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Pop Culture Obsessives at ‘A.V. Club’ Want to Broaden Membership With Jump to TV

The A.V. Club hopes to broaden its membership.

Fans of the site – a deliciously quirky and curious chronicler of popular culture – will get a chance to check it out in a new format Thursday at 9 p.m., when cable-network Fusion launches a weekly 30-episode series based on its sundry and meandering ruminations  Those explorations can include everything from an oral history of the oddball 1990 ABC musical cop drama “Cop Rock” to an interview with actress Beverly D’Angelo in which she discusses a lesser-known role in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.”

“We are going to try to go to a different corner of popular culture each week,” notes John Teti, editor at large for the outlet. A.V. Club is part of the company that publishes the cult-favorite satire outlet The Onion (in which Fusion’s parent, Univision Communications, acquired a minority stake in January of last year).  “I want to take you into the things you really love and show you what makes them tick a little bit, so you’ll love them even more.”

Teti, who says he was once a pinball aficionado, suggests the show’s goal is to do for viewers what seeing the innards of a favorite pinball machine did for him: “I saw the intricate, dense network of wires and switches and circuit boards and tunnels that went on underneath, and I was so moved by that,” he recalls.  Each week, the show will hold up a particular pop-culture phenomenon up to scrutiny. One week, “A.V. Club” will examine a resurgence in shows centered on African-American culture. In another, it will look at Nintendo’s Switch console. Twitter will get a spotlight in a third.

“I just want people to see pop culture, so they can love it a little more and they can express what they love about it, and we can have a better conversation,” says Teti, a former staffer on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show.”

For the corporate parent, more is at stake behind the scenes. “A.V. Club” will be the first series to debut on Fusion from a collection of digital brands Univision has acquired in recent months, including Jezebel, Jalopnik, The Root and Deadspin. The company wants to attempt to take the raison d’etre behind some of those digital outlets and use it to build new TV concepts.

“We now have a portfolio of 11 very strong digital brands, and I think if you look around the industry in general, there’s a move by digital brands to try to break into television,” said Daniel Eilemberg, president and chief content officer for Fusion in an interview in November. “We can bring these two things together in a very unique way.” Fusion aired an election special from the editors of The Onion last fall.

The TV program won’t be just like the digital edition, Teti says: “It’s foolish to try and map a web presence into a TV format.” But  the show is aimed at the same type of people who enjoy the original: passionate about “little cultural wormholes” in music, TV, movies, books and more.

True to that guiding principle, the TV version of the show probably won’t delve too deeply into subjects that don’t spark debate and curiosity. Members of the outlet’s staff will appear in its debut episode to discuss CBS’ venerable hit program “NCIS,” and ask why they don’t get more excited about it. “It’s the highest rated scripted show on TV right now, and we never talk about it,” says Teti. “It’s not like we are really biased against ‘NCIS,’ but as our TV Editor put it, there’s not a lot on that show that people want to think that deeply about, which is perfectly fine.”

Expect “A.V. Club” to tackle pop-culture topics big and small in the weeks ahead. “I like talking about stuff that a lot of people are talking about. It makes for a vibrant cultural conversation,” says Teti. “But we have to let our personal passions into the show.”

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