Friday, October 26, 2018

"Old And New"

They could not be more diametrically opposite.

Or could they?

Of all the original television networks, CBS is accurately recognized for attracting an older demographic.  Years ago, in a memorable “Top Ten” segment parodying television’s upcoming “Premier Week”, the needling slogan David Letterman announced to attract younger viewers to CBS was,

“Your grandparents like us. Why don’t you?”

Letterman – or, more specifically, his team of subversive jokemeisters – had hit the proverbial nail right on the noggin.

That was exactly CBS’sproblem.  Old people liked them.  Young people had no idea where they were on the dial.  (Thereby “outing” myself, using the word “dial.”)

Yes, CBS regularly accumulated the highest overall ratings, but that viewership was invariably older, meaning, though the numbers were larger, they did not attract the advertising revenues that networks with smaller but younger-skewing viewership were annually able to rake in.

That is simply the way it works.

Advertisers pay less for shows favored by older audiences.  Why?  Because they believe that, in terms of “purchasing flexibility”, older viewers continue buying the same products, while the less set-in-their-ways younger audience is flexibly available and therefore conditionable to become set-in-their-ways for a longer period of time.  (Because they will not die quite as soon.)

The challenging question is, “How do you successfully make the transition?”
This is the same conundrum I experienced at the “20 Visits Or More” brainstorming session recently at Rancho La Puerta.  The Ranch’s marketing department insisted the Ranch administrators “Think Younger”, even though nobody younger was showing up.  As a result, rather than accommodating the changing needs of their aging clientele that wascoming, they blithely dismiss those specialized needs, leading the Senior visitors to stop coming, although, to date, the replacement younger crowd has shown no detectable interest in filling the consequent vacancies.

“Let’s focus on the people who aren’t coming, ignoring the needs of the people who are.”

Time will tell how that strategy works out.

Though a person can reasonably hazard a guess.

Okay, back to television.

Imagine you’re a CBS television executive.  (In mandatory “Business Attire.”)  And they send you home with an assignment:

“Think of ideas for shows that will not drive away our older audience but will attract a younger audience at the same time.”

“Ouch!” the beleaguered CBS television executive might respond, “My head hurts.”

“We can’t do old shows, because they suppress our ad revenues.