I was pleased to see Variety recently run an article on the current state of made-for-TV (MFTs) movies and mini-series. Compared to series programming, these shows generate very little coverage from journalists (and even less from scholars). Yet as this article notes, while MFTs no longer have much of a presence on the broadcast networks, they are alive and well on numerous cable program services, including HBO and Lifetime. (Other key places where MFTs have shown up of late include the Disney Channel, the SciFi Channel --or, excuse me, SyFY -- and the Hallmark Channel.)
One related development in recent months is the emergence of what the Hollywood Reporter calls "maxi-series." Whether this is just a new term applied to an old form (see Thorn Birds, to the left) -- and I am tempted to think it is -- seems worth considering further. One potentially distinctive element of recent mini/maxi-series is their greater dependence on financing from outside the US. Increasingly, these shows go into production with distribution in place in many other countries around the world -- but without a place on a US cable or broadcast network.
My hope is that when I complete a couple of projects I am currently working on, I can write an essay exploring more precisely how and why MFTs appear where they do on specific cable outlets. (Should you be curious, I do write about some of the key industrial reasons why MFTs have disappeared from the broadcast networks in an article coming out shortly in Convergence Media History, edited by Janet Staiger and Sabine Hake.) Though I haven't received my copy yet, I believe Erin Copple Smith also has an essay on the topic in Amanda Lotz's just-released edited book, Beyond Prime Time. (If you know of other recent articles published on contemporary MFTs, please do send them on!)