Ike Pigott had an interesting post today about Network television and their seeming ‘out of touchness’ with their audience’s viewing habits. Like Ike, I’ve wondered why evey late night talk show since the dawn of time has had the same formula – white guy behind a desk, celebrity guests, a music act, you know the drill. That’s why I was so excited for the Demetri Martin show, Important Things with Demetri Martin, on Comedy Central. Still a white guy, but just about everything else is different. Even more encouraging was the early ratings. How can late night comedy more accurately reflect their audiences and their viewing habits?
1. Lose the desk
Who lives like that? Who can relate to that? How about conducting an interview while playing pool or Xbox, or drinking a beer?
2. Lose the monologue
By the time 11:30 rolls around, I’ve already heard the jokes, scenes the YouTube clips and read the Tweets about the ‘news of the day’
3. Lose the white guy
Network programmers, I’d like to introduce you to some of my friends: Hispanics, Asians, Europeans, Southerners, women. Any chance one (or more) of them could be something other than a charicature on your show?
4. Lose the suits
Why is Jimmy Kimmel wearing a suit? How many of the viewers are wearing a suit while watching? Throw on your throwback Yaz Red Sox jersey, pull out the pizza box and flip through a pile of lad mags while interviewing some b-list celeb.
Ike also touches on the Network morning shows and their hoary formats. As Ike notes, how many people sit and watch the Today show, even for 10 minutes, without doing three or four other things simultaneously. During the time that the Today show is on the air, I’m: in bed, in the shower, in the kitchen, in the living room, in my car, walking, on a train and at my desk at work. Not many of those places give me access to a television, or even a computer.
So, here’s my suggestion for morning shows:
1. Utilize multiple distribution channels
- Simulcast the first hour on radio
- Have pre-produced video segments and interviews available via iTunes starting at 5am so I can download and take with me
2. Re-imagine your set
If people are watching at home, why not shoot from an actual house? The Today show is a cash cow, they can afford to buy a fancy Manhattan townhouse. Doing a cooking segment? Do it from a real kitchen. Talking finances? Have Jean Chatzky in the home office. Entertainment story? Do it from the living room. Make it a combination of The Real World and Big Brother. You can still do segments from the plaza, in fact, how great would it be if Ann Curry had to ‘leave the house’ to get to the plaza? You see her grabbing a quick english muffin and OJ from the Craft Services table on the way out the door.
Now, if you’re the Today show, and your are the industry leader you don’t have to make drastic changes like that. But what about the CBS Early Show? They have little to lose and could could position themselves as a truly different show that really connects with their audience. Could they even add a Columbia or NYU student to the cast? That would add an interesting and contemporary element.
This is a great time to experiment with new approaches. The last eight years seem distant and dated, a new, forward looking presence on television, both in late night and early morning, would be welcome.