STARZ is the third biggest premium cable network in the US, the neglected redheaded stepsister with the edgiest, most surprising, most innovative shows that buck convention, more than HBO and Showtime. We realized this when we sat down and watched the 3rd season of The Girlfriend Experience out of curiosity and were surprised to discover the show had become a surprisingly ambitious Cyberpunk story about AI and human agency. And hardly anyone knew about it.
Then we thought about STARZ's other shows: P-Valley, Run the World (which is pretty much a black Sex and the City that's a lot more authentic and less pandering), and the multilayered Blindspotting, which tackles race and class politics in ways no other show is. And all of these shows are flying under the radar. P-Valley is a drama about an under-siege strip club in the Mississippi Delta from acclaimed playwright Katoria Hall that goes places no other show has before, covering race, religion, politics, and gender politics. Blindspotting is a spinoff of an acclaimed movie that also deals with class and race with a 4th Wall-breaking motif where the characters riff on the themes of the same and their dilemmas in a fantasy dance and monologue to the camera like their inner rage coming out. And The Girlfriend Experience has become hardcore Cyberpunk Science Fiction while also sticking to the deceptively titillating genre of the call girl fantasy. There's hardly any advertising or marketing to promote any of them. It's like they're all flying under the radar of viewers, trees falling in the forest with no one around to hear or appreciate it.
STARZ has always been the out-there with their original shows. The network was built on the back of shows like Spartacus, Black Sails, Party Down, and the entire Power franchise, which began as one show and became a sprawling gangster universe almost as vast as the Marvel Cinematic Universe with at least three spinoffs and more coming. Outlander, probably the top show on Starz right now, is unique even as it's faithful to the original novels. American Gods went places no other fantasy show does even after original showrunner Bryan Fuller left. Showtime and HBO's shows stick to the more mainstream and conventional end of the spectrum.
All of STARZ's shows share a preoccupation with themes of class, race, and gender conflict. Even the British, Australian, and New Zealand shows that the network picks up share these traits. It's impossible to know if people aren't watching because they were turned off by those themes because people don't know these shows exist. STARZ may not need to change what types of shows they're greenlighting – they really need to advertise and market them more.
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