What is it going to take for TBS (or any other Basic Cable channel) to get a little respect?
I watched the premiere week of Conan and thought it was fine and exactly what I expected (which is a slight disappointment, right?). (Also, why was it on at 10pm on DirecTV when every advertisement in the world says 11pm?… but I digress.)
The one thing that did stand out was the constant bashing of TBS and Basic Cable in general (I know it is a joke, I get it – I also got it in 1985 when the Basic Cable jokes started). But times have changed.
I was a proponent of Conan leaving NBC and for Jeff Zucker to be fired for many MANY reasons (including the handling of the Jay/Conan affair and for having anything to do with Ben Silverman. Please, someone wash everything Ben touched, it’s filthy!).
But, I must say, I’m disappointed with the way Conan has handled the transition to TBS. It was a very difficult decision, I’m sure, but why bash your new home?
Why is Basic Cable still struggling for any sort of respect?
It’s all very reminiscent of the scene from “Goodfellas” with Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) in the bar. Imagine Billy Batts is the “Broadcast Networks” and Tommy DeVito is “Basic Cable”:
Broadcast Networks: What?
Basic Cable: I said, no more shines. Maybe you didn’t hear about it, you’ve been away a long time. I don’t shine shoes anymore.
Broadcast Networks: Relax, will ya? Ya flip out, what’s got into you? I’m breaking your balls a little bit, that’s all. I’m only kidding with ya…
Basic Cable: Sometimes you don’t sound like you’re kidding, you know, there’s a lotta people around…
Broadcast Networks: I’m only kidding with you. I’m breaking your balls, and you’re getting fucking fresh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.
Basic Cable: I’m sorry, too. It’s okay. No problem.
Broadcast Networks: Now go home and get your fuckin’ shinebox!
Basic Cable: Mother fuckin’ mutt! You fucking piece of shit!
If you remember the movie, Tommy then kicked and stabbed Billy about a thousand times, threw him in the trunk of his car and buried him in some disgusting pit. I’m not saying Basic Cable will completely bury the Broadcast Networks – but it seems to be headed that general direction – so Broadcast Networks had better cut it out with the “shinebox attitude”.
And seriously, to watch Conan, you would think the year is 1985 and the only programming on TBS was really bad VHS copies of really bad 1970s movies and a few Body By Jake infommercials.
So how about a little respect, Conan? I know you’re only getting $10 million from that suckass TBS that gives you “no budget” (other than a very large one) but come on!
And are you taping this show from some local station in Palmdale or in a very nice soundstage on a very nice Burbank studio lot? And do you have one blimp to promote your show or zero blimps?
And the last I checked, Mad Men on AMC (Basic Cable) won the Emmy for Best Drama; TBS just paid upwards of $2 million/episode for Big Bang Theory (among others); and the ACE Awards (which was a popular punchline for comedians about FIFTEEN YEARS AGO) haven’t been on the air for FIFTEEN YEARS!
I would also argue that with its scripted reruns and movies, TBS and the other top Basic Cable Channels have better daytime programming than any of the Broadcast Station Groups (unless you like Judge shows) and the primetime lineups are equally as creative and catching up in the ratings.
In fact, Broadcast Networks are deep into the 5 Stages of Grief from “On Death and Dying” – and they have been in denial about Basic Cable for years. Retrans is one final pathetic attempt to stay competitive.
So, Conan, I’m sorry you are stuck on lowly TBS when all your life you dreamed of being on NBC (now worth negative $690 million on NBC Universal’s balance sheet) – but the truth is, in today’s media environment, it’s not which channel you are on but the programming you produce.
Remember, even a show shot in a shack in Palmdale can be relevant (and widely seen) today.
Jill Kennedy – OnMedea
P.S. – Why doesn’t anyone ever bash MTV for being “Basic Cable”? Just wondering.