Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, January 23rd, 2022
Resisting the urge to dunk...
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, January 23rd, 2022.
THERE'S NOTHING THAT SAYS 'LEANING INTO THE YOUNGER DEMOS OF STREAMING' LIKE REVIVING 2 SHOWS NO ONE UNDER AGE 70 HAS EVER SEEN
All the major entertainment trade outlets are reporting Monday morning on a new refresh of the CBS News streaming service CBSN:
Person-To-Person, the interview series launched by Edward R. Murrow in 1953, will be brought back with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell at the helm. And CBS Reports, the documentary series that originally debuted in 1959, will be revived as a series that takes “a deeper dive into the key issues that are driving the national and global conversation,” per CBS. CBS Mornings‘ Gayle King will lead the premiere episode on Feb. 25 with a special exploring the death of Trayvon Martin 10 years later.
Meanwhile, CBS Sunday Morning will get a streaming presence through a series called Here Comes The Sun. Other series include Eye On America, led by CBS Saturday Morning anchor Michelle Miller, The Uplift, hosted by CBS Mornings co-host Tony Dokoupil, On The Road with Steve Hartmann, which will take the recurring TV segment and turn it into a regular series, The Dish, which is a streaming adaptation of CBS Saturday Morning‘s cooking segments, Climate Watch, and Moneywatch.
During the day, a rotating lineup of CBS anchors and correspondents (including Vladimir Duthiers, Jeff Glor, and Dana Jacobson, among others) will anchor news hours, with a Washington D.C.-based program Red And Blue taking over the 6 pm hour. 7 pm will feature another news hour, while the primetime hours will include the streaming originals (like Person-To-Person) as well as content from shows like 60 Minutes and 48 Hours. The CBS Evening News will stream in its entirety at 10 pm. The national, newly titled CBS News Streaming service will also operate out of a new studio built for it at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York.
This move has been expected, as CBSN faces increased competition from new efforts from ABC News, CNN and NBC News Now/Peacock. And while I understand the reasoning behind reviving legendary programs such as Person-To-Person, given how long its been since the show has been on, it's literally a program no one under the age of 70 has ever seen. Other than perhaps the random short interview clip used in some documentary.
The bigger question for me is whether the streaming news audience is interested in news programming that is primarily more of the same thing they can find on linear television. It's great to build out the infrastructure at the NY-based CBS Broadcast Center. But I can't help thinking a better plan long-term is to build out production facilities and talent in other parts of the country.
For example, I think these comments from CBS News and stations co-president Neeraj Khemlani are very telling about what the major news networks see as their biggest challenge:
But Khemlani acknowledges that when it comes to figuring out what programming works on streaming “the honest answer is that we are testing.”
“CBS News prides itself on being balanced, and not doing opinion,” he adds. “So when we look at our primetime programming, it is leaning into our strengths of original reporting and exquisite storytelling, and that is what keeps CBS News separate, when we do that well we win. We have no desire to change that formula, it is just sharing it with more people.”
There seems to be this belief that the news audience has this great unmet yearning for non-partisan reporting. And while that might be a factor, what audiences really want is reporting that is not as Beltway-centric doesn't focus as much on the insider political reporting that is the underpinning of traditional network news coverage.
A LOOK AT PARAMOUNT+ OUTSIDE THE U.S.
I talk a lot about how different the streaming world looks outside of North America and this piece is a good example of those differences.
Dan Barrett is based in Australia and his daily "Always Be Watching" newsletter provides a good overview of what television and streaming looks like in that country. And in his most recent newsletter, he has a really good breakdown of what Paramount+ looks like in Australia:
Outside of the US, Paramount+ is completely ad-free, but its library is different. The library of movies includes licensed titles from Warner Bros, and the TV library is smaller than the US with fewer Viacom titles dumped into the catalogue and far fewer classic TV titles. But what it does have is the Showtime content. Not all Showtime series, mind you. Anything that debuted in the past five years is still streaming on competitor Stan (such as Billions). But all of the new shows are on Paramount+.
Which is where the promise of the streamer lies. The more new Showtime titles that debut, the richer that Paramount+ library is starting to feel.
Last night I was there for Yellowjackets and Yellowstone: 1883, but last night I noticed new additions The Envoys, The Panthers (a New Zealand drama), Nova Vita, Buried, Good Sam, and Paradise Lost. These aren't exactly primo titles, but bundle them in with new Showtime series and other acquisitions and Paramount+ is starting to look a lot more substantial than the bare bones service that launched a few months ago.
This week it adds the very buzzy, hot new title The Gilded Age from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes (which is fantastic - expect a review on Always Be Watching later today). Is it an essential service? Maybe not just yet. But it is certainly shaping up to be one.
Viacom/CBS executives like to dodge the "why don't you just combine Paramount+ and the Showtime streaming platform in the U.S.?" The obvious answer they don't want to say out loud is that like nearly all decisions made at the company, it's an effort to continue to keep the current revenue streams flowing while simultaneously building a new (and somewhat competitive) business. Viacom doesn't want to endanger the money it makes from the standalone Showtime subscriptions. And it's not willing to rejigger its core business in the way that HBO has as it launched HBO Max. That's not an issue outside the U.S., where Viacom hasn't had such a strong presence. It's a fine short-term move, but there's also a strong case to be that Viacom/CBS should just move ahead, take the short-term hit and focus on building out Paramount+.
RESISTING THE URGE TO DUNK
One of the things you hopefully learn as a critic is that we all have our blind spots and preconceived notions about how things are supposed to work. That's always a valuable thing to remember when you see a point of view that feels absurd to you at first glance.
So rather than dunking on this, I'll pass along an excerpt from Tim Goodman's new Substack, in which he explains why he is launching his own newsletter. Before he went into TV development, Goodman was a longtime television critic, most recently at the Hollywood Reporter. And he writes that he is back on the TV beat to surface some of the great stuff that you might have missed. He calls it "post-criticism":
Sometime, in either late 2018 or into 2019 I started going back and revisiting older series for THR readers in a feature called “Hidden Gems” that got enthusiastic reader response and a hilariously unenthusiastic reception from my “boss” at the time — well, it wasn’t funny then but, you know, it was certainly indicative of the bad decisions that made it easy to leave when the time came. It wasn’t that particular boss’s fault, really. That person’s job was to churn out review after review after review. Me wanting to highlight great shows readers might have overlooked during the tsunami of the last, oh, five to seven seasons, was possibly similar to people in book stores wanting you to read a classic instead of a beach book or someone at a record store (a what?) saying maybe you should circle back to some ‘70s funk to find out where that album you were buying got its inspiration.
This paragraph lays out the differences between working at a large industry trade publication and working at a smaller site with less industry leverage. Outlets like The Hollywood Reporter focus on the now because they have the ability to get access to the hottest titles and stars. For the rest of us, you're forced to live off the land. You cover the new stuff that you can, but you quickly learn that to pick your battles. You cover lesser known titles and stars and surface shows that people might have missed. That concept might have been revolutionary to the execs of THR in 2018, but that's long been the case for everyone outside the entertainment media establishment.
Part of this is that at the time Goodman exited THR, he had one of the most prestigious jobs in television criticism. So while his experience with trying to cover catalog shows might have been the case for him, as they say, everyone else's mileage may vary.
This is how Goodman defines his newsletter and there is certainly nothing wrong with his approach:
In addition to The Box Set, (which is our TV Club kind of thing that I’ll talk about more tomorrow), I envision the TV-centric part of this Substack to be an evolving experiment; but certainly a place where I’ll write about new shows some of you have already seen because, drowning or not, you were totally on top of that one. Other shows will have been out for a little bit — maybe they are on your list (or mine) but you just haven’t had the time. And I’m actually very excited to explore some of those aforementioned “Hidden Gems” — lost, forgotten or merely not checked off your list yet. The point is, it’s a pretty big library at this point. We can take our time.
I’m excited to watch again. I’m more excited to be choosy, selective, judicious. These critical deconstructions or essays — I’m not sure “review” is even apt anymore — will have a strong discussion element. I’ll keep up on the comments as best I can. I’ll start threads on shows that seem to warrant deeper discussion. Within The Box Set arena we’ll be watching a full season of episodes, week to week, probably multiple shows. But these separate deconstructions/essays will be more about the whole, less about the parts. If I do it like I’m hoping to, like I’m imagining it in my head, then there will be a variety of moods, of approaches, of styles. The goal is to make it interesting, thoughtful, granular and macro all at once.
I am spending the time highlighting Goodman's newsletter not to dunk on him. But it's a good reminder that there are haves and have nots in the world of television criticism. And if you are out there trying to market a show that doesn't have the cultural resonance of Succession, your time might be better spent pitching the smaller outlets along with the major outlets. For instance, AllYourScreens.com is the definition of a niche player in the industry. But we ended December with 2.56 million unique visitors and while we’re no THR, I'd argue you'll get much more bang for your buck with us than you will with a quick blurb on one of the trades.
ODDS AND SODS
* Here's a rundown of the modest list of titles coming to Paramount+ in February. Also, here is a rundown of new stuff coming to Discovery+ next month.
* BBC Three is returning to linear television on February 1st.
* Chris Evans is set to star opposite Dwayne Johnson in an upcoming holiday event film from Amazon Studios, which is currently titled Red One.
WHAT'S NEW FOR MONDAY
Here's a quick rundown of all the new stuff premiering today on TV and streaming:
American Dad Season Seventeen (TBS)
Jesse Watters Primetime Series Premiere (Fox News)
March Series Premiere (The CW)
Ordinary Joe Season Finale (NBC)
POV: Not Going Quietly (PBS)
Prisoner Of Love Linear Series Premiere (Investigation Discovery)
Promised Land Series Premiere (ABC)
Secrets Of Playboy (A&E)
Snowpiercer Season Premiere (TNT)
Social Society (ALLBLK)
The Gilded Age (HBO)
Three Songs For Benazir (Netflix)
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.