Execs go to great lengths to shun stodginess
In the media version of the seven deadly sins, stodginess has become the most irredeemable — a description that executives go great lengths to shun.Unfortunately, in their determination to avoid the stodgy label, channels ranging from A&E and its sibling History to public broadcasting have traded the dreaded adjective for “stupid,” or at the very least “silly.” Take History, which hasn’t fulfilled its name for quite awhile — veering from covering the past to dramatically recreating it, ignoring it (think the nonhistorical “Ice Road Truckers”) and finally concocting reality-TV versions of it. In the latest iteration, “Survivor” impresario Mark Burnett announced plans to replicate Stanley and Livingstone’s famous 19th-century trek across Africa with a History series titled “Expedition,” in which participants will use only the tools available during that time. A&E Networks CEO Abbe Raven told the New York Times the goal is to awaken History from its status as a “sleepy network,” which is a not-so-polite way of saying “old” and “stodgy.” Loosely translated, what she meant is, “We want younger people to watch our channel, without so startling those previously inclined to tune in as to stop their frail hearts.” Then again, A&E is hardly alone in this blinding “Youthify the brand” ambition. Consider a few recent programming announcements designed to signal “We’re hip,” as opposed to “Our viewers might fall down and break a hip”:
- G4 will introduce a speed-eating competition show this summer titled (ugh) “Hurl!” Per the release: “Those who devour the largest quantity and keep everything down move on to the second stage, where they must face nausea-inducing physical challenges.”
- CNBC is beginning its second “Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge,” inviting viewers to catch Wall Street fever in a stock-trading game using a fictional account and “CNBC bucks” — which, sadly, are currently worth more than the U.S. dollar.
- CBS will try to reach young men with a series of mixed-martial arts broadcasts beginning May 31, “EliteXC Saturday Night Fights.” This lends further credence to a made-for-TV sport combining the brutality of boxing and the showmanship of wrestling with the free-for-all attitude of “The McLaughlin Group.”