Grant McCracken’s Culture Contest: Showtime Vs. USA Networks

Grant McCracken’s Culture Contest: Showtime Vs. USA Networks

Grant McCracken is running a contest at his blog asking people to see the culture trends at work at USA networks and Showcase.

Dan Gould
  • 10 september 2010

Grant McCracken is running a contest at his blog asking people to see the culture trends at work at USA networks and Showcase. details below, or head to CultureBy.


The Big C, the new show starring the deeply talented Laura Linney gives us a glimpse of what is now possible on cable. It resembles a second show on Showtime, Weeds.

Together these shows give us a glimpse into the Showtime thinktank. (One of the principles, apparently: let’s see what happens to suburban living when we mix things up.)

There is a another experiment at work at USA Networks, from which a string of hits has recently issued (Burn Notice, Psych, Royal Pains, White Collar). (One of the principles, apparently, stay as far away from the suburbs as possible.)

Your essay question:

1. Compare and contrast Showtime and USA Networks. Identify the grammar or algorithm that produces the shows in question. (Consider my “suburb” reference a hint, but merely one very rough indicator of the possibilities. Please do feel free to contradict me.)

2. What larger cultural significance do you attach to the fact that these two approaches to making TV now exist? Did they exist in the 20th century. Why do they exist now?


Fewer than 1000 words.

point form preferred.

points for being crisp and clear.

Contest winners

Contest winners will receive a Minerva (as pictured) and a place on the winner’s list. (And immortality as a contest winner, of course. See the list of previous winners, by clicking here.) (Note: the Minerva used to be called the “VOWEL.”)

Contest judges

Normally I do the judging for Minervas. But this is a recipe for provincialism. So I am invited several people to act as judges. They are:

  • Rick Boyko, Director and Professor, VCU Brandcenter
  • Schuyler Brown, Skylab
  • Bryan Casta├▒eda
  • Ana Domb
  • Mark Earls, author, Herd
  • Brad Grossman, Grossman and Partners
  • Christine W. Huang, PSFK, Huffington Post and Global Hue
  • Steve Postrel

Chief Culture Officer

This is precisely the kind of question I would expect a CCO to hit out of the park. If you are having trouble with this question and fancy yourself CCO material, you are not watching enough TV. (When spouses or colleagues complain, look them straight in the eye and say: “It’s doctor’s orders.” (Trust me, I’m an anthropologist.)

Previous Winners

  • Juri Saar (for the “Who’s a good doggie woggie?” contest)
  • Reiko Waisglass (for the “Who’s a good doggie woggie?” contest)
  • Brent Shelkey (for the “Who’s a good doggie woggie?” contest)
  • Daniel Saunders (for the “JJ Abrams vs. Joss Whedon” contest)
  • Tim Sullivan (for the “Karen Black vs. Betty White” contest?)

CultureBy:Culture Contest: Showtime vs. USA Networks



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