I look around at the world, specifically, my world, more specifically, all of the advertisements around the city for the fall lineup of brand new TV shows, and I’ve come to realize that I posses what has to be a superhuman ability to look at just one billboard for a new program before being immediately able to tell whether or not it’s going to make it through even just one season. This power has to be worth something. I feel like the TV execs should be paying me lots of money to save them lots of money. I’m like a guy who can see a train wreck coming, but as of yet, I’ve just stood idly by and done nothing to stop the destruction.
Maybe you need some convincing. Well, my proof is going to be up for interpretation anyway. And since I’m just starting to see the advertisements for this fall, I can’t really point to a ton of this season’s new releases. But, today for example, I saw this billboard for a new show called Park Ave 666. I’ll bet any one of you a solid hundred bucks that this show doesn’t make it to seasons two. What’s it about? I have no idea. Here’s what I do know.
It’s on either ABC, CBS, or NBC. It doesn’t really matter, they’re all basically the same exact network. I see one of their logos and it automatically registers in my head as “regular TV,” like not-cable, like it’s more than likely to be terrible. But it would be unfair and not really that sensational if I were just writing off every single major network TV show. They do something cool every now and then. I’m trying to think of one. I mean, Lost was popular, right? Heroes, while it expanded too rapidly into a red giant of lame disappointment and bloat, it was pretty intense for at least two seasons.
But Park Ave 666, I know it’s on regular TV. The billboard showed some old rich guy giving a devilish smile to the city. How do I know he’s rich? The title has Park Ave in it, and he’s wearing a suit, so I’m pretty sure he’s rich. Why would I describe the guy’s smile as devilish? Because of the 666 part. Without having read anything about the show at all, I’m assuming it’s about the devil living as a really rich person in some penthouse on Park Ave. It sounds awful. And even if I’ve gotten it wrong, the premise of the show, it doesn’t matter, it’s too late. Everybody else is probably already thinking the same thing, and so the advertisers, the marketing gurus or whatever, they’ve failed to make this show even worth trying out. I give it six months.
This is the problem with awful TV shows. They’re usually just copying something that’s already popular and then dumbing it down for regular TV. In the above case, there’s the blatant rip-off of the Devil’s Advocate. But whereas that movie was original, engaging, over-acted, sure, but still pretty original, I can guarantee this TV show is going to have more to do with generic soap-opera non-drama than anything to do with the devil or anything resembling an interesting story.
Everything is ripped off, and it never works. Remember all of the billboards for ABC’s Pan-Am last year? It’s four ladies, and they’re wearing 1960s stewardess outfits, and it’s an airline that doesn’t exist anymore. Could they have made it any more obvious that they were trying to rip off Mad Men? And Mad Men, a show about absolutely nothing other than cool costumes, booze, cigarettes, and non-characters doing non-action and having non-conversations, only marginally works because they were the first show to do it. I can just picture the genius green-lighting team at ABC. “Well, the 60s are huge right now. I’m thinking Mad Men, but let’s focus on the women. And also, stewardesses. And also, I’m terrible at my job.”
There’s a lot of good stuff on TV. But the other ninety-five percent makes me physically sick. What I don’t get is, it’s not like I’m even being controversial here or going against the grain. I’m not even talking about my own personal likes and dislikes. You notice I’m not talking about shows like Gossip Girl or Glee, shows I could never see myself watching, but that I can at least see how they attract viewers and stay on the air for longer than a year. I’ve never met one person that watched Kings or Ringer or Pan Am or any of the other non-shows that perennially sprout and die like weeds.
Can’t the networks just put together a couple of focus groups before they start throwing money at shows that’ll never make it further than a year? No, it’s much easier to look at already successful programs and put together a proposal, something like, “Well, Breaking Bad has never been more popular. So I’m thinking a show about a woman. And she’s bipolar. Right? OK, so she starts making heroin to pay for her bipolar meds. Cool? Terrific! OK, this show’s going to be on channel seven though, so nothing too explicit. And no syringes. The sponsor’s said no syringes. I don’t know, think of something. I don’t know, we’ll call it Shooting Up, or Nodding Off, or Nobody’s Watching. It’s going to be a smash hit!”