Thursday, September 24, 2015

PREMIERE WEEK IS... LIVE!? I MEAN IRRELEVANT! I MEAN IT SUCKS!-, Oh, I've done it Sucks before, multiple times. Yeah, let's go back to irrelevant. And WHAT THE HELL'S NBC DOING WITH THIS LIVE THING?!

Okay, a little blog business before I get into this, no, I'm not doing another "Premiere Week Sucks" Musical. For one thing, it takes too long and I'm barely able to work on a computer as is, also nobody ever got the joke anyway. For those who don't what I'm talking about, my personal tradition over the years has been for every premiere week to write a blog discussion it, in the form of a musical number/montage. You see, what I was doing was a parody of this:

For those who don't remember this, that was back when the Emmys actual knew how to put on a show, and honor television (Sigh, ah, the good old days. BTW don't feel too bad if you don't know all those theme songs, even I've gotten stumped by this over the years, but yeah, if you don't recognize one or two of them, look them up someday. "F Troop" was the racist one, I know just-, different time.) Anyway, the Joke I would do was that instead of honoring the past of television, I'd "honor" the new shows of Premiere Week, most of which are shows that lasted, well, maybe to the end of Premiere Week, making fun of how most shows, end up sucking. Like I said, nobody ever got the joke, for one thing, it's a musical number without visuals or for that matter actual music, but I actually like the challenge of taking a medium that's clearly visual and turning it into a written medium, but yeah, after a while that novelty wears off, and besides, nobody got it anyway. So yeah, for this time, we're done with that, period.

Besides that, Premiere Week doesn't suck; it doesn't even exist anymore. This isn't a secret or anything; it's been done for years. I'm not even talking about the cable channels that debut a new series every other month or what seems like a new series I have to watch every other week, and with the streaming services, even the networks aren't really sticking to their calendar anymore, it's always pilot season. Some shows premiere in September, others are staggered to October or November or even January; they're not midseason replacements either; they're just starting their seasons in the middle of the year. NBC, put it's entire limited series of "Aquarius" online, as it aired weekly on the network giving viewers an option. Does Sweeps even matter anymore? I know there's still May upfronts but, yeah, television is in a strange place right now.

I've ranted against streaming and I still hate it despite how much I do have to stream nowadays, but it's becoming clearer and clearer that my rants have fallen on deaf ears. It's not even that though, the side effect of streaming is what really pisses me off, everything is basically now for a very narrow audience, whether it's good or bad, nothing, absolutely nothing is created with a general populace mindset, or even worst, nothing's marketed towards that. No wonder, "Modern Family" keeps getting the Emmy (At least until this year), 'cause that's about it. I mean, everything is pointed, whether you want a superhero series or a soap or an outrageous sitcom, to whatever "Louie" is. It's demographic nitpicking and it's destroying television because that's what streaming does. You don't sit and sample a bunch of different things that the network puts on now, you just go to see whatever you think you want at that moment, which means, you're satisfied for a second, but who the hell knows what great new life-changing thing you're missing and not even giving a chance too, those shows that you might have been able to put up with it because, it's on television, now we don't got that.

So this leads to this strange conundrum of what television is gonna do? Well,going back to NBC, which has been struggling as a network for years and now that their cult critical hits like "30 Rock", "The Office" and now "Parks and Recreation" have ended, they're needing to be, crea-, uh, invent-,hmm, well, different. They need to be different, and they have figured out the one thing that's still primarily television's domain that hasn't been co-opted by streaming. Live television. Yep, they're doing it live.

Okay, I think most people are aware that the early days of television were almost all broadcast live, which really is impressive, especially when you go back and watch "The Honeymooners" or "I Love Lucy"" or something like that, it's pretty amazing those did all that live actually. Now, television is, an immediate art form, or at least it used to be. Still, certain shows you have to watch at the time they're on, or you miss it and- most of these are live shows. Sports are a great example of this, the Super Bowl is guaranteed ratings for instance. The next obvious examples are reality shows, especially competitive ones, "The Voice", "American Idol", "Dancing with the Stars", etc. In many ways, we've been moving towards a live primetime programming revolution for a while.

