Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, January 16th, 2023
Some thoughts about the TCA and Jeremy Clarkson
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, January 16th, 2023.
A POST-TCAS RECAP
Members of the Television Critics Association (The TCA) returned to Pasadena last Monday for the first live sessions with the networks in nearly three years. This Spring gathering runs through this Wednesday, but I was only there through yesterday.
I want to apologize for the unpredictable schedule of newsletters last week. This was the first time that I had attempted to juggle the long daily TCA schedule with the demands of the newsletter and I severely underestimated the difficulty. I think I now have a better handle on things for the next time around, but it was a bit of a challenge.
* SPEAKING OF THE TCAS
In case you missed it, I wrote a piece last week talking about FX's John Landgraf and the idea of "Peak TV." He is an extremely smart executive, but I'd argue that his focus on the amount of television being made isn't the metric we should be focusing on right now:
"In August, I said it would be the 2020s you would find the market peak of scripted TV series and that is still my bet, while noting with humility that I’ve been wrong on this prediction twice before," Landgraf told critics. "I saw an article by John Koblin in The New York Times in which he tracked a decline in series orders year on year, which is a leading indicator of the next year's output. Between his reporting and the fact that you see s 16 percent deceleration - in other words, you were up 14 percent in the first half and down 2 - a 16 percent swing between the first and the second half of the year. I think we have a strong indication that we're going to start to see a decline beginning in 2023."
But whatever the number might be, does it really matter? Obviously it's a lot of new shows and the number feeds into people's notions that there is entirely too much great television for anyone to keep track of every week. The idea that "Peak TV" is bad for the industry has become deeply embedded in the psyche of the entertainment world and it's nearly impossible to convince people that it is overblown. I suspect that I would be hard-pressed to convince Landgraf that nearly 600 new show figure isn't all that important.
But I am going to give it a try.
Granted, the amount of television coming out has consequences. But they are generally indirect ones - i.e. it makes marketing and promotion more difficult:
So rather than trying to fight that inevitable change, the television industry would be better served playing to the niches while also being cognizant that those niches have to be served at a reasonable cost. This isn't to say that there won't be mass hits or projects that are appealing to a wide audience. But it's a dance to balance the mix and while producing 600 originals in a year isn't an inherently bad thing, producing 600 shows hoping to be massive cultural experiences with the budget to reflect those ambitions is a bad idea. And that is really what has gotten the streaming industry in trouble in recent years.
I truly believe that producing 600 scripted originals a year - or even more - is sustainable. But it also has to be done wisely and that has proved to be the primary sticking point for nearly every service.
Rather than moan about cost and content abundance, there are some factors that will improve the revenue stream while also helping with the increasing churn rate at most streamers.
I'd love to hear your take on this, you can simply reply to this email or leave a comment below.
ONE LAST THOUGHT ABOUT THE TCAS
My favorite moment from my week in Pasadena is when I ran into a network executive in the hallway. "Oh, I know you," he said after spotting my name tag. "You have a very unique take on the industry." He then left, and to this day I'm not quite sure if that was an attempt at a complement or a very sly bit of throwing shade.
TWEET OF THE DAY
AMAZON SET TO CUT TIES WITH JEREMY CLARKSON
Jeremy Clarkson has always been a bit of a misogynistic ass. He's fun to watch on TV, but in real life, that cranky curmudgeonly persona often crosses the line into sexist asshat.
He's likely best known to viewers for being one of the long-running hosts of BBC's Top Gear. During his original stint on the show - from 1988 to 1999 - both Top Gear and Clarkson were pretty predictably mainstream. Straight-forward presentation and reviews, nothing too snarky or controversial.
Several years after the BBC canceled the show, Clarkson convinced BBC executives to renew the show with the now-familiar format.
But from his first appearance on the revamped show in 2002 - until the network canned him in 2015 - Clarkson managed to get himself into all sorts of trouble.
