Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Dump network trailers

Several years ago broadcast networks began producing trailers of their new upcoming shows. I think this tactic is a mistake.

Or at least get better shows.

The comedies in particular look ghastly this year. If the idea of a trailer is to motivate you to watch the show (or movie) these have the opposite effect. I don’t know how anyone can look at some of these sitcom trailers and not say, “This is stupid. No way am I watching this shit.”

Your show is dead even before it airs. At least in the pre-trailer days, viewers would only catch fleeting glimpses of the new shows. They still might be curious enough to tune in. But when you watch these trailers and see how painfully unfunny they are, you're as gone as a cool breeze.

And half the casts are being replaced. So the trailers you see feature actors who were fired. Networks are not even presenting the good versions of the bad shows they’re showcasing.

Aside from that you’re seeing the same faces you’ve seen every year, now recycled one more time. Oh boy, Cedric the Entertainer has white neighbors who just moved in. Cart out the old JEFFERSON jokes from 1975. And hey, with new casting the white neighbors are the guy from NEW GIRL and girl from 2 BROKE GIRLS.  Everything about that seems stale and familiar. 

Audiences have learned that movie comedies put their best jokes in the trailer. So when those jokes suck you know the movie does too. With very few exceptions, the same is true in sitcom trailers. And what you’re left with – or at least what I’m left with – is that for all the pilot scripts commissioned and all the “notes” and then the fifteen or so that get made by each network – after a year’s worth of development – THESE are the best shows?

The decline of network television is inevitable. But it’s odd to see them contribute to their own demise. Lose the comedy trailers. So what if other networks employ them? It’s bad enough you’re running the shows. Give yourself a fighting chance.

28 comments :

Jeff Hysen said...

I feel bad for the actors who are in the trailer for The Neighborhood but have since been "replaced". Maybe they will have the last laugh if/when the show is canceled.

E. Yarber said...

One of the hardest parts of the industry for me to explain to outsiders is how often I've found myself working with people who are absolutely tone-deaf to any sense of actually engaging an audience. Either they're in the business solely to make money, or they want to pass themselves off as creative when a single original idea has never crossed their mind.

The fact is, though, that someone has watched those awful trailers you describe and nodded their head thinking, "Yeah, that'll work" before authorizing their release.

Vince said...

What about the trailers for your movies? Did you like them?
I hated Volunteers trailer. Sucked. Movie was passable, thanks to John Candy.

slgc said...

I feel the same way about certain commercials. Lately it's the Apple commercial with the song about an artist growing old ( https://tvadvertsongs.com/apple-behind-the-mac/ ). I find the song so depressing that it makes me want nothing to do with Apple products.

Similarly, the Nationwide Insurance Super Bowl ad in 2015 had the opposite of its intended effect ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bpl10G6O_lI )

What commercials do you find to be counterproductive?

Terrence Moss said...

I still believe in network TV, but it is very much suffocating itself.

Sean R. said...

Or, as an alternative, keep the trailers and make shows that are actually funny.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more, Ken. These "trailers" are often incoherent and do the upcoming shows no favors. CBS last summer endlessly ran a truly annoying preview for ME, MYSELF & I. The second time I saw it, I knew I would never take so much as a look at the series; by late summer, I was planning to actively avoid CBS on Monday nights.

A particularly sad instance was the mediocre preview for THE CRAZY ONES, which the network practically used as video wallpaper during the summer of '13. To really promote this, CBS needed to assemble five or six different trailers, all featuring truly fresh and hilarious material and moments -- I mean, the show was supposed to be a big deal. It was Robin Williams' return to TV! When the network kept plugging that one wan little preview, it was as if they were telling us in advance that the series wasn't gonna be appealing. As it turned out, the show didn't work and wasn't very good, but I'm certain many viewers just never even sampled it after seeing that weak trailer.

-- Griff

Hamp said...

I love the trailers just for that reason. It lets me quickly choose the shows to avoid (SPOILER ALERT: it's most of them).

Hamp said...

That's exactly why I love them. It lets me see nice and early which shows not to waste my time on (SPOLIER ALERT : It's 99% of them).

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Comedies have been ghastly for over a decade now - particularly single camera comedies, now that they no longer utilize laugh tracks like the did in decades past (BEWITCHED, M*A*S*H, what have you) and employ the mockumentary format that's grown tiresome and stale, and really worked better for movies than weekly series anyway.

Charles Cavender said...

Here's an idea. Instead of stocking your flagship network with "reality" drecch, how about putting "Suits" on NBC instead of USA? CBS keeps putting good scripted shows on their streaming service instead of the network. As for sports, major events are moved to cable nets in a vain attempt to compete with ESPN. I suspect the beancounting influencing these strategies is greatly flawed.

Curt said...

Yeah, by all means, bring back the laugh track. That will save everything.

Burt said...

Passable? You're way too kind.

