The television show In Treatment, starring Gabriel Byrne as psychoanalyst who was unable to get his personal life in order, is one of my all-time favorite series. I remember saying to a friend, a therapist who was also a fan of the show, “This theater is too good for American television. I bet it won’t last.”
As it happened, I was right about the program’s longevity. It aired for three seasons, a short period for a production that won critical acclaim. I learned, recently, I was also right about the series being too good to be made in America. In Treatment was born in Israel and HBO bought it. (“A TV Bonanza From the Homeland of Homeland,” by Ethan Bronner, Bloomberg Businessweek, June 12-18, 2017, pg. 21-22.)
Writer Ethan Bronner explains why, more recently, programs like Bryne’s, which appeal to a limited audience, get a chance on the small screen. The money stream has changed. Distributors, like Netflix, Amazon.com and Hulu, live by subscriptions rather than ads. They don’t “need 10 million people to like something to be a hit.” (Ibid pg. 20.) What they need is variety. And variety has opened the door to a different breed of writers and producers.
Consumers benefit from the competition pouring in from all parts of the world. Even India’s Bollywood, famous for its formula romances, has taken note. Hollywood should too. These different revenue streams have challenged this once cinematic giant to find a new paddle. If Hollywood fails, I doubt even Wonder Woman can save it.