Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, June 5th, 2023
An Apple TV+ executive has some thoughts about TV directors
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, June 5th, 2023.
THE INEVITABLE REBOOT THAT WE REALLY DON'T NEED
There was a time when ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was the hottest show on television. Each week host Ty Pennington and a familiar group of helpers gave some deserving family the home of their dreams. The story always started with a tough time or a personal tragedy. There was a family who needed help and Pennington and crew were there to build this family a massive new home designed to change their lives.
It was initially a fun show to watch. I was familiar with Pennington from his stint on TLC and the idea of completely making over an entire house certainly qualified as "extreme." But over the seasons, the show devolved into a loud parody of itself. Pennington ran around the set like a poodle on crack and the houses inevitably became bigger and more filled with not-so-subtly-sponsored materials. And because the houses became so massive and expensive, participants often found themselves struggling to pay the large taxes and other costs associated with an Extreme McMansion.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition soured me on the format until last year when I ran across an episode of the long-running BBC series DIY SOS: The Big Build on the BBC Home & Garden channel. This show was like a Bizarro-world Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It was heart-warming, sometimes subtle, filled with broad jokes delivered in a kind way. And even better, the show was about the families and not the sponsors or the experience.
Hosted by Nick Knowles, DIY SOS: The Big Build grew out of the show DIY SOS. That series ran on the BBC from 1999 to 2010 and was very much a traditional kind of makeover series. Each episode featured a main project, a smaller project hosted by a series of hosts and a feature which showed three viewer-submitted projects and asked the audience to choose which one the show would tackle in the next episode.
In 2010, the series was rebranded as DIY SOS: The Big Build and this new one-hour series has a format very similar to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Each episode features a family struggling to overcome some deep personal tragedy. A stroke victim unable to use most of their house because of the lack of access, a handicapped child unable to stay in the family home because it doesn't have the facilities necessary for someone with such physical challenges. Knowles and crew come in and makeover the home, assisted by an army of local tradesman and businesses who volunteer their time and material to ensure everything is completed in nine days.
But unlike Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, these projects are massive but also proportional. Since this is the UK, many of the projects take place in row houses and while the crews often gut the interiors and perhaps add an additional room or two (if the local coding allows), the end result is the perfect solution for the family. But without providing them with some 6,500 sq-foot monstrosity.
One of the things that sets the show apart from its American counterpart are the interview segments Knowles does with family members and friends. He has a knack for getting people to open up and honestly, I don't think I've been able to get through an episode without tearing up a bit.
Given the joy I get from DIY SOS: The Big Build, it's difficult for me to get too thrilled about ABC's just-announced reboot of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Particularly when it's set to be hosted Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, founders of The Home Edit, and co-hosts of the impressively annoying Netflix series Get Organized With the Home Edit. And I was not reassured at all after reading the network's explanation of the reboot, which will have the duo working "to edit every single item they own, deciding what to part ways with and what to keep that will set their new home up with smart systems built for success."
Sigh. I'll pass.
BAD APPLE: THE EXECUTIVE EDITION
The target of today's writers strike events was Apple TV+, which the WGA described as "Bad Apple." Aside from the in-person protests, a number of writers who had worked on an Apple TV+ show posted about their experiences on social media and let's just say they weren't exactly love letters to the massive tech giant:
Ah yes Apple. The studio that pays for daily writers lunches but not lunches for the support staff that work side by side with the writers.
Coincidentally, today was also the day that I finally had a long-negotiated conversation with a high-ranking executive at Apple TV+. They agreed to be quoted, but unidentified in a piece I'll be posting tomorrow.
But I wanted to pull out this comment about the DGA's proposed settlement with AMPTP, because it's not a perspective I've heard elsewhere.
"Directors tend to think they can't be replaced in the entertainment assembly line and that perspective has only gotten stronger in the era of mini-rooms, where the director becomes even more important when they might be the only person who is there for the entire process. Especially now that writers are often not able to be on set or stay on as the production continues.
What they don't get is that they can be replaced. The golden ticket for every major streamer is to be able to produce a show that looks like it was produced in the U.S. But that was shot overseas with non-union crews and only a handful of American actors. Despite all of their other issues, American writers are tough to replace. We've found - and I think Netflix has had the same experience - that writing is a very culturally specific thing. It has a vibe that is nearly impossible to recreate without having grown up in that culture. It's tough to write a South Korean rom-com unless you grew up there. And it's the same way with American shows. You need an American writer, or someone very similar. Canadian, maybe British or Australian. Otherwise, the scripts feel different in a way that audiences notice.
But you know what, directing is universal. You don't need to understand American football or love apple pies to direct a series. You can be born in Croatia and do just fine with a big-budget American series. DGA members should be worried more about that than AI."
ODDS AND SODS
* The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart premieres August 4th on Prime Video. Here's the logline: "Based on Holly Ringland’s best-selling debut novel, the seven-part series tells the emotionally compelling story of Alice Hart. When Alice, aged 9, tragically loses her parents in a mysterious fire, she is taken to live with her grandmother June at Thornfield flower farm, where she learns that there are secrets within secrets about her and her family’s past. Set against Australia’s breathtaking natural landscape, and with native wildflowers and plants providing a way to express the inexpressible, thienthralling family drama spans decades. As she grows from her complicated past, Alice's journey builds to an emotional climax when she finds herself fighting for her life against a man she loves."
