Well, that escalated quickly. In light of Sony’s announcement yesterday that it had officially canceled The Interview’s Christmas Day release, and “has no further release plans for the film,” I made a bold suggestion at Quartz: Netflix should save the day, and strike a blow against the hackers who have humiliated Hollywood. As I wrote,
Netflix, which doesn’t have a presence in Asia, is more protected from political fallout than the other multinational companies involved in this controversy. And the film’s marketing budget could be nonexistent. Instead, all of those celebs who decried Sony’s decision yesterday would suddenly become Netflix’s biggest cheerleaders, and the company would find itself with an army of enthusiastic—and free!—celebrity spokesmen, not to mention the invaluable free media coverage.
The company has long made a habit of rescuing discarded TV shows, including Arrested Development, The Killing, and Longmire, the canceled Western crime drama it picked up just last month from A&E. But now it could take things to the next level, and rescue a huge holiday movie.
Time and again, Netflix has proven itself to be fearless and hasn’t hesitated to make big deals that have upended the entertainment industry. Now it’s time for the company to step up to the plate again.
Once of the biggest head-scratchers during my many, many years at People was the shockingly muted reaction to what I thought was an incendiary investigative piece we published in 2006, speaking with five women who had accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. It was one of the rare times that we were going after a beloved celebrity, but after the story was published, everyone just seemed to shrug and move on, if they even noticed it at all.
So you could say that it took almost a decade for Cosby’s career to fall apart overnight. At Adweek, I look at how Cosby went from TV’s “most persuasive” pitchman, as he was known in his Cosby Show ’80s heyday, to its most radioactive one in the past week. As I wrote,
Putting the horrific allegations aside …. Cosby is in this predicament largely because he and his team demonstrated a surprising lack of media savvy for a performer who for decades has had audiences—and advertisers—in the palm of his hand.
Writing this story also gave me a chance to publicly credit the great Kate Aurthur from Buzzfeed, for almost single-handedly keeping this story afloat this year. Even if it took eight years after that People story, I’ve glad this is finally coming to light, and I’m shocked at how ill-prepared Cosby and his team have been to finally face the music.
Like everyone I know, and more than 1.4 million others around the world, I’m hopefully addicted to the podcast Serial, fall’s most riveting show. (Episode 9 is less than 24 hours away!) As I wrote at Quartz,
It’s also captured our imagination in a way no TV show has done this fall, and has the kind of deafening buzz and rabid fan base that any series would kill for. The unlikely global phenomenon is also the strongest proof in years that taut, weekly storytelling trumps the increasingly-popular binge-watching method that Netflix helped pioneer.
While my own tweets occasionally flourish and become stories, in this case I was inspired by a tweet from someone else, Veep actor Timothy Simons:
The success of @serial is a pretty stellar argument against the idea of releasing all eps of a tv show at once.
That crystallized something I’d been thinking about myself, and gave me the perfect opportunity to finally write the anti-binging story (at least when it comes watching TV’s best shows) that I’ve been mulling for months.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to counting down the minutes until Episode 9 of Serial drops!
One year after FX Networks announced its landmark deal to secure exclusive cable, VOD and non-linear rights to The Simpsons for FXX, I talked with John Landgraf about how The Simpsons helped save his company’s fledgling network. As I wrote at Adweek,
Not even Landgraf had dared to dream that his near-billion-dollar investment would pay off so quickly. “There’s literally no entertainment channel in the history of cable television that’s done anything like it,” said Landgraf, noting that FXX is still only in 75 million U.S. homes, compared to the 95 million homes that FX, and many of its other competitors, occupy. Thanks to The Simpsons, “FXX is essentially outperforming…and it will be adding 15 of those 20 million over the next two to three years. So I still believe there’s a considerable amount of upside where The Simpsons will ultimately land.”
Landgraf also talked about his risky $750 million bet, the looong rollout of Simpsons World and why (D’oh!) FXX won’t be airing another “Every. Simpsons. Ever.” marathon again.
For this week’s Adweek #TBT, I revisited the single most embarrassing artifact from the Star Wars Universe (yes, even worse than Jar Jar Binks): The Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired one night only, on Nov. 17, 1978, and was never seen again (legally, anyway). As I wrote at Adweek,
It was immediately clear to anyone who tuned in on Friday at 8 p.m. ET that the show was a train wreck. If the 10-minute dialogue-free Wookiee sequence wasn’t awful enough, then the virtual-reality sex scene—which still haunts my dreams, and in which Diahann Carroll urged Chewbacca’s father, “I am your experience, so experience me. I am you pleasure, so enjoy me!”—sealed the deal.
