Tim Goodman's TCA Journal No. 1: Networks Need to Go Big or Go Home

The Television Critics Association's press tour, otherwise known as the Death March With Cocktails, kicks off Wednesday. More than ever, networks need to get noticed or go home.

The Hollywood Reporter's chief TV critic Tim Goodman will be filing a series of journals from the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, looking at the bigger picture, unspinning the spin or crushing the life out of things.

Get noticed.

On the list of things that absolutely must happen on the Death March With Cocktails, aka the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, which kicks off Wednesday, getting noticed is absolutely No. 1.

If I may add a qualifier, it's "Get noticed — in a good way."

Because, per the nature of the particular beast that is TCA, the assembled television critics and reporters from around the country, Canada and a smattering of international outlets will definitely notice your crappy stuff. They will notice your reactions to how bad last season's numbers were, whom you fired because of it and the various content shortcomings you might have on your schedule compared to the network or cable channel that comes before or right after you.

We notice that bad stuff.

Some of you might think we live for that — to tweet out how a certain network spins the return of a certain show that did death-spiral numbers and yet got renewed, and what that might say in a bigger-picture context about your chance to not get shit-canned midseason for putting together the least interesting fall schedule in the history of television.

But only some people are here for that.

The rest are here to see if you've got anything people will notice out there in the general population. So, do you?

Because every year — arguably, every six months, as the TCAs are biannual and the television industry seems to morph into something more hellishly competitive with every month that passes — what the Death March With Cocktails has become is less a national alert to the masses of what will be coming their way in the next year (as it used to be) and more a clarion call to watch the 11 brightly colored objects we picked from the murky black pile of mediocrity you dumped in the Beverly Hilton ballrooms.

Not to be all negative before this thing even starts, but that's honestly the new reality we're all living in. I've covered the TCAs long enough to remember that we used to just say TCA and not add the "s" on the end. I remember when the Gen Pop wanted to know about every single series that was coming in the future and it all seemed to be met with excitement. Now? In the Platinum Age of television that is also weirdly the Too Much TV era?

The people, they are at max capacity.

Their DVRs are like concrete bricks, weighed down with the excellent but unfinished offerings of the recent past. Their frantic brains are zipping through streaming options, bingeing the most-hyped series they were unable to get to six months ago and watching on airplanes as they head to vacations where they will sneak in the last five episodes on their phones, poolside.

It is a great time to be alive and a lover of television. Except the vast majority of viewers do not have time for your weak-ass offerings. They don't even want to know the names of those shows. The spinning wheel of death that's trying to load information into their available mental bandwidth only wants the best of the buzziest, the median six must-see show critics are going to see over the nearly three weeks of the Death March. Don't mention anything that isn't absolutely relevant and necessary.

You understand what that means, right? It means you've got to get noticed.

Or die trying?

I'm not really sure anymore. I do know that standing out during the TCAs is harder than it ever has been. I do know that competing in this environment is absolutely brutal but also probably thrilling or you wouldn't even be in the game. (Some of you undoubtedly won't be in the game next time around, if you were even invited this time.) I'm absolutely beginning to think that the Death March With Cocktails — which used to be snark for critics enduring three weeks in a hotel with an endless parade of panels, interviews, rubber chicken and forever-lost summer days away from families and diets — now more aptly applies to content providers.

In some hellish twist, our jobs are easier. Now it's "nope, nope, nope, oh hell no, nope, nope, oooh, hey, that looks amazing."

The clattering ballrooms of the Beverly Hilton will still reverberate with tweets and links to stories from network executives and showrunners and stars, all talking up or spinning what's to come. Some of that will stick in the overwhelmed brainpans of the masses. But what really gets noticed will be the winners/survivors of the Death March, the ones with a real chance to be remembered, recorded and maybe even watched when their time comes.

Everything else is already forgotten.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine

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