How Prestige ‘Dad TV’ Has Become a Streaming Staple, From ‘Bosch’ and ‘Yellowstone’ to ‘For All Mankind’


A few weeks ago, I ran into Amazon MGM Studios head Jen Salke, and we got to talking about some of Prime Video’s recent success stories. “Fallout” is at the top of that list, but the streamer has also found hits with series like “Reacher,” “Outer Range” and “The Terminal List.” Before that, it was “Jack Ryan” and, of course, the longest running of all Prime shows, “Bosch.”

Salke joked that it was good to be in business with “dad TV,” but don’t laugh. It sounds a bit pejorative, but maybe these shows should wear it as a badge of honor. You want audiences to be passionate about your product, right? Well, it sure seems like a lot of “dads” love these shows, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Sure, like most series, these titles appeal to all demographics. But let’s face it, they most likely over index with men in the fortysomething-plus range. In other words, dads.

It would be easy to chalk these shows up as successful because they feature “middle-aged guys with guns.” And maybe you wouldn’t be wrong. But in an age of streaming, these are more than that. They have gripping mysteries, compelling characters and ongoing stories with something to say. Maybe we should amend that term to call it “prestige dad TV.”

It’s taken time, but as streamers mature, they’re looking to expand their programming mix — and attract a broader audience. In a recent Variety cover story, I noted that the streamers are looking to emulate the networks more, particularly now that they’re all mostly selling advertising as well. But that also means opening the programming aperture. Male viewers have always been harder to reach in series TV, but older skewing broadcast shows like “NCIS,” “Law & Order” and “Blue Bloods” — most of which still skew more female — have managed to bring in men as well. (The most-watched entertainment show of last season on the broadcast networks? The very dad-friendly “Tracker.”) And repeats of those shows do well on streaming.

So, it’s probably no surprise that a streaming version of the CBS formula — “Bosch,” starring Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch — would do so well. So much of the focus on early streaming successes focused on the more critically acclaimed but narrower fare. And yet “Bosch” was right there, not only going seven seasons, but immediately producing the spinoff “Bosch: Legacy,” keeping the franchise going even longer.

Taylor Sheridan has become, perhaps, the king of “dad TV” and seems to have an unending string of stories to tackle, starting with “Yellowstone” (well, whenever that comes back) and its companion series “1883” and “1923.” Also on Paramount+, he’s got Sylvester Stallone in “Tulsa King,” David Oyelowo in “Lawmen: Bass Reeves,” Jeremy Renner in “Mayor of Kingstown” and the Zoe Saldaña- led “Lioness,” which is not a dad-led show but is a spy thriller — the dad genre of all dad genres.

It doesn’t have to be all investigative procedurals. I’m a dad, and I guess I count too. I lean more toward those spy thrillers — let’s not forget Apple TV+’s “Hijack,” the edge-of-your-seat entry from Idris Elba. Or comedic actioners like Guy Ritchie’s (another patron saint of dad entertainment) Netflix entry “The Gentlemen.”

Dad TV isn’t big awards bait — as we saw a few years ago when “Yellowstone” suddenly hit it big, and we expected the kudos to follow. They didn’t. But that’s OK.

Still, I keep hoping for some Emmy attention for the Apple TV+ show that for me is Peak Prestige Dad TV: “For All Mankind.” You know how some guys apparently think a lot about the Roman Empire? I spend many a day thinking about what this country would be like if the space race had never ended and how that might have advanced our country’s technological and social movements. I’m such a sucker for this alt-history story, and I’ve even roped my son into many a conversation about how “For All Mankind” reimagines a very different, and very exciting, society.

A show that gets me to converse with my kid? That, my friends, is the best kind of Dad TV.

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