Lifetime shattered its own Primetime Emmy record this morning with a solid 17 nominations. For a network that spent the better part of its existence being scoffed at for catering to frightened and alone middle-aged women, how have they found themselves at the top of the drama game? Looks like someone is finally learning how to pull in the general public…
To a certain extent, Lifetime hasn’t changed their programming at all. They’re still all about pushing the drama and all their Emmy nominated shows are centered around stories we’re familiar with. They’ve done little things that have made a big difference in how serious critics and non-viewers take their programming. For instance…
Less cautionary tales
America eats up the drama, but what we don’t appreciate is feeling like someone is preaching to us or trying to scare us off. The best example we have of this is Lifetime’s treatment of the Craigslist Killer. It was as real and as creepy as it gets. However, it bordered on too real and too creepy. We all use Craigslist. That last thing we wanted was to sit through two hours of how that dude who just bought our treadmill is probably going to turn us into fertilizer. We don’t do cautionary tales.
More real, untouchable drama
This year, we saw two real-life dramas earn Emmy nods for Lifetime: Anna Nicole and Bonnie & Clyde. In both instances, they’re dealing with dramas that were a part of our lives or our history classes, but that we never experienced. We’ve only ever delved so far into Anna Nicole’s life, only ever saw what the gossip columns showed us. With Bonnie and Clyde, we relied on mug shots and history books. For the first time, we went into their well-scripted lives and had their worlds recreated especially for us.
Some will argue that the same thing was presented to us with William and Kate. There was one massive flaw with that movie, though: It didn’t actually star any royals. When it comes to the new generation of royals and royal-watchers, cheap imitations doing a poor acting job of recreating scenes they’ve always imagined just won’t cut it. We’d rather watch another documentary filled with real paparazzi shots and televised interview clips of the actual Princess than sit through something like William and Kate.
A whole lot of well-written crazy
Plenty of Lifetime dramas are based on crazy mamas or twisted fathers. Most of them, though, are based off a poorly written script or some cheap paperback. Lifetime’s take on Flowers in the Attic (and its sequel) was well done all around. It was based on an insanely popular book. People know that story… even if they haven’t ever sat down with a physical copy of the novel.
A better, popular cast
Another great thing Lifetime did with Flowers in the Attic was that they went all out for their actors. Lifetime is kind of notorious for pulling in established actors who you recognize, but who probably haven’t been current or popular in at least a decade. By pulling in Heather Graham and Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka, a sense of legitimacy was given to the movie. There was nothing, “been there, done that” about the actors on screen.
Those changes are minor, but they’ve helped secure 17 nominations for the network, which is pretty impressive. When awards night arrives, do you think Lifetime will make it out with any actual Emmys? What else could they do to see themselves coming out on top of the other networks? Tell us below.