Are All These Reality Aftershows Really Necessary?

Discovery Channel is the latest net to hop on the aftershow bandwagon

"Watch What Happens Live" on Bravo - Andy Cohen, Chelsea Handler

When it comes to trends in television programming, aftershows have become the new black.

Discovery Channel announced today “Shark After Dark,” a latenight talkshow hosted by comedian Josh Wolf that will follow each day’s programming during the cabler’s famed “Shark Week,” which kicks off next month. “Shark After Dark,” produced by Embassy Row and Green Mountain West (the production banner run by “Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson), will air at 11 p.m. and offer a a comedic spin to shark fare along with a rehashing of the day’s programming.

“It’s shameful that the shark demographic has been neglected for so long by late night TV,” said Ferguson, who is exec producing. “I’m delighted to be making a show that combines comedy, witty chat and ferocious biting predators.”

“Shark After Dark” joins a slew of other aftershows that aim to extend TV shows beyond their typical hourlong timeslots, and transform them into mini franchises, of sorts.

MTV launched umbrella series “The After Show” to complement its docuseries several years ago, and “The After Show” has since become a mainstay add-on to MTV’s most popular reality programs, including “The Hills,” “The Real World,” and “Jersey Shore.”

But it was “Talking Dead” that brought the concept of an aftershow to new heights, as viewers stuck around on AMC after “The Walking Dead” ended each Sunday night to watch host Chris Hardwick and a panel of guests dissect each episode of the zombie drama. Since “Talking Dead” is live, the program is able to integrate social media responses from viewers with ease into the conversation, leveraging multiple platforms at once.

AMC recently extended “Talking Dead” from a halfhour to a full hour, a testament to the show’s success — in April, it poured over the five million viewer mark, a sizable percentage of “Walking Dead’s” massive viewership. Cable net also ordered an aftershow for the final season of “Breaking Bad” — titled “Talking Bad” — that will likely driving solid ratings as its sibling aftershow does.

Other nets are in the aftershow biz, as well. Bravo’s latenight talkshow “Watch What Happens Live,” which initially began online, has helped springboard Bravo exec Andy Cohen’s on-air career, as he and celeb guests riff on content featured on Bravo’s primetime lineup. And Tru TV recently announced an aftershow for “Impractical Jokers,” dubbed “Jokers After Party,” that will offer a behind-the-scenes look at each episode’s mishaps. The digital space additionally offers a vast array of web and podcast aftershows, hosted by fans and pros alike, devoted to analyzing cult fave programming.

Do all of these programs call for aftershows on broadcast TV?

In the case of “Talking Dead,” the AMC aftershow performs so well with auds because its parent program, “Walking Dead,” calls for considerable water cooler talk in order to make sense of the show’s layered plot lines and character evolutions.

Does “Impractical Jokers,” or even “Shark Week,” really warrant such follow up content?

Not really, but the aftershows do offer their respective nets a way to plug low cost, original content with an existing brand into a timeslot that would otherwise be filled with reruns, or possibly even infomercials.

But, like most trends in TV, this one could get run into the ground. Are we that far off from aftershows that hail from programs like “Duck Dynasty” or “Suits”? (And why hasn’t HBO concocted an aftershow for “Game of Thrones”? Seriously!) As more networks jump on the bandwagon, they’ll best be served by considering whether a series truly calls for post-show discussion, lest their brand extension be less aftershow and more afterthought.