How to fix network television

We here at TVWriter™ are huge fans of comedy writing great Ken Levine, who in addition to being one of the masterminds behind Cheers, Frasier M*A*S*H and many other great shows, is also a Blogger (and podcaster) Supreme.

It’s with great joy that we discovered this column he wrote last year. We think he’s hit the nail on the head. What say y’all?

How to fix network television… not that anyone asked me
by Ken Levine

As the old saying sort of goes: Imitation is the sincerest form of Network Television. The minute one comes up with a hit show, the rest scramble to develop copy-cats. Watch for seventeen kid talent shows next year – all hosted by Steve Harvey.

For every SEINFELD there are four ALRIGHT ALREADYS.

Back in the ‘90s when FRIENDS burst upon the scene, the mantra of every television network was “Get us the next FRIENDS” – an ensemble comedy featuring all twentysomethings that draws big audiences.

For probably ten years there were TWO GUYS, A GIRL, AND A PIZZA PLACE on every network schedule. NBC, home of FRIENDS, even did an American version of COUPLING, eliminating everything that made the British version an absolute classic. NBC even spun off Joey from FRIENDS.  They couldn’t even capture the magic of FRIENDS with a cast member from FRIENDS.

All of these attempts were seen for what they were and failed. Eventually the networks moved on and developed eighteen reality shows set on islands.

But here’s the thing: The networks’ timing was off (as usual). NOW is when they should be looking for the next FRIENDS.

The GOP is doing everything it can to distance itself from the horrific presidential candidate THEY selected. But it’s their fault. They got into bed with extremist groups. They knew who Donald Trump was when they chose him. The only surprise is that Billy Bush is going down with him.

Similarly, television networks decided long ago that total audience size is not important. Demographics are. Specifically, YOUNG demographics. So older viewers became irrelevant and all the nets cared about was chasing 18-34’s. Unfortunately, their target audience (we currently call them Millennials) is the one demographic that has abandoned network television. They’re streaming, they’re watching on apps, they’re binging, they’re looking for Pokeman. Many no longer even own TV’s.

Again, networks only have themselves to blame. Their big sales pitch to Madison Avenue was that young people are so desirable because they embrace new things. Now it turns out that networks themselves are the “old thing.” Oops. Hoisted on their own petards.

So in a desperate attempt to bring them back, networks are developing sitcoms that they think Millennials like….

Read it all at by Ken Levine