an enormous game-changer.
Breaking Bad comes to an end next year. With only eight episodes left to tie up all their loose ends, how do you see this final half season wrapping up? Why does Walt need a
rocket machine gun from Jim Beaver?
It's a machine gun, and I look forward to finding out why. But my assumption right now is that Walt will again vanquish all his foes, and he'll be left either alone and miserable, or the cancer will come back to finish the job.