(This is an extended preview of PopRox column appearing in Sunday’s paper.)
When you spend $1.2 billion on the Olympics, you better be ready to make some money off it.
NBC thought it did that in 2008 when it it ran countless promotion commercials for the Christian Slater adventure series My Own Worst Enemy. The show tanked, mostly because it stunk, but also because it couldn’t get those Olympic viewers to come back a couple weeks later to see the actual show.
Now NBC’s theory is, “Why wait a couple weeks?”
The network rolls out special previews of two of its most promising sitcoms for the new fall season during Olympic coverage this week, the Matthew Perry comedy Go On (Wednesday) and the quirky Animal Hospital (Aug. 12).
Then, NBC believes, if you see these shows and how great they presumably are, you’ll come back in September and watch the shows.
Hey, why not? NBC is in serious danger of becoming nearly irrelevant in the network TV landscape, so it’s gotta start throwing some just-so-crazy-they-might-work ideas at the wall to see what sticks.
Here are some crazy — or are they crazy? — thoughts on how TV networks can try to gain some eyeballs in today’s ADD-world:
Make a show about the movie business and premiere it after the Academy Awards.
How come this hasn’t been tried before? TV networks love to make shows about the movie business and Hollywood scene (Entourage, Action, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) because it’s what the writers know the most about. But it’s always a tough sell because an insurance salesman in Iowa wouldn’t know a pay-for-play from a double play. There already is a post-Super Bowl show, now there are post-Olympics shows, so why not a post-Oscars show? But wait, there’s more! Everyone complains about how long the Academy Awards run, right? So ABC decides to start a campaign to start the Oscars show an hour earlier under the guise of, We want to make this enjoyable for our viewers, we don’t want them asleep. Which will sound very smart and noble to everyone. Then, a couple months after the Academy gives in, BAM! ABC comes back and hits everyone with an hour-long TV adaptation of The Player starring Vince Vaughn in the Tim Robbins role. Done and done.
For once, start your own trend.
TV might be the most reactionary business in the country. “Oh, there’s a popular book about vampires that is going to make a lot of money as a movie? Quick, find me a vampire TV show! Two, even!” or “Wait, there is a huge cult following for zombies? OK, well, let’s wait a year, see if it keeps going, then buy the rights to a zombie comic book!” TV used to start the trends, not blindly follow them. Maybe the new one is karate. Maybe it’s rabbits. Who knows? I’m not paid to find these things, TV executives are and then marketing directors are supposed to make me care. So find one and make me like it.
No more copies.
Lost isn’t walkin’ through that door. 24 isn’t walking through that door. Mad Men isn’t walkin’ though that door. So stop trying to copy them! You want my time? Make a TV show that hasn’t been done before. Lost and 24 were successful because no one else dared to do shows like that. The successful, original, serialized action shows going on now — Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead — are all on cable because the networks would never have touched them. Yeah, they work better with swearing and violence. But who’s to say they couldn’t have been toned down just a little and be made on the networks?
Bring back Jerry Seinfeld (in his own sitcom).
The Marriage Ref didn’t work? This is my shocked face. Since you can’t see me, it looks very much like every other face I make during the day. No one wants to see Seinfeld moderating an urbane discussion about leaving the toilet seat up — they want to see him writing TV episodes about toothbrushes falling into the toilet. He’s got more money than God and never has to work another day in his life. But some how, some way, some network has to coax him out of his retirement while a generation of people still remember him as the man behind the funniest TV show of all time. Whatever it takes, get him back on TV. There is no other out-of-work actor people would want to see on TV more.
Make a sitcom called Hashtags.
Twitter hashtags are funny when they’re done right. Why not capitalize on that? Pick any day and write down the funniest 100 hashtags you see on Twitter. Then weave them into some kind of comedic dialogue in a show starring Courteney Cox (still just hot enough to get the young viewers) and Zach Braff. You have a built-in audience of Twitter followers watching to see if their hashtag made the cut, they might DVR it to watch a second time and then they’ll Tweet about it no matter whether their line got on or not. It sounds like a straight in it for the money show, but if you put a good team of writers on this, they can make it funny.
Bring back theme songs.
You watched some shows just for their theme songs. You did. Now, what show would you say you do that for? None! Because no one has a theme song anymore! I blame Seinfeld and Wings. They were the first shows to completely scrap their opening themes and just use a catchy, instrumental jingle. After that, everyone followed. If you don’t think the mere absence of theme songs is enough, then let me lay this one on ya. Wanna know what the last TV theme song to hit #1 on the Billboard chart is? Friends, right? You can live with that, right? Nope. I’ll Be There for You only made it to #17. The last #1 TV theme was How Do You Talk to an Angel, that Jamie Walters POS from The Heights in 1992. We NEED to bring back TV themes just so we’re not sitting around in 40 years saying how d-bag Jamie Walters has that ridiculous distinction. Oh, really, you think I’m exaggerating about the atrocity that is this song? Then point and click, people. I triple dog dare you.