Tuesday, February 12, 2013
THE STATE OF NBC: HOW CHRISTINA APPLEGATE QUITTING "UP ALL NIGHT", IS A REPRESENTATION OF THE BIGGER PROBLEMS AT 30 ROCK.
Well, before yesterday when the freakin' Pope quit!, (I'm not at all religious, but holy fuck did that story throw me!) the biggest and strangest story about somebody quitting their job, took place last week, when Christina Applegate, abruptly quit "Up All Night", the NBC show she's been doing for a year and a half, and frankly, I don't blame her. You know, I read Warren Littlefield's book "Top of the Rock..." awhile, ago, I wrote a blog about it in fact, the link to that post is below...
and in that blog, I stated that despite everything that I still consider NBC to be my favorite network, and that's still true. Maybe it's a luck of being born at the right time, but it is still hard for me to admit when a network show is good, or even great, unless it's on NBC. Well, it's a lot easier now, and there's always been some differences between networks, in kind of shows, style of shows, themes, even the look of a show. I can almost always look at an old TV show, and with about 90% accuracy, guess what network it aired on. They look different, they always have. But, something is wrong, and has been wrong at NBC, for awhile. They still haven't cancelled "Up All Night", officially btw, even after Applegate quit, which should've just been the death nail, and I'm saying this, as somebody who liked the show, especially much of it's first season. It's hardly the only problem at NBC. Donald Trump still being on NBC, is a far bigger problem, I realize that, but for the times the networks produces a good show, they can't seem to get out of their own way, and take two step backwards. We've seen it in the recent past. Both Late Night Shifts, that ended with their former Late Night hosts, leaving to other networks. Right now, they're pushing "1600 Penn", an oh-kay show, not as special as they think it is, but it's got potential, and they had one of it's stars Jena Elfman on "...Leno", promoting the show, despite the fact that, earlier that day, they announced that, the show would be off next Thursday, and coming back in two weeks, to it's regular time slot. They can't even decide on time slots anymore? Thursday at nine, was the ground zero, premium spot for two decades. "Cheers", then "Seinfeld", then "Will & Grace", and since that show went off the air, and there's been more changes of leadership than "30 Rock" could even make fun of, the channel's been in a tailspin. The only reason it wasn't dead-last in the ratings last year was because of Sunday Night Football, and their putting all their eggs in "The Voice"'s basket, which started off as a good idea, until they started micromanaging the show to make it too similar to "American Idol", and now that backlash is sure to come soon. (I will be leading it.) You didn't hear about half the problems with "Smash" last year, which went through numerous fights with it's creator and original showrunner, and required major shifting from the original scripts of the show from when it was originally a Showtime project, that eventually led to Theresa Rebeck leaving her own show. (BTW, the really bad nightmare NBC production over the past few years was "American Gladiators". You ever find somebody who worked on that set, they'll tell ya.)
The network has almost no consistency anymore. None. I seriously can't tell what they're going to do from one moment to the next sometimes, and I can't figure it out, I'm sure it must've annoyed the hell out of Christina Applegate. Let's start at the beginning, to see just what's been going on with this show. Created by former "SNL" and "Parks and Recreation" writer Emily Spivey, the show follows a married couple, Reagan and Chris as they adjust their life together, after the arrival of their newborn. So far, this sounds like a great show. I can think of dozens of ways this show could've gone, and been really funny, and it was. Much of the first season, especially the very beginning was really good. Doesn't hurt that you have such great comic acting talents as Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph in the center of it either. Rudolph's character is interesting, because it became the first little tweak of the show, that they should've left alone. Her character Ava, was a former R&B/pop singer back in the '80s and '90s, who's now got a talk show, which Reagan is the executive producer of. In the Tyra Banks show, vain, I would say. Now Rudolph's a great actress, also from "SNL", and the summer which this show was on, was when "Bridesmaids" came out, which Rudolph has a major role, and that film was a major smash hit. Now she wasn't casted originally to be as big apart of the show, as she ended up being, but since the movie was such a big hit, the network decided on making her a more prevalent part of the show. This has been to some good effect occasionally, but it also ended up with her having some extra well-known guest stars, in parts to enhance her character, particularly Jason Lee and Sean Hayes. This has been done in a way, to recreate the Jack and Karen dynamic on "Will & Grace". That probably wasn't consciously what NBC was thinking, that's how it's turning up, and the show has suffered from it. It started suffering last season, and this season, it got flat-out