5 Times Showmakers Got All Ambitious And Won
Pioneers become winners.
The history of television is littered with instances where studios and the harsh realities of the business forced showmakers to scale back their original ideas and think smaller.
But there are also those rare occasions when a fateful combination of a bold idea, bigger budgets, trusting producers and studios led to truly magnificent results.
Here are five shows that were ambitious from the start and went on to become huge hits. When we say ambitious, we mean in the sense of larger scale, multiple characters and storylines, along with balancing different genres and themes, and tackling ideas that had never been seen on television before.
Creators: Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
While the plot holes and inconsistencies of Lost are often complained about today, the ABC show managed to become a unique cultural phenomenon that paved the way for other genre-bending shows.
The creators of Lost were not afraid to build this large ensemble of characters around an exciting premise, mixing fantasy, sci-fi, and survivalist genres, and balancing blockbuster thrills with deeply affecting human drama. All on network television.
Band of Brothers (2001)
Today, the HBO miniseries is on every list of the best shows of the century. But back in 2001, when prestige serialized television wasn't as mainstream an idea as it is today, no one could have imagined that a war series would become such a huge success. No one except its big-name executive producers.
Band of Brothers was several steps up in quality from similar projects. The attention to historical events and details like vehicles, weapons, and uniforms was astounding, the stories of real-life vets - penetrating, and the production - top notch. The series still holds up well today and will for many decades to come.
Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Creators: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss
Adapting a fan-favorite epic fantasy series is no easy task for any filmmaker. So Benioff and Weiss were really taking a leap of faith when they set out to make this big-budgeted project for HBO.
There were a lot of big and risky ideas, like creating a realistic medieval fantasy setting, featuring dragons as the main characters, tackling an extensive lore and character library that demanded close attention from the audience, and killing off the biggest star in the first season. But it all turned out to be a huge worldwide success. At least until the final season aired.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
Creators: Mark Frost, David Lynch
Hands down, no one before Lynch had ever tried to communicate such abstract ideas and transcendental philosophy as found in the original Twin Peaks to a mainstream network audience. And it's likely that no one will ever be able to achieve this level of success for a story steeped in metaphysical notions.
The 2017 revival only proved that Lynch's story will never lose its appeal to viewers.
Creator: Bryan Fuller
Before Hannibal, it was impossible to imagine this level of gore on network television. But the NBC series proved that a murder scene could be pure visual perfection, a villain could be the charming centerpiece, and a crime thriller could be a self-indulgent art film, opening the door for other projects in the same genre.
Needless to say, Bryan Fuller and NBC's courage was rewarded with a huge, devoted following and unprecedented success.