NBC on top of their normal pattern of just, (Slight pause), well, let's be generous, questionable, programming decisions over the years has decided to go much further with live programming than anyone. They brought back the Primetime Variety Show last week, premiering "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris". Well, for starters, their timing sucks because the Emmys just separated Variety into the two separate categories of Talk and Sketch and this show, is neither, it's a traditional Variety series, so now that's just confusing, especially to the younger people who don't know that Variety used to mean "The Flip Wilson Show" or "The Ed Sullivan Show" or-eh, maybe,- I don't know, "Truth of Consequence", I guess. That said, it's promising and it's based on the popular and wildly successful British Variety show, "Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway" which has been running for over a decade. Ant & Dec are basically Britain's version of Ryan Seacrest btw, and speaking of Seacrest, after watching a couple episodes of "Best Time Ever..." I can definitely it's better than his Summer live Variety whatever thing FOX during earlier, that I literally can't remember the name of... (Look up on IMDB) "Knock Knock Live", you could've put a gun to my head and I couldn't come up with that. But, NBC, they're not done...

No, an even riskier and even more of a throwback to the past than before, involuntarily taking a sitcom and airing it live, every week! That show is, "Undateable" which somehow they kept on the air for three years while passing on "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" among other things, ugh-, (Ugh, it's so hard to defend NBC anymore) Okay, this is not completely out of the blue, NBC in particular has been experimenting with live scripted television for about 15 years now, this goes back to when they did that live "ER" and they've gone back to that idea periodically with live episodes of "Will & Grace", "The West Wing" and curiously enough "30 Rock", which is particularly odd considering that was a single-camera sitcom that usually didn't shoot in front of a studio audience but they switched to 3-cameras and a live studio audience for their live episodes and of course, let's not forget "Saturday Light Live". So, NBC has a comfort level with this that most networks don't.

So, that's one reason they would let/make "Undateable" take a last ditch effort to stay on the air, but they're also really trying to push this "Undateable". You see, NBC, first of all, if you haven't noticed over the years, I do tend to pay attention to NBC over the other networks. It's a habit, it's the channel I grew up watching most of the time and associated with, not only my favorite shows, but the best shows on television for most of my life, and even in the worst years of the network; it still seemed pretty true. The best show on network television last year was "Parks and Recreation"'s final season, but still.... And, you cannot underestimate how good the MUST SEE TV era was, they're crap from this era can easily be considered among the Top Ten shows on network TV. Okay maybe not "Alf", I mean, not their crap-crap, but-eh, take "Caroline in the City" on now, and you'd be surprised how well it holds up. Hell, I've gone and rewatched some "Blossom" reruns lately, those kids or children's sitcoms, out now, that are supposedly aimed towards kids and pre-teens, uh-yeah, that show's influence is not as big as it should be, or those shows, for and about teenagers out there now would be a loooooooooootttttttttt better. So yeah, they do want to recreate this era, and while NBC is the network of "Cheers", "The Cosby Show", "Night Court", "Law & Order", "3rd Rock from the Sun", "The Golden Girls", "Frasier", "Will & Grace", 'Family Ties", "Newsradio",... among many others, what they're really trying to recreate is that '94-'97ish era of MUST SEE TV, where you had a whole block of these New York-based 3-camera sitcoms that basically attracted the high-end upscale coastal audience, L.A./New York people, but they also caught on with the rest of the country, most notably "Seinfeld", "Friends" and "Mad About You". That last show btw, I'm pretty certain is the reason why "Whitney" got a second season; there's more than a few similarities between those shows, although quality isn't one of them. (I know, I'm rambling a bit, but I'm trying to play straight) Still, they do want to push shows that seem to fit in that vein, and "Undateable" is the closest they got. Now, admittedly it's hard to blame NBC in this day-and-age for pushing this show, which, I've and many others have yet to laugh at, they're rarely the first choice for sitcom writers nowadays and although they're plenty capable of fucking up opportunities when they are presented to them, (coughs, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt", coughs!) but going live every week, for "Undateable"? Because it was kinda successful the one time they did it last year?

