The television industry is making so many shows about the music business that one might say it’s really trending in one direction.
Prolific TV producer Dick Wolf is joining forces with former One Direction member Zayn Malik to develop a new series on NBC called Boys, about the “formation of a hugely successful boy band,” Variety reported. The drama will be inspired by Malik’s own experiences in the insanely popular British boy band, which he quit last year to pursue a solo career.
Boys is a departure for Wolf, the Emmy-winning creator of the Law & Order and Chicago franchises, who’s been producing various police and legal dramas since the 1980s. But as the TV trends of old fade into relative obscurity, new ones emerge, and music-based shows are now all the rage.
Galvanized by the success of shows like Nashville and Empire, the “music drama” is becoming a television genre unto itself. Seemingly every network, from HBO (Vinyl), to Netflix (The Get Down), to Showtime (Roadies), has already made or is in the process of making a series about the inner workings of the music trade. Later this season, Fox will debut a new show about three young singers called Star, from Empire co-creator Lee Daniels.
At best, the genre has been inconsistent, and, at worst, it’s been futile, leading some to wonder why the TV industry keeps investing in it. HBO’s Vinyl was a $100 million failure. Showtime’s Roadies hasn’t officially been cancelled, but it doesn’t seem long for this world given its low ratings and cold reception from critics. Reviews for FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll were mixed, and it’s unclear if the show will earn a third season. Nashville debuted to a solid nine million viewers in 2012, but lost much of its audience over the next three years, so ABC gave it the boot. (CMT then picked up Nashville for a fifth season, to premiere in 2017.)
Music is such an energetic, personal experience that it’s proven tough to translate to the small screen, apart from live, reality singing competitions like American Idol and The Voice, and performance-based shows like Glee. But the popularity of those shows, coupled with the fact that music is a universally enjoyed art form, has been enough for television executives to keep trying and hope something like Empire sticks.
FX may have found the perfect formula in its new dramedy Atlanta, which premiered last night (Sept. 6) to rave reviews. While the show is technically about the titular city’s rap scene, and music is featured prominently, Atlanta is less strictly a “music show.” The music is incidental—its quirky characters are the show’s central conceit.
With Wolf producing and a huge name like Malik attached, Boys could easily buck the trend and be as successful for NBC as Empire was for Fox. In any event, TV has found a new genre, and it’ll keep tapping its well until it’s completely dried up.