Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, September 13th, 2021
I really want the splashy new NBC drama "La Brea" to succeed. Do I think it will? Well....
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, September 13th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities suburbs, where AllYourScreens HQ is powered by a carb-heavy lunch of biscuits and gravy and iced tea
NBCUNIVERSAL DAY AT THE TCAS
Today NBCUniversal made its virtual presentations at the summer gathering of television critics known as the TCA. The network highlighted new and returning shows from across its various networks: USA Network's Chucky and The Sinner, Peacock's Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, Telemundo's Malverde and NBC's Ordinary Joe, Law & Order and La Brea.
I've seen three episodes of The Lost Symbol and really enjoyed it. It's a prequel to the Dan Brown movie and book The DiVinci Code and it was originally set to be a movie project. To be honest, I think it works better as a TV series and it is fun, classic escapist TV that will appeal to anyone who enjoyed the Tom Hanks film. And even though I've only seen the pilot of La Brea, I'm into it so far. It's big and high concept in a way that is really in my sweet spot for broadcast television shows.
But I fear that both shows are going to struggle to find an audience. Peacock wisely made sure to put Dan Brown's name in the title of The Lost Symbol and he does has a brand that people trust. But Peacock's content discovery is sketchy and I'm not convinced that it won't just disappear into the abyss of content.
As for La Brea, I think NBC has proven over the past few years that they have trouble launching big, flashy high concept dramas. Look at this rundown from just the past ten seasons:
2020: Debris (one season)
2018: Manifest (three seasons); The Enemy Within (one season)
2017: Reverie (one season)
2016: Emerald City (one season); Midnight Texas (one season) Powerless (one season)
2015: Heroes Reborn (one season); The Player (one season); You, Me & The Apocalypse (one season)
2014: A.D. The Bible Continues (one season); Constantine (one season)
2013: Believe (one season); Crossbones (one season); Dracula (one season)
2012: Revolution (two seasons); Siberia (one season)
2011: Awake (one season)
This is a pretty dismal success rate, even for the notoriously difficult broadcast television drama genre. As much as I enjoy what I've seen so far of La Brea, I can understand why audiences might be hesitant to sign on to watch a show that's lifespan is unlikely to last past season one.
So what should NBC be doing to persuade audiences? Well, since the show is produced by Universal Television, it has a lot more flexibility when it comes to how the show can be distributed and promoted. Some of these ideas might require a bit of contractual tweaking, but I don't think any of it would be substantial or expensive. The ultimate goal is to get the show past season one, so everyone can begin to cash in.
* Cut a deal with Netflix to distribute the show one episode at a time, 72 hours after the linear premiere. Yes, NBCU is giving up some streaming revenue from the show running on NBC.com and Hulu. And yes, in theory, sending the episodes to Netflix lessens the long-term value of the season to some extent. And there are global rights issues that are too complex to get into here. But the goal is to make sure people see the show and that it survives. So what is more important: 100 percent of a show that only last one season or 70% of the potential value of the first season for a show that last five seasons?
* After week three, stream the first three episodes in a continuous 24/7 stream on a dedicated Twitch channel. Extra points if someone on the show is a gamer and you can include a segment on the stream where fans who watch them play games.
* After week four, roll out a dedicated La Brea AVOD channel, that is advertised to only last a week. Along with the first four episodes in rotation, include a ten-minute "first look" at the upcoming episode, which viewers will have to watch on NBC. Yes, people COULD watch the episodes on Hulu or the NBC app. But this is a different audience and given the historically small audiences for linear broadcasts, adding even tens of thousands of new viewers could be the difference between borderline success and a hit.
* Lean into the bad track record for these types of shows. Run ads promising the show will run the entire season as planned. And promise that if the show is canceled, there will be a wrap-up episode that explains all. This type of campaign also means that NBC executives have to be thinking ahead about the show's prospects, to there is time to wrap it all up if necessary.
* Promote the show in all sorts of smaller, less traditional venues. Yes, the short mentions in the trades or in general interest magazines such as Entertainment Weekly make everyone happy. But the reality is that those big entertainment outlets will forget about the show once the initial review of the pilot runs. Get every new episode out to sites willing to recap them. Make cast and crew available for whomever will speak with them. Promote La Brea the same way Pete Buttigieg promoted himself into a national political figure. Be everywhere and don't dial back the PR effort until the show is renewed or cancelled.
I am not arguing that NBC is incapable of successfully promoting La Brea. But I am saying that based on past performance, I am not hopeful.
STREAMING SCREW-UP OF THE DAY
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COMING THIS WEEK ON ALLYOURSCREENS
On Friday, I had the chance to interview Lauren DeVillier, CEO of the new streaming service Struum. That service includes content from about 50 different partners. Each month, you receive 100 credits to use towards movies, specials and TV shows, most of which costs 3-4 credits to access for 30 days. I'll have an excerpt of our conversation in Wednesday's newsletter and the full Q&A will be available Thursday on AllYourScreens.com.
And tomorrow, I have a look at the best streaming service for fans of obscure television shows. Although to be honest, given the competition, "best" is a bit of a low bar.
ODDS AND SODS
* Fox acquires TMZ from Warner Media for less than $50 million.
* I honestly don't know if this is genius or very inappropriate. But this spec script of a Seinfeld 9/11 episode is written pitch perfect.
* Courtney B. Vance questions Lovecraft Country cancellation after Emmy win. It's also interesting that HBO continues to heavily hype the show as one of the reasons why viewers should subscribe to HBO Max.
SEE YOU TUESDAY
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.