While much has been made of cable’s recent spate of prestige programming, the networks still patch together their schedules with spit and duct tape. For every original drama series like AMC’s The Walking Dead or FX’s Sons of Anarchy, there remain dozens of lowest common denominator reality shows.
The vast majority of these can be lumped into three basic genres. Representing the ultimate in empty-calorie TV, cable now plays host to no fewer than 12 programs devoted to cake and cake derivatives. Once the sugar buzz wears off, viewers can burn off the fat with a pulse-racing romp through eight ghost-related strips, or they can simply stretch out in front of the half-dozen shows about little people.
While it’s anybody’s guess as to why millions of viewers tune in for the clone trifecta, the networks’ motives are far easier to deduce. A show about cupcakes can be produced for a micro-fraction of the $2.5 million Mad Men budget, and the ratings generate the revenue that makes it possible for networks to invest in much more ambitious fare.
That said, a survey of cable’s unholy trinity suggests that programming chiefs are missing out on a potential windfall. A series about a baker standing 3 feet 6 inches tall who owns and operates a cake shop haunted by the ghost of a compulsive hoarder would quite possibly be the most-watched show in cable history.