May 17, 2012

Armchair Programing Executive

(Lennon Parham, Jessica St. Clair, Luka Jones - Best Friends Forever, NBC)

There isn't a TV addict alive who hasn't second-guessed the decision making of network programming executives at least once (or, you know, every time a schedule is announced). We all think we know better than they do. Remember when Jeff Zucker gave Jay Leno a primetime talk show five nights a week at 10:00pm and we all took to the internet to talk about how that was a colossal mistake (because when we're all puffed up with scorn and superiority, we really do sound like Felicity's dad. You know it's true)? When it failed spectacularly, it only made us more certain that any one of us would be better at running a network than the clowns they had doing the job now.

With the networks rolling out their fall programming plans for advertisers and TV journalists at the annual Up Fronts this week, it's time again to talk about what we'd do differently if only we had the chance.

Personally, I'm not about to question what CBS or ABC are doing because their ratings pretty well prove that the people in charge of those networks know what they want and how best to go after it. Not all of their programming is for me but between them they're grabbing the vast majority of viewers who watch television live and, for now anyway, that's still where the money is so good on them.

(David Walton and Amanda Peet - Bent, NBC)

Trying to fix what's broken at NBC is so hard I'd almost be tempted to trash everything and start from scratch. (Slight exaggeration - there are probably 5 shows that are worth salvaging and building a whole new network around.) I'm not entirely sure I know what demographic Fox is after and I don't care much about most of their shows so my opinion of their schedule can best be described as "yay, they renewed New Girl."

The network I do find myself thinking a lot about is The CW. The CW knows exactly what demographic it wants (women 18 - 45) and most of its programming is a great fit for some or all of that segment of the population. But in the past year, I've had the following conversation with at least 6 women between the ages of 30 and 50:

         Me: Do you watch The Vampire Diaries?
         Them: No, I've never heard of it. What channel is that on?
         Me: The CW.
         Them: The what?

That conversation continues with me telling them what TVD is about, why they'd like it and how they can watch it. In in 5 of the 6 cases, the person has watched the show and fallen in love with it. Every one of them has spent money on TVD DVDs, books, digital downloads, etc. And before The Vampire Diaries I had similar conversations about Veronica Mars, Everwood other shows on The CW or and/or The WB. The problem that this network has isn't convincing viewers to like their shows, it's getting the attention of viewers at all.

(Danneel Ackles, Jessica Lucas, Ryan Hansen, Zach Cregger, Andre Holland - Friends With Benefits)

Since I don't actually run the network (or work in television in any way), I was not privy to scripts or pilots and therefore can't really say which of the shows they had in development should have been picked up. I know which ones I was interested in and which I couldn't care less about based on what I know of them (who's in them and a brief plot summary) but that's hardly enough to make the big call. So putting that aside, the main thing I would have done differently if I were in charge of The CW is this: I would have cancelled 90210 and Gossip Girl and gotten back into the comedy business. 

The other networks all seem to agree that we're in the midst of a TV comedy renaissance and I can't really argue with them. With NBC throwing both Bent and Best Friends Forever onto the spring schedule with little fanfare only to quickly cancel them, there are two very good shows in need of rescuing which come with a starter audience built right in. Speaking of NBC, they gave Friends With Benefits a similar treatment last summer and that's a funny show with a likable cast that would fit very well with the two they shit-canned this season. Finally, there's a little web series called Dating Rules From My Future Self. The title isn't great but it's a charming and adorable show that would make a great half hour series and already stars a few actors from the network's stable. 

(Alison Becker, Shiri Appleby, Mircea Monroe - Dating Rules From My Future Self)

With Bent, Best Friends Forever, Friends with Benefits and Dating Rules From My Future Self The CW would have a solid two hours of smart, funny, single camera comedies squarely targeting their ideal demographic and could bring a few NBC viewers who wouldn't otherwise know the net' even existed.

This concludes the 2012 edition of "If I Were A Network Executive." See you next year!

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