* Showtime is not moving forward with Caroline Suh’s documentary on disgraced comedian Louis C.K., according to Variety. The project was billed as examining the comedian and his downfall as well as the wider #MeToo movement over the past six years.
* My Adventures With Superman debuts July 6TH on Adult Swim.
* Canada's CityTV has greenlit the Dick Wolf spin-off series Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent.
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WHY IS WARNER BROS. DISCOVERY PRESS RELATIONS SO TERRIBLE?
Of every industry I covered as a financial news reporter, media executives pose some of the most difficult challenges. They generally hate speaking to the press, in part because they are convinced that journalists who cover the industry can't possibly understand the 4-D chess game they are playing every day. The average media company CEO is emotionally pampered in a way that protects their often fragile egos, but frequently at the cost of hearing news that the CEO would rather ignore.
This tendency to dodge confrontation is especially dangerous when dealing with a CEO who is unwilling to sit down for difficult interviews with the trade press. The best way to bolster a company's stock price and show the industry that your company is on track is to answer a few uncomfortable questions. Because a tough interview will quickly determine how strongly you believe in the company's publicly described vision. A good journalist can peel away the layers of bullshit and drill down into the core of the story. CEO's who lack the confidence to wrestle over strategic decisions with a reporter or who just don't like being second-guessed will simply refuse to sit down for a meaningful one-on-one interview. Which might make them feel safer, but they are also missing out on the best way to tell their story.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has never much liked speaking with the press. Particularly if there's a chance it will be confrontational. So he focuses on speaking at high-profile investors events, convinced that will provide him the access to tell his story without any of those messy tough follow-up questions.
I highlighted Tim Alberta's piece on CNN head Chris Licht in Friday's newsletter, but I wanted to circle back and highlight this part of the piece, which really illustrates David Zaslav's approach to speaking with the press:
For months, Zaslav’s head of communications, Nathaniel Brown, had been shielding his boss from participating in this story. He first told me that Zaslav would speak to me only without attribution, and any quotes I wanted to use would be subject to their approval. When I refused—telling Brown that quote approval was out of the question, and that I would meet Zaslav only if he allowed on-the-record questioning—he reluctantly agreed to my terms, but then tried running out the clock, repeatedly making Zaslav unavailable for an interview. Finally, after false starts and a painstaking back-and-forth, the interview was set. I would meet Zaslav on Wednesday, May 17—one week after the Trump town hall—at his office in New York.
On Tuesday evening, less than 24 hours before that meeting, Brown called me. “We’re going to keep this on background only, nothing for attribution,” he said. This was a brazen renege on our agreement, and Brown knew it. He claimed that it was out of his hands. But, Brown tried reassuring me, “with everything going on,” Zaslav thought “he could be most helpful to you by explaining some things on background.”
I wasn’t entirely surprised. Over the previous year, people who knew Zaslav—and who had observed his relationship with Licht—had depicted him as a control freak, a micromanager, a relentless operator who helicoptered over his embattled CNN leader. Zaslav’s constant meddling in editorial decisions struck network veterans as odd and inappropriate; even stranger was his apparent marionetting of Licht. In this sense, some of Licht’s longtime friends and co-workers told me, they pitied him. He was the one getting mauled while the man behind the curtain suffered nary a scratch. I declined Brown’s offer. I told him this was Zaslav’s last chance to make the case for Licht’s leadership—and his own. If he wanted to explain things, he could do so on the record, as we had agreed. Zaslav refused.
The night before the publication of this story, Zaslav sent a statement through Brown saying “while we know that it will take time to complete the important work that’s underway, we have great confidence in the progress that Chris and the team are making and share their conviction in the strategy.” Brown also offered his own statement alongside it, saying that he’d only canceled our on-record interview because “it became clear over a period of months between the initial request and the planned meeting that the premise of that meeting had changed.” (It had not; in an email two days before the scheduled meeting, Brown had written that they would see me Wednesday for an “on record” conversation.)
Zaslav and the PR folks at Warner Bros. Discovery seem to believe that if they aren't forced to answer tough questions, reporters will just tired and frustrated by the dance and will move on to the next story. What actually happens is that critics and other voices step in to fill the silence. When you are a CEO, you can either dictate the narrative or let other people's narrative dictate you.
WHAT'S NEW FOR TUESDAY:
Beyond Skywalker Ranch Series Premiere (History)
Body Cam Season Premiere (A&E)
Burden Of Proof (HBO)
Customer Wars Season Premiere (A&E)
Destination: European Nights (Paramount+)
Late Night Lockup Series Premiere (Investigation Discovery)
Making Of The Meme King (CNBC)
My Little Pony: Make Your Mark Chapter Four Premiere (Netflix)
Storage Wars Season Premiere (A&E)
The Freedom To Exist With Elliot Page - A Soul Of A Nation Presentation (ABC)
30 For 30: The Luckiest Guy In The World (ESPN)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU MONDAY!
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