David Cryan said...

Hey Ken

I just wanted to let you know that I recently took Blair Richwood up on her offer for the one-hour phone consultation and it was terrific, I got some great advice. So thanks for providing that opportunity. I've been thoroughly enjoying the podcast, especially the episodes with advice for writers, and nothing beats free offers.

Anyways thanks again, take care.

David Cryan

Jon B. said...

I thought James Burrows was involved with Cedric's new show. If so, the show may be good, especially with the talent they've added.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Thank you, Ken. I've said the exact same thing on this blog before. However, it was in reference to dramas not necessarily comedies. I also agree about the recycling of actors into shows. The only logic behind it that I can see is the cynical notion that, "If they liked them there, they'll like them here." As I've also said, "...from the creators of..." is either an incentive or a warning depending on the person or team. Of course the reverse is also true. I had high hopes for LIVING BIBLICALLY. Based on the commercials it looked like it might be good. But, it turned out to be a huge disappointment. It was a good premise and had potential, but it was very poorly executed. L.B. was a totally wasted opportunity. And as I've also said before, maybe its time to turn off the T.V. and...gasp!... READ A BOOK.
M.B.

Carol said...

I used to love the specials the networks aired at the end of the summer to premiere their new shows back in the 70s. But that was when we didn't have a heck of a lot to choose from, and half the shows didn't make it to the first break.

Cat said...

Perhaps that vague Cheers promo doesn't seem so bad now....

I've only seen promos for Fox shows, and they look horrible. They canceled Brooklyn 99 and Last Man on Earth for what, Tim Allen and something called The Cool Kids.
I'll be watching Cheers reruns instead, thanks.

Dave Creek said...

The comment above about watching CHEER reruns makes a good point. My wife and I will often watch a few MASH episodes on the weekends when Sundance runs them. The only current comedy we watch is BIG BANG. The networks need to realize that they're also competing against the classic stuff that hasn't gone away.

And since David Cryan mentioned it above, I'll add that I also had a one-hour conversation with Blair Richwood, and she's great. Had a lot of good comments and encouragement about a screenplay and the novel it's based upon. I've been hesitant to market them, but I'm likely to incorporate her suggestions and do so now.

Sarah said...

Hollywood and Levine has a new logo ? Nice :)

Cliff Knote said...

It tells me all I need to know without having to waste time watching...


cadavra said...

It might also help if they used names once in a while. I skipped the entire first season of "iZombie" because it looked like just another stupid zombie show. Then I read somewhere that it was from Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars"). I gave it a try on OnDemand and was immediately hooked. Watched the entire first season and have been a loyal fan ever since, even buying the DVDs--but they could have had me from the get-go had they just bothered to mention him in the marketing.

Glenn said...

Ken, random Friday question for you...I've been watching reruns of Wings and Tony Shaloub kills me every time with his portrayal of Antonio. Got any great Tony stories?

Brian Phillips said...

With regards to your comment about the networks contributing to their own demise, this feels like the 1970's. The old studio system is dead, the Hays code is even deader, there are new directors, producers, writers and actors making their marks in new and daring ways, and there is still some executive in some ivory tower somewhere seeing this, calling his best and brightest and saying, "Men, we've got to move with the times! Our audience is changing and we've got to change with it. What the kids want to-day is a really good musical!"

Barry Traylor said...

I would rather watch reruns of MASH or CHEERS.

John in NE Ohio said...

@sglc,
I don't watch much regular TV anymore except sports and the news, so I don't have a lot of current opinion but ...
I think about an old english lesson where we were supposed to separate the objective from the subjective in a magazine ad. TV ads today are mostly awful using that lens.
Two examples: 1)the car commercial with the hamsters - all I think about is that car is soooo small you have to put a hamster in it to look big; 2)the sonic ads - you hae to be a complete f'in moron to go to sonic, because that is all that is in their ads.

If you watch ads from that perspective, they are almost all awful.

Also, regarding new comedies - trailer or no, I'm not going to bother to watch it until it hits Netflix, and I generally choose shows with more seasons than less. In the case of dramas, I generally like it to be complete before I start. I don't want to get 2 seasons in and find out that I will never find out the answer to the question they've been pimping for 2 years before cancellation. Although no closure might have been better than what we got from Lost.

Rock Golf said...

For years now I've had one continuous complaint about network TV drama.

Somebody turn on a goddam light!

So many shows these days are filmed in low-light conditions, which means, even on the best wide-screen hi-def 4K-curved TV set you may as well be listening to radio if you're watching it in a normally lit room.

I don't want to watch TV in the dark.

Matthew said...

I've had a similar experience with radio. I listen to FM radio when I drive, and sometimes they'll play a teaser for their breakfast show - usually a clip of what they think is a particularly good bit. Honestly, if that's what they consider the best part then I'd rather listen to engine noise than their breakfast show.