Don't Ever Change, Broadcast Networks: How to Keep Failing and Laughter Alive
Oh, that's right. You haven't changed at all. That part isn't funny, because you're doomed. Same old upfronts prove the model is broken and no one knows how to fix it.
If you thought the networks were the only ones that could copy themselves after a hit and put that copy on the air without shame, think again. Starting on Friday, when the annual Leak of Upfronts News Before Upfronts Start sprung wide open, I was on Twitter, displeased with the predictability of it all.
Seriously, except for downsizing the parties and having to adjust from massive leaks on the Internet prior to the actual week of upfronts, not much has changed in, well, decades.
And by that I mean the business model hasn't changed. The networks haven't changed. They haven't dealt with losing the majority share of the audience to cable in the early 2000s, and they haven't dealt with staggering ratings declines every year -- particularly this last season.
And yet there they are in New York, putting on the same dog-and-pony show. Television reporters are there to tweet out every series that got picked up (or didn't), every series that got canceled and myriad speculation about it all.
Necessary? Yes. New? Nope. And so I thought I would put out my yearly warning about getting excited not only for series that haven't been seen yet, but ones that will undoubtedly be mistreated or somehow screwed up by the networks next season -- because the business model hasn't changed. Standard operating procedure hasn't changed.
Taking a hint from the whole repackaging-of-content idea that networks love so much, here then is my weekend Twitter play-by-play about the absurdity of it all, just in time for all the "official" announcements to come on Monday.
* All those shiny new network pickups? Who cares! You've gotta prove yourself to make The Power Rankings!
* Yearly reminder that all this excitement about new shows should be tempered by using tweets from last May -- about shows now dead. Or bad.
* Silly excited people! Network television may not even exist next fall! Pump the brakes a bit.
* What? What? Can't a guy just be a tad bit cynical? Hey, it's just a sandwich board with "End of the World in September" on it. Relax.
* However, I will join in on all the excitement about Parks and Recreation. That is allowed. Better?
* I mean, how can a business that spends 10 times more on scripted shows than cable does on cheap unscripted shows that BEAT them not survive?
* How can a business model that hasn't changed much in 50 years fail? That's silly.
* Let's make 40 new fall shows and then air them all in the same 10-day window. Everybody loves a winning strategy!
* We are happy to announce that Show X will "sneak" on Friday at 8, return in two weeks to its regular Monday 9 p.m. slot, then go missing.
* We just announced a show you'll love so much you'll start a campaign to save it, which we'll ignore as we move it to Saturday nights!
* If you like the first nine episodes we tout in September, you'll love the 13 we burn off in summer without telling you.
* We are so proud of this subtle little show that we're airing it against three established and enormous hits on the same day and time!
* We've hired writers capable of making six of our 22 episodes really good! Get onboard early!
* From the creator of six unbelievably shitty shows comes our next great family sitcom, complete with wacky neighbor!
* We have a website with a ton of information, except for exactly when your favorite show will come back, even though we know! Keep guessing!
* If we close our eyes, those declining ratings from the last eight or nine years will just disappear. If they don't we'll call it "cyclical."
* OK, I've depressed myself. I need to go for a walk, people.
* We are excited to present a family that does NOT get along and some detectives who are on the heels of a serial killer. Fall 2013!
* Today we'd like to announce two shows that we've paid for and will shoot and advertise but will never air!
* Please give a warm round of applause to our next singing show!
* Who let the Dawg quit before he was fired?
* Eleven years after we wanted him to, Randy Jackson has quit American Idol just as it crashes into the ground.
* All the actors you loved in your favorite shows that we canceled are back in our copy of what everyone else is getting decent numbers with!
* Here to announce our new fall shows is the same guy who announced last fall's shows and then canceled them! Mr. Unbelievable J. Enthusiasm!
* "Whoa. I didn't expect to see you here." What every network says to the CW at upfronts every May.
* Our promise: If you find something on our network you haven't seen before in many other iterations, we'll replace it with something safe.
* Coming next fall, a bunch of shows with a sprinkling of roles for people of color + vagina and douche jokes! Also, fewer gays. So over that!
* Roles available this fall: detectives, doctors, lawyers. We're also gonna need some hot thin wives for slovenly overweight husbands.
* Also, please note that we will continue to run Canadian shows in the summer. Now, let's talk singing and dancing!
* Stupid Deadline. They've already resurrected 24. It's called Homeland.
* We're extremely excited about our new twist this fall: BOTH parents work for the FBI, but their KID is the profiler!
* The 16-year-old daughter has a 32-year-old hot mom because the mom got pregnant by accident at 16. (Every other CW series ever.)
* We think you'll love what we've done with the curmudgeon detective. We made him a her! We bought that pitch in the room.
* So, we launch in Sept., shut down in Dec., relaunch in Jan., kill stuff, dump reality into March, patch in April and announce new shows in May.
* Summer? We cede that to cable, which steals our audience, expands, launches better and cheaper shows in our season and kills us. Questions?
* If you're watching TV and thinking, "She's hot, but she'd be hotter with another 30 pounds on her," you are watching The CW.
* Can't wait for CBS to cancel 4 procedurals that have 10 million more viewers than other networks, then replace them with four new procedurals.
* All of our distinctive and catchy series names are actually "working titles" until we can make them more generic and dumber.
* Based on the results of our focus group/drunk people in Las Vegas, talking animals, stay-at-home dads and lesbians will be big in 2013.
* It's a great hook to a series -- they are stay-at-home dads in the daytime but use talking animals at night to track lesbian serial killers. I am proud to announce that we'll be bringing back two of our 24 new series from last season!
* Despite consistently losing to Bio, the Military Channel and Animal Planet, I have been upped from entertainment president to chairman.
* If I thought a network would do something as crazy-sounding as Junior Masterchef, I would have included it in yesterday's ongoing satire rant.
* I totally want to see Fox do a junior version of Cops.
* I would like to personally invite all 16 people who watched Rock Center to come to my house and I will slow jam the news for you.
* By my count, Gordon Ramsey now has four of Fox's nights. And yet, they are blind to the most obvious thing: Make him a judge on American Idol.
* I know this sounds negative, but there are so many terrible shows getting canceled that when I learn the news, I give a sigh of relief…
* I call that the Malibu Country Reaction.
* It's so wrong to laugh at seeing Red Widow canceled. But I laughed every time I saw the title.
* "What show are you on again?" "Red Widow." "Oh. Jesus, that's a terrible name."
* Smaaaaaaaash! You damn dirty apes! OK, I don't even know what that was…
* I'm sure you know this already, but the Community renewal doesn't mean as much as it would have a year ago. You know, before the ruin.
* Did you gasp when NBC canceled The New Normal and Go On? Because I didn't.
* I guess the Nashville renewal is a good thing for ABC and fans. But what does renewing Neighbors say? That ABC hates the world?
* Still stinging from The Mob Doctor's cancelation. There's just no time to heal in this job.
* I love that Parker Posey quit her NBC show as soon as it got picked up. Was it like some kind of dare to make it?
* BREAKING: Networks cancel viewer interest in fall season.