Okay, ignoring the other facts that while this vision of NBC is admirable, it's also completely clashing with the other sides of NBC that are either these horror/thriller conceptual drama series that are mediocre and irrelevant at best, and the side of NBC that insists on beating bad, unwatchable reality shows over our head until our brain cells are numb with Donald Trump and "The Biggest Loser", making NBC just a schizophrenic network at this point, but forgetting all that, a live variety take a gamble, experiment, I get it; it's kind of a calculative idea with a low risk/high reward possibility, live sitcoms however? Even if "Undateable" was good, eh, you see, um, there is precedent for this and it's not good precedent. Yeah, you do have to go back awhile but not as far back as you'd think. Does anybody remember "Roc"?

Apparently not, I can't even find a decent clip on Youtube. It's kinda forgotten now, except maybe as an African-American sitcom; I've seen reruns airing on BounceTV lately, so it's still getting played and I've seen it pop up sporadically in pop culture over the years and it holds up incredibly well. It's underrated and if you ever want a reminder of how great an actor Charles S. Dutton is, this is a great thing to look up. But, it's close to be written out of television, 'cause on top of it being a really smart and funny show, it has one other obscure piece of notoriety, it was the last sitcom that aired an entire season live. Okay, this was on FOX, back in the early '90s, from '91-'94 to be exact, which is an underrated lineup btw, mainly because this was when they were going after the Urban demographic, not the people that live on Park Avenue that NBC was getting, they were getting the inner-city audience with shows like "Martin", "In Living Color", "Living Single", "Married... with Children", "Herman's Head", also was in this, as well as "The Simpsons", let's not forget that and "Roc" was also in this mix; I don't remember the whole lineup but I usually associate this with Sunday nights being FOX's night, basically this is still the way they set-up their television lineup, a night of their best and most popular comedies on Sunday and sporadic other things the rest of the week. Well, "Roc", was there, it was never a runaway hit, but most of the cast had theater experience, in fact many of them worked on the same play at one time, so they were comfortable with doing a show live, and FOX was still a new network willing to let shows do things differently, so they had a live episode in it's first season, and then they decided to do the entire second season this way. It's actually pretty good; "Roc" was a bit out of it's time, and dealt with serious issues as well as being a sitcom, and this provided them a rare ability to comment on the times, as they were happening, like airing a live episode about the '92 election, two days before the results. In hindsight, a comparison show for "Roc" would actually be "Good Times"; they dealt with some tough issues, including a main storyline where a character actually shoots and kills another character, no joke, like onscreen, and there's an investigation, and Roc and his wife have to take care of the little girl because their father is now in prison for life; the show was a little more serious than your normal sitcom, and when you watch those live episodes now, they do feel more like a play then they do a sitcom. I basically could be watching "Hot l Baltimore" or something like that. Anyway, it didn't work ratings-wise; they were still basically a cult show and they did their third and final season like every other sitcom before being canceled, but I was young at the time, but I remember thinking "Roc" was canceled multiple times over, before accidentally running into it, usually during their live episodes, and this is the major problem with a live sitcom; you really can't advertise for it! I mean, you can kinda get away with that with "SNL", because you can promote the new guest host or something like that, or a one-time only live event, like it is a rarity, NBC actually did that about a decade ago with "The Colin Quinn Show", which was, basically three half-hours of giving Colin Quinn airtime to do what he wanted; it was a good sketch show for those three weeks; I'd watch it again, but yeah. basically, you gotta trust that the show is so huge and popular enough that people are going to look for it, no matter what, and seek it out and watch it live, every week...-, yeah, "Roc" is barely a footnote in TV history right now, and "Undateable" is way less than that. You see where the problem is with this idea?

I know, there's other things going on this Premiere Week, the Muppets of all people are getting tightass focus groups pissed off, and I'm favor of that, but still, most of everything else will probably be forgotten shortly after it's canceled and whatever does survive I'll get around to at some point; this attempt by NBC to experiment with live in Primetime again, is the only thing that's really sorta interesting on it's own, but even then, once you look closely at it, the more it looks like NBC is literally throwing shit out there and seeing what sticks. Even CW looks more together and cohesive right now as a network, and I never thought I'd say that.

Immediacy is good for television but they really better be sure that people are gonna want to, no, have to watch it live. Otherwise, if that's the only appeal of the show, that it's happening now and not recorded earlier-, I mean, I know some people watch auto racing for the car crashes, but take that away and eventually you're gonna have to be interested in who wins the race or else it's a bunch of people driving around and not going anywhere. Let's see television, live or otherwise, can be better than that anymore.

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