He suggested on camera that the average lorry driver killed prostitutes during their normal workday, used phrases like "slopes," and in 2014, Clarkson was caught on air saying the N-word under his breath while reciting the nursery rhyme "eeny, meeny, miny, mo" in a comparison test between two test cars. When the Daily Mirror published the clip, Clarkson apologized and the BBC opted to give him yet another chance.
While talking about what makes a car "quintessentially German" during a Top Gear news segment, Clarkson made the Nazi salute while making a joke about German indicators and navigation devices only pointing to Poland.
Clarkson also managed to get into trouble off-camera. In 2004, Clarkson was escorted out by security during a BBC Press Award ceremony after punching Piers Morgan. Granted, he was apparently coming to aid of his wife. And who among us hasn't wanted to punch Piers Morgan at some point? But still, not acceptable behavior.
The final straw for the BBC happened in March 2015. Clarkson was on set, filming for series 22 and after a long day’s filming, the production team arrived at their overnight stop. But because it was so late, the only food left was a cold cuts and cheese platter. An argument between Clarkson and production team member, Oisin Tymon apparently got out of hand, and Clarkson punched Tymon in the face. The incident the global media infamously called the 'Fracas' broke out, leading to his dismissal from the show. Although technically, the network simply declined to renew his contract, since Clarkson's contract expired at the end of the season.
Clarkson's exit from the show obviously didn't end his career. He and fellow former Top Gear co-hosts (as well as several producers) signed a new deal with Amazon Prime Video that was reportedly worth about $250 million over the life of the deal. The new show was called The Grand Tour and when it launched in November 2016. Clarkson's salary reportedly jumped from $891,000 a year at the BBC to around $12.5 million a year at Amazon. He also signed a separate production deal which included several new projects, including the new successful Clarkson's Farm.
But Clarkson has continued to get himself into trouble during the Amazon years. During one episode Richard Hammond was hidden in a specially designed Audi TT and as the crowd attempted to find him, Clarkson explained the point of the bit:
“When immigrants try to get into the country they always come in the back of a container lorry and that is the world’s worst game of hide and seek. If you work for Border Force you open the doors and go, “well there you are”. Surely, there must be a better way of getting into Britain. And I think I’ve worked it out.”
During a special set in Mozambique, Clarkson chose a Jeep Wrangler to drive through the jungle, even though he and his co-hosts kept describing the vehicle as "very gay." After singer Will Young gave an interview complaining about the segment, Clarkson wrote a newspaper column in which he didn't exactly apologize:
“I will apologise to Will for causing him some upset and reassure him that I know I’m not homophobic as I very much enjoy watching lesbians on the internet.”
And it feels entirely on brand for the old coot of British television to lose his job again after writing a newspaper column.
In a column for The Sun, Clarkson described his intense hatred of Meghan Markle:
"At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she [Meghan] is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.
“Everyone who’s my age thinks the same way,” he continued. “But what makes me despair is that younger people, especially girls, think she’s pretty cool. They think she was a prisoner of Buckingham Palace, forced to talk about nothing but embroidery and kittens.”
After several days of complaints, Clarkson posted a not-quite apology on his Twitter account:
"Oh dear. I’ve rather put my foot in it. In a column I wrote about Meghan, I made a clumsy reference to a scene in Game of Thrones and this has gone down badly with a great many people. I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future."
Within days it became clear the controversy wasn't going away, and Clarkson released a long statement which managed to include every predictable non-apology apology that celebrities use when they don't really believe they've done anything wrong:
One of the strange things I've noticed in recent times whenever an MP or a well-known person is asked to apologize for something, no matter how heartfelt or profound that apology might be, it's never enough for the people who called for it in the first place.
So I'm going to try and buck that trend this morning with an apology for the things I said in a Sun column recently about Meghan Markle. I really am sorry. All the way from the balls of my feet to the folliciles on my head. This is me putting my hands up. It's a mea culpa with bells on.
Usually, I read what I've written to someone before filing day, but I was at home alone, and in a hurry. So when I'd finished, I just pressed send. And then, when the column appeared the next day, the land mine exploded.
