Pandora’s Box: How Guts, Guile, and Greed Upended TV

Morrow. Nov. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780062991669. $28.99. TV
TV filmmaking and distribution changed dramatically 25 years ago on January 10, 1999, when The Sopranos debuted on HBO. Network television had grown ossified, with too many restrictions, boxed in by the demands of its shows’ sponsors. HBO replaced sponsors with subscribers: fewer restrictions on content and language, and a show’s story arc could stretch across an entire season. Netflix jumped in when producing its own series became less costly than leasing them from outside. Then came FX, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and others. Streaming replaced cable, and Netflix went wild, premiering new movies and series weekly and building a gigantic video library to attract and keep customers. The new freedom attracted star writers, directors, and actors to the small screen—including Martin Scorsese’s Boardwalk Empire, Kevin Costner in Yellowstone, and Glenn Close in Damages. Film historian/cultural critic Biskind (The Sky Is Falling) has covered the film and TV industry in eight previous best-selling books. He’s a lively writer who includes a lot of vastly entertaining gossip about the increasingly corporate drivers of these changes.
VERDICT A fascinating topic that the author handles well. The depiction of cable executives is blistering.
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