Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

Post by: Rick Ellis 13 October, 2021

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Wednesday, October 13th, 2021. I'm writing this from the Twin Cities, where AllYourScreens HQ is staring about six hours of interviews I need to transcribe.

Unless you're a regular viewer of the long-running CBS drama NCIS, you might not have realized that Monday marked a momentous moment in the show's history. Star Mark Harmon, whose Leroy Jethro Gibbs was the core of the show, exited after more than 18 seasons. 

<If you'd like to read more about the episode, check out my recap of the event>

In an earlier time, the exit of someone after 18 years - especially an actor who is the face of the show - would be a massive entertainment news event. Multiple hot takes and interviews, looks back at his time on the show. Maybe a piece on Harmon's pre-NCIS TV career and the inevitable "then and now" flashback articles. And yet, there was very little coverage of the episodes, certainly not much more than the typical "special" episode of any popular broadcast television show would generate. It was an astoundingly anti-climactic end to a run on television that really deserved to be celebrated.

I think a couple of things were at play here. First is that Harmon is notoriously uninterested in doing interviews. Which is a shame, because he is a gifted actor who has an impressively diverse career. Honestly, Harmon is that the top of my interview bucket list. Which is depressing, given the unlikely chances that it will ever happen.

But it has always felt as if there is a lot of institutional reluctance at CBS to push for press coverage of the show. The series has been a top-rated program for its entire nearly two-decade run and I get the impression that for the most part, network publicists feel that most TV critics don't watch the show and don't feel a connection to it. So most of the time, when you see coverage of NCIS, it's around "event" programming and it is almost always in the trade publications and the few remaining entertainment print publications.

To be fair, that characterization of TV critics and the show is not inaccurate. I have frequently been told by critics that they don't cover the show on a regular basis because it doesn't get the same buzz from readers as they would get from another piece about a hip, buzzy show such as Succession. I have no way of knowing how accurate that belief might be for anyone else. I can say that for several years, I wrote recaps of NCIS and those pieces were wildly popular with my readers. And because the episodes are constantly airing or being streamed somewhere, the episodic recaps continue to draw steady traffic for years after they've been posted. But it is true that generally speaking, most outlets don't consider NCIS a priority and most critics haven't been watching the show on a regular basis.

I am surprised that no one at Paramount+ bothered to capitalize on the exit of Gibbs. The streaming service did run some spots noting that every episode of the show is available on Paramount+. But it would have been very easy to curate some episodes into a "Best of Gibbs" list of pivotal episodes. It's not a big thing on the face of it. But among the many problems with Paramount+ is that it has a tendency to just dump content on the service without any curation or context. It's just one of those little things that helps a streaming service feel vibrant and worth the monthly subscription fee.

Patrick Brzeski has a very enlightening interview with Minyoung Kim, VP of Content for Netflix Asia Pacific. As you might expect, a lot of the interview centers around the unexpected success of Squid Games:

So, when it first launched, it seemed to be getting a lot of attention from our members, but Korean content tends to be pretty popular. So we just said, “Oh, OK, this is another one of our successes. That’s awesome.” We’ve had Kingdom, Sweet Home and others that have also done really well.

But then internally I started getting messages from my colleagues from all over the world — L.A., London, other places — saying they loved the show. So, I thought, ‘Hmm, my colleagues must genuinely be really liking this, because you have to really enjoy something to bother writing an email and reaching out like that.’ But they’re my colleagues, and of course they have their eyes on what Netflix shows are out there, right?

But then I started seeing more and more posts on Instagram and TikTok. And then I watched as Ho-yeon Jung’s Instagram following grew from 400,000 to over 14 million in less than a month. And even on LinkedIn, most of my whole feed started to be about Squid Game, which is really rare.

And I thought this paragraph was pretty interesting:

Squid Game, or ojingeo in Korean, is a real kids’ game here, but not all Koreans actually know it. My generation knows it, but my niece’s generation probably wouldn’t. So, initially, we knew we wanted this show to travel but we were worried the title Squid Game wouldn’t resonate because not many people would get it. So we went with the title Round Six instead, wanting it to be more general and helpful for telling people what the show is about — there are six rounds to the game. But, later, director Hwang [Dong-hyuk] suggested that maybe we should go back to Squid Game, because it’s a unique show and this game is the essence. I think the more authentic title has actually played really well. The title, Squid Game, together with the eye-catching artwork, really capture interest within our service — especially for audiences who have never watched a Korean show before but are looking for fun things to watch

In last Friday's newsletter, I wrote a bit about Bobby Flay and his probably exit from the Food Network. This is part of what I reported on the time:

It doesn't take much reading between the lines to realize the story is coming from the Food Network side and that was confirmed by someone familiar with Flay's team and their take on the negotiations who reached out to me early Friday morning:

"What the Variety piece fails to mention is the main sticking point isn't financial. It's that the network wants to expand the scope of their 360 deal. The current offer obligated Bobby to participate in a wide range of activities unrelated to his core TV role, including new content for Food Network Kitchen and other digital projects. Bobby doesn't need to do this stuff at this point in his career. In fact, it's a bit of an insult to expect him to do it. He appreciates everything the network has done for him. But he also feels he has done a lot for the Food Network and that isn't being appreciated or acknowledged in their last (and we were told final) offer."

Today there was an update to the story in People Magazine and the headline focused on Flay's reported request for a $100 million deal. But buried towards the middle of the story were these paragraphs, which aren't all that different than what I was reporting last week. The difference is that in this case, the info is coming from the Food Network side and they are predictably glassing over some of what they are asking from Flay:

"Guy has a three-year deal," they add. "The terms of what Bobby was looking for were gravely different than just cash. The terms were longer, the scope of work was different and thus the dollars were different. It's not just $80 million to $100 million."

Ultimately, the network wouldn't budge in negotiations with Flay. "The two sides were just way too far apart. It became clear the two could not and would not be able to come to terms and so the network decided to move forward without him," the Flay source says. "Regardless, it was really much more amicable than you'd think. It was strictly business."

As I mentioned in my original piece, a big part of the sticking point is that Flay is apparently unwilling to do a lot of the grunt work that the Food Network considers essential in this digital age. He's not interested in live segments on the Food Kitchen app or spending time doing events or PR appearances. Flay is a chef first and he considers all of that stuff a distraction. That being said, he also thinks he should make as much money as anyone else on the network. Which is problematical, given that he doesn't want to do as much to earn it.


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Last modified on Wednesday, 13 October 2021 00:23