Washington -- Television has long since grown out of its
second-tier status to film, and nowadays it's hard to find a feature actor or
producer who doesn't want to work in TV, especially cable, said the showrunners at
the "Content Creation: The Producers' Perspective" panel at Wednesday's general
session at the Cable Show.
"It's where the most buzzworthy work is simply because
they're so hungry to get viewers, they're taking more risks," said Marc Cherry,
creator and executive producer of Desperate Housewives
and Devious Maids, his first cable
project. "The safest thing you can do is take risks."
Not only does the shorter episode order of cable series
offer a better lifestyle for producers, but it often improves story when you're
not stretching each season to 22 or 24 episodes, panelists said in the session
moderated by Entertainment Weekly's
"You get to do deeper, more sophisticated, complicated work
on cable because you have more time," Cherry said. "On Devious Maids, we had every episode plotted out before we started.
On Desperate Housewives we never had
that. The potential for the work being better is there."
And while guidelines for violence and nudity are looser on
cable than broadcast, showrunners said its not a carte blanche.
"There are just different standards. There are some rules we
have to adhere by, certain things we can't do," said Mark Johnson, executive
producer of Breaking Bad and Rectify. "Thematically, we've been given
total liberty. It comes down to language, nudity and some violence."
With more creative freedom also comes the often smaller
budgets for cable compared to broadcast series, though the showrunners said that
the benefit of more time on cable also allows for more planning to control
"We're not going to not do things, you just have to find
ways to do things that don't cost so much money," said Joe Wesiberg, creator,
executive producer and showrunner of The
But as cable gains prestige, it's not just the production
values that are rivaling those of broadcast, but ratings. Now that a cable
series like The Walking Dead
routinely beats all entertainment programs on broadcast in the key advertising
demo, the panelists said there is more pressure for their shows to perform.
"How many people can watch television all night long every
night? There are just too many good shows," Weisberg said. "I worry about it a
The good news is that cable still offers more patience for
shows to build an audience, and lower thresholds for success.
"Numbers are always in the back of your mind, but the beauty
of cable is you don't need those huge numbers to be a success," Johnson said. "As long as you have good characters in interesting situations, you will have