Wednesday, June 05, 2013
And when networks do run your promo, in which show do they air it in? Getting a pop on THE VOICE is way better than SAVE ME. Every new comedy on ABC wants exposure on MODERN FAMILY, not MALIBU COUNTRY. And of course promoting your show on Saturday night is like someone making announcements in an empty theater.
Also, do you get a :30 second promo or :10? Do you get your own promo or are you just lumped in with the rest of that night’s lineup? (although the Sunday night promo ABC did last year was smashing!)
Now at least there are promos and trailers of all the new shows on network websites. So if there’s a particular show you’re curious about you don’t have to wait for ABC to run a promo in HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS. But the big “get” is the new viewer, the one unaware of your show. And still the best exposure is over the air (at least for now).
One of the reasons why networks soo overpay to carry NFL football is that (a) the games attract viewers who don’t normally watch your network, and (b) viewers are watching a live sporting event so they can’t fast forward through the commercials. They’ll actually see your promo.
Getting your new show noticed is even harder today because there is such a glut of them. So many networks, so many shows, so many staggered premiers. In the old days (when dinosaurs ruled the earth and Joan Rivers had her original face) we waited all summer with great anticipation for the new TV season. We lived for the promos. In late summer the networks (only three of them back then and fire was still a new concept) would stage special preview shows where they screened clips of all their new series. These specials generally were the highest rated shows of the week. NBC called their premier period NBC WEEK and sent out souvenir booklets. I wrote away for one every year. The day it arrived was always a big day (and yes, I had no life). I would guess that more people sent away for that booklet in 1965 than actually watch NBC today.
Exactly what the network chooses to show in the promo is another bone of contention. They tend to give away plot surprises and feature jokes that make no sense out of context. Yes, they got big laughs but you have to know who the characters are and what the set up was. Promo people often see that a certain joke got the biggest laugh and use it. How many times have you seen a promo and gone “Huh? What the fuck was that?”
Sadly, the trend in hyping sitcoms today is to showcase the most crass jokes they can find. On my shows I tend to be very sparing on low road jokes. Every so often one will feel appropriate to the scene or situation and I’ll let it go, but I always cringe when I see it on the air and always kick myself for not cutting it. I like to be proud of my work and I’m not proud of those easy laughs. And then when the network zeroes in on those jokes I really feel mortified. (Somehow I imagine producers of certain shows don't share my guilt over going with a cheap vagina joke.)
God forbid you don’t have an established name at the forefront of your series. Although the breakout hit shows generally feature new discoveries, networks prefer the safety of Will Arnett and Brad Garrett. So the star-driven shows will get more promos and hype. You may have a better show without stars but you’ll have a tougher go of things.
To a certain extent, the tail has always wagged the dog. How easily a show can be promoted is a major consideration for getting picked up. But hey, it’s like that in features too. I pitched a comedy screenplay once and the executive asked, “what are five great trailer moments?” Nothing about the story or characters – just trailer moments. What will the one-sheet (poster) look like? I guess the only difference is, in television the question is now: “What are two great trailer moments?”
Good luck to all the showrunners. You’re eight kittens fighting over the same sock. But it’s amazing how fast you go from “I’m just thrilled to be on the schedule!” to “I’m really getting screwed!”
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM