Dick Wolf sounded off about the government shutdown and the shift away from standalone episode to binge viewing during a NBC press event for “Chicago Fire” Monday at Universal Studios.
The man behind “Law & Order,” who describes himself as “least political person I’ve ever met,” is beyond fed-up with the our lawmakers: “It was a terrible couple of weeks for the country as a whole,” Wolf said of the shutdown. “I mean how could people act this way? It’s a completely manufactured scenario and everybody knew what was going to happen and now they kicked the can down the road again … shame on all of them.”
Wolf, who does not want to be classified as a Republican — though he often is — added that the lack of term limits in Congress makes no sense to him (“I don’t understand how people stay for 50 years”). He said the last politician he actually liked was a Democrat — Bobby Kennedy.
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Wolf also addressed the shift away from standalone episodes toward serialization and binge-viewing.
“I was, I think, one of the people who was most vociferous about standalone, totally complete episodes, no serialization, straight procedural story-telling,” he said. “The way people consume television has changed, if not 180-degrees, 150-degrees in the last five years.”
Wolf relished the old days of the procedural, where he really made a name — and a ton of money — for himself: “What made ‘Law & Order’ so valuable,” he said, “was the fact that you could come in and come out — people didn’t know when they came on, but if you tuned in it didn’t matter,” he said.
Of course that’s not the case anymore, and Wolf is adapting, like it or not.
TV consumption, he acknowledged, has tilted toward binge-viewing. “You see something you like, you order the first season, you watch the whole thing in three days,” Wolf said. “That is the future, I also thinks it’s the present.”
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He also addressed cable TV inroads, pointing to key differences between cable and network TV.
“Everyone says that cable is now the Golden Age of Television,” Wolf said. “These are all 10 episode shows a year — that’s why you can get major actors to do them. It’s not even a long movie. It’s very different than doing 22 or 24 episodes a year. It’s a different business.”
He questions the viability of the business model, long term.
“You can have a very popular cable show, but if its doing two-and-a-half million viewers a week in its first run, what is the residual value of that show when it goes off let’s say not even a premium, but a basic cable system?” he asks. “Who is going to pay to run that in the future?”