Even five years ago, the primetime Saturday schedule on the Big Three broadcast networks was a dumping ground for minor sports events and canceled television shows. Saturdays had become a self-fulfilling ratings wasteland for the networks. Low ratings meant it didn't make sense to air new scripted programming. But without regular new programming, viewers had even less incentive to tune in.
In recent years, there have been some bright-ish spots, with NBC finding some success with vintage edited episodes of "Saturday Night Live" and CBS cranking out new episodes of its true crime-oriented "48 Hours." And there have been several recent efforts to air lower budgeted original shows that are either co-productions or acquired from overseas. Still, that's all a long way from creating a buzzworthy original show on a tight budget.
Each network has its own strengths, but if I were running CBS, I'd look into creating an hour-long highlights show for the 8:00 p.m. ET timeslot called some variation of "CBS This Week." The show could be a mix of clips, cheap original segments and a fun tease or two from the upcoming week's programs.
The show could be built around these segments:
* A "this week's political jokes segment" featuring Colbert & Corden monologue jokes.
* An original "This is the Week That Was" tune similar to the ones done by Jonathan Coulton each week for "Braindead." This would focus more on current events, but could include a CBS program reference or two as well.
* An outtake or two from a CBS episode that aired earlier in the week.
* A compilation of clips featuring kids doing an impression of a line of dialogue from one of the network's remaining daytime shows.
* A video collage of CBS clips from the previous week's episodes. While you could just quickly slap the highlights together, there are some clever ways to edit them which would make the collage seem more like original programming.
* A live musical performance featuring an up-and-coming artist, ideally someone hitting the charts that week.
* A "You Won't Believe This" moment from that week's "The Price Is Right" and/or "Let's Make A Deal."
* A memorable clip from an episode airing in the coming week on CBS. The twist is that the show's host would be edited awkwardly into the clip, replacing one of the actors. Similar to what's done in this clip featuring footage from an "Airwolf" episode.
These are just a few of the content options available. But the overall idea is to both promote the CBS brand while inexpensively creating some original video that can have a viral life of its own.
One of the biggest decisions to make about this show centers around the ideal host. The temptation is to just get some ensemble actor from a CBS show to host. Or hire whomever the networks hires when Steve Harvey and Mario Lopez are busy. In most cases, that's the easy decision, but it usually leads to having someone host the show who is just there to punch a clock. For a new idea like this, you are better off hiring a little-known actor. Someone who has the chops to do the comedy segments of the show without coming off jaded or bored. A talented actor/comedian like Second City's Eddie Mujica,
Regardless. "CBS This Week" could be a lot of fun. It builds on the CBS brand and it is also a way to fill an hour of primetime television with the equivalent of a very entertaining advertorial.