unwatchable, after the show got a "retooling", which is almost never a good word for a TV show. They've added some character, including a brother to Applegate's character, who's a divorced construction worker, who's around to take care of their kid, but the biggest change that really made no damn sense at all, was to have Ava's show cancelled. This means that both Reagan is back-at-home, but now Ava has nothing to do. In the chaotic workplace of her home, he character made sense and had a reason for existing. There's no real reason for her character to remain on the show, if we're being completely honest. Anytime Reagan wants, she can go back to work for anybody, but Ava's still around, and more lost than ever. The contrast between Reagan's work and home, was so intriguing to begin with, it makes little sense to suddenly take away,the parts of the show, that actually worked. Of course, the rating signaled that. After eleven episodes, Spivey left the series, and NBC announced plans to reformat the series as a three-camera series. It's been the single-camera series this whole time, but NBC, which has kept "Whitney" and eh, that other show, "Men With Kids", which Jimmy Fallon created and took me a minute and a half to remember it's title, on the air, for some reason, probably because they're three-camera shows, and they are also, doing horribly in the ratings, but they've determined that there's still much comedy that they want to explore in "Up All Night", so they're retooling this show, for the second time in a year, and they're switching the format to the three-camera set-up. If anybody can help me on this one, let me know, but I went through every show I could think of, and the only successful show that I know of, that became more successful and arguably got better, after it switched from single-camera to three-camera was "Happy Days", and I will bet anything, there's nobody with Garry Marshall's talent around, that's working these decisions at NBC. (There's also no breakout Fonzie character either) They hadn't even shot an episode yet, but after all this pushing around by "fixing" the show by the network (and I guarantee you, these are the broad strokes I'm discussing; I'm sure there's been numerous other minor changes over the two years, that most of us, aren't even aware of yet.) is when Applegate quit. If anybody's comfortable with a three-camera format, it would've been Applegate, who literally grew up on one, so I think it's safe to assume that she was simply annoyed with the way the show was being treated. Also remember her previous NBC series, "Jesse", (If you can, although I doubt most of you do), which was not as good as "Up All Night" could've been, but that series also went through tw seasons that included major changes and retooling, most of which made a bad show even worse, then, so she's been through this twice now with NBC.
You know, it's really simple. Get talented people to create the shows, and let them do it. It really is that simple. NBC knows that, they still have a contract with Tina Fey, for her next series. (One step forward) Yet, they've tinkered with a show to death, and they're the last ones to know it. (Two steps back). If this isn't the NBC wake-up call, I don't what is, 'cause I can't remember a major TV star, just quit her show and wasn't fired. Actually, I do remember, it was Valerie Harper in '87, who quit her show "Valerie" (also an NBC show), which eventually became "The Hogan Family" after they killed off her character, but she quit over a salary negotiation. (At least that's what's claimed on imdb.com, there's a few differing stories about that show) There was no contract dispute, no salary negotiation, Applegate just got fed up, and quit, because the show wasn't what she signed up for anymore. I don't know what I'm signing up for anymore either when I turn on NBC. The schedule is as schizophrenic as it's programming choices. It's both high brow ("Parks and Rec") and Low-brow ("The Biggest Loser"), and has no idea which direction to push the channel towards. Seriously, look at the other networks if you don't believe me. CBS, FOX, ABC, CW even. They may be producing just as much crap, if not more, but at least they're consistent in the crap they're showing. CBS has single-camera shows, a core of reality shows, with "The Amazing Race", being the headliner, and about ten versions of a detective series. Consistency. FOX has overly dark dramas, overly cutesy-kitchy sitcoms, that lead in to their reality programs, which consist of Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay. Consistency CW is aiming for stupid 12-year old girls, and all their content shows that. ABC's in a bit of a flux, but consistent reality show, with "Shark Tank" and "Dancing with the Stars", the single-camera sitcoms, that are family-based, sitcoms. (Bye-bye "...Apt. 23", which they should've kept on) and their dramas are overly melodramatic, with a gimmick of some kind, like fairy tales or country music as their backdrop. Consistency. NBC isn't gonna be helped by retooling "Up All Night" again, they have to overhaul their entire primetime lineup into something that makes sense, and doesn't seem like it's being made up of random shit. Go for ratings, go for quality, nobody cares, but you gotta go for something, and right now, I don't know what the peacock stands for anymore.