It was a slow rumble to start with and I ignored it. But then the rumble got louder. So I picked up a copy of The Sun to see what the fuss was about. We've all been there, I guess. In that precise moment when we suddenly realize we've completely messed up. You are sweaty and cold at the same time. And your head pounds. And you feel sick. I couldn't believe what I was reading. Had I really said that? It was horrible.
I knew what had happened straight away. I had been thinking of a scene in "Game of Thrones," but had forgotten to mention this. So it looked as if I was actially calling for revolting violence to rain down on Meghan's head.
I was very angry with myself becuase in all of those controversial days on "Top Gear," when I was accused of all sorts of things, it was very rarely sexism. We never did "women can't park" gags for instance. Or suggested that powerful cars were only for men. I was thrilled when Jodie Kidd and Ellen MacArthur set fastest ever laps in our reasonbly priced car. I'm just not sexist and I abhor violence against women. And yet I seemed to be advocating just that.
I was mortified and so was everyone else. My phone went mad. My very close friends were furious. Even my daughter took to Instagram to denounce me.
The Sun quickly apologized, and I tried to explain myself. But still, there were calls for me to be sacked and charged with a hate crime. More than 60 MPs demanded action to be taken. ITV, who makes "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," and Amazon, who makes the Farm Show and "The Grand Tour," were incandescent.
I therefore wrote to everyone who works with me saying how sorry I was and then on Christmas morning, I e-mailed Harry and Meghan in California to apologize to them too. I said I was baffled by what they had been saying on TV but the language I used in my column was disgraceful and that I was profoundly sorry.
Over the past thirty years, I have written nearly five thousand newspaper and magazine columns, so it was inevitable one day, I'd do a Harry Kane and sky one of the damn things. Which is what happened with the piece about Meghan.
So can I move on now? Not sure. It's hard to be interesting and vigilant at the same time. You never hear peals of laughter coming from a health and safety seminar. But I promise you this, I will try.
Who knows? Very soon now I shall be a grandfather so in the future, maybe I'll just write about that.
A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex issued a statement regarding Clarkson's attempt at an apology Monday afternoon:
“On Dec. 25, 2022, Mr. Clarkson wrote solely to Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. The contents of his correspondence were marked Private and Confidential. While a new public apology has been issued today by Mr. Clarkson, what remains to be addressed is his long-standing pattern of writing articles that spread hate rhetoric, dangerous conspiracy theories, and misogyny,” the statement reads. “Unless each of his other pieces were also written ‘in a hurry,’ as he states, it is clear that this is not an isolated incident shared in haste, but rather a series of articles shared in hate.”
And now it appears that Amazon's Prime Video is backing away from Clarkson and his shows. The streamer has canceled a planned virtual press event that was supposed to promote the upcoming season of Clarkson's Farm and Variety is reporting that the streamer has decided to not produce any new programming with the host:
Sources tell Variety that the streaming service won’t be working with Clarkson beyond seasons of “The Grand Tour” and “Clarkson’s Farm” that have already been commissioned. This means that the notorious “Top Gear” presenter likely won’t be appearing in any new shows on Prime Video beyond 2024 (though there’s every chance a final “Grand Tour” episode could carry over into 2025).
Prime Video already has a number of shows in the works with Clarkson, which are going to go ahead, but the decision effectively means that “Clarkson’s Farm” will end with Season 3 (expected in 2024). It also means that motoring format “The Grand Tour,” one of Prime Video’s biggest shows, will also come to an end. Variety understands the series will conclude after four more special episodes — the last of which is expected to land in late 2024.
Clarkson is a talented guy, but you can only cross the line so many times before you're forced to face the consequences.
WHAT'S NEW FOR MONDAY:
Bob Hearts Abishola Spring Premiere (CBS)
Down Home Fab Series Premiere (HGTV)
Icons Unearthed Season Premiere (Vice)
Miracle Workers Season Four Premiere (TBS)
NCIS Spring Premiere (CBS)
NCIS: Hawaii Spring Premiere (CBS)
The Big Payback (PBS)
The Neighborhood Spring Premiere (CBS)
The Price Of Glee (Investigation Discovery)
Urban One Honors (TV One)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU TUESDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.