What if Every TV Show Was as Bad as Season 8 Game of Thrones?
Because capitalism doesn't reward great art nearly as much as it does terrible art made cheaply.
As a Hollywood TV executive, the recent writer's strike and artificial intelligence (AI) breakthroughs have me pondering an important question: what if every TV show was as bad as Season 8 of “Game of Thrones”?
Like ... would you still watch?
My colleagues and I think you would, which is why we refused to listen to the Writer's Guild of America's (WGA) demand to keep AI out of the writer's room. You see, we understand that AI can only create mediocre content full of lifeless prose, dull platitudes, and empty conclusions—and we don't care. We'd happily produce a thousand episodes of television as bad as the last two seasons of "Entourage" if it means we can increase our already massive profits.
You may think flooding the zone with a bunch of AI-generated content that makes "Emily in Paris" look like "The Sopranos" can't possibly be a winning business strategy. But consider that Hollywood has already made 10 "Fast & Furious" movies, and people have actually paid money to see each one in theaters. How bad can the drop-off to AI be? And before you answer, know that we already know the answer, and it's bad...
If you don't like claymation amoeba people battling dinosaurs and Michelle Rodriguez playing a Hasidic Jewish man, you're probably just a Luddite who can't see the brilliance of AI. And yes, we need to hype AI as the solution to every problem because devaluing human art and labor is a negotiating tactic that will ensure we don't have to pay writers a livable wage.
This stance may be disheartening to those of you who view Hollywood as a bastion of creativity. This is, after all, the town that made such groundbreaking television shows as "Breaking Bad" and "The Wire." But we sacrificed the artistic high ground somewhere between the 10th and 20th Avengers movie. Now we're only about increasing shareholder value, because capitalism doesn't reward great art nearly as much as it does terrible art made cheaply.
The only question that remains is just how bad the viewing public will allow our AI-generated content to be, while still tuning in.
Like, can it be as bad as the ending to "How I Met Your Mother" ?
More cringe-worthy than "The Morning Show" ?
More contrived than "Lost" ?
Harder to watch than "The Last of Us" ? (hot take, I know).
For what it's worth, humans did write all of those shows. Of course, they also wrote "I Think You Should Leave," "Atlanta," "Yellowjackets," "Seinfeld," "MASH," "30 Rock," "The Office," "Friends," "Jeopardy," "The West Wing," "Mad Men," "Girls," "Barry," "Succession," and countless other programs that have become staples of American culture and made us, the TV executives, obscenely wealthy. All we're asking now is for you to watch more of the former, and virtually none of the latter. And then once you're done watching our AI-generated drivel, watch three sequels, the prequel, the origin story, and then sometime 3-5 years later, the reboot.
You may resist at first, but just wait until the executives in your industry find a way to replace you with AI, too. Then you'll have all the time in the world to kick back and watch non-binary "Ted Lasso," right-wing "Euphoria," and whatever else the AI dreams up for us. The possibilities are endless … unless the possibility is for content with heart and soul. We don't know how to make content with a soul because we've already sold ours.
Your move, writers.
Q&A on the article
Q: We’re back on AI, again?
A: We’re back on AI, again!
Q: Why do you care about the Hollywood writer’s strike?
A: I think the precedent set there around the usage of AI will have broad implications around how all workers in creative roles are impacted by AI. Myself included.
Q: What would you like to see happen?
A: Some limitations around how AI can be used in creative work. AI can and should be used as a writing assistant and research partner, but the ideas and follow-through should still come from humans.
Q: Do you not think AI is good enough to create great content?
A: Not as presently constructed today. If and when that day comes (hopefully not for awhile), I’ll be the first to watch the new AI-generated season of “Seinfeld.”
Q: What if I actually liked Season 8 of Game of Thrones?
A: Well then you’re in luck, because it looks like there’s a lot more where that came from!
Thanks for reading I'm Like You (but with a newsletter)! Subscribe and maybe I won’t publish another AI screed.