I rewatched the whole, interminable debacle for this story, and it’s even worse than I remembered — which made it even more entertaining to write about. Here’s the promo that CBS aired the week leading up to the show’s debut:
If you told me I’d be writing a story A) praising Kim Kardashian B) for Quartz C) calling her “brilliant” and admiring her “acumen,” I would have said you’d lost your mind. But I surrendered this week after she shared images from her racy Paper magazine cover, and successfully got the entire world (well, at least the internet) talking about her once again, whether people wanted or not. And then, 24 hours later, she did it all again by releasing even more explicit photos from the shoot. As I wrote at Quartz,
That’s why it’s time to stop making fun of her and start taking her seriously, if not as a reality star, than at least as a masterful businesswoman and marketer.
I’d wavered on suggesting this story — I can’t imagine her name had ever appeared in a Quartz story before today — but I’m glad that I went ahead with it. Also, this is probably the only story written about her this week that didn’t include the words “butt,” “ass,” “oil” or “full frontal” — but it’s worth a read anyway!
At Adweek, I got to write about an issue that’s been bugging me. Shows are improving themselves in their second season — like Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and FX’s The Bridge — but they aren’t winning back viewers who bailed on those shows in the first season.
I spoke with FX Networks CEO John Landgraf, who had great insight (as always) about why shows can’t win back their viewers, no matter how great they get. As he told me,
The problem, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf tells Adweek, is that viewers simply have too many other options to be patient. “There will be about 350 scripted original series this year aired on linear and nonlinear services in the U.S. That’s really an unprecedented volume,” said Landgraf, whose team compiles a list of every season of scripted and unscripted series that airs. Last year’s total: 1,400 original seasons of material, with 2014’s tally looking to be even higher. “And so I think that consumers just have too many options,” Landgraf said. “Why should you ever watch anything other than something that’s the equivalent of a four-star movie or a four-star television show?”
Landgraf also talked about his agonizing decision to cancel The Bridge, a show which soared creatively in Season 2.
This was so much fun. I kicked off a new weekly column I’ll be doing for Adweek called #TBT (Throwback Thursday), in which I’ll be unearthing video of some of my favorite classic TV promos and shows. For the first one, I wanted to spotlight a promo that’s been knocking around my brain since 1987: a campaign from Fox to celebrate its then-fledgling network, which includes feature stars like Johnny Depp, Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate. As I wrote at Adweek,
Because as Bill Hader’s SNL character Stefon would say, this promo has everything: Sagal and O’Neill strangling each other, a skinny tie-clad Perry hitting on an underage Applegate (then just 16), a man’s bare chest being inexplicably massaged, Tracey Ullman mugging for the camera, a mulleted Peter DeLuise channeling The Love Boat’s two-finger-pointing Isaac, no-longer-famous Fox stars flirting with each other, a teenage boy possibly plummeting to his death, CCH Pounder flexing her biceps, some of the highest ’80s hair you’ve ever seen and Depp literally staying above the fray.
Step aside, TGIF and Must-See TV: branded nights of TV are back again, thanks to ABC’s #TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday) and NBC’s #WomanCrushWednesday. As I wrote at Adweek:
Networks can’t resist cloning anything that’s a hit on television, whether that’s shows or campaigns. Given the success of both #TGIT and #WCW, they’re all likely brainstorming hashtag-friendly campaigns in an effort to brand as many other nights of TV as possible.
So I came up with 12 new TV hashtag campaigns I’d like to see, from #PTSD (Post-Traumatic Sports Delay) to #TGINTGIF (Thank God It’s Not TGIF) to #WhatsaHashtag (What’s a Hashtag? Mondays).
On Friday, Oct. 24, ABC finally put Manhattan Love Story out of its misery, making it fall’s first canceled new series. It’s the longest we’ve gone into the fall season without a cancellation since 2003, when Fox waited until Oct. 28 to pull the plug on Luis, after five episodes.
At Adweek, I explain why the networks were so patient this fall:
“The growing truth is that picking winners today isn’t as simple as looking at the overnight ratings,” CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler said this summer. And unlike last year, when the networks paid that idea lip service but still quickly moved to cancel several low-rated shows, they’ve actually been practicing what they preach.
Tying in to that Adweek story, I also compiled the first shows to be canceled each fall since 2000 — along with what day they were canceled, and how many episodes had aired — which I was surprised to find that no one else had done previously. (Especially for the earlier shows, that information was tougher to dig up than I had anticipated.) Relive the members of TV’s least prestigious club, from Tucker to Do Not Disturb to (sniff) Lone Star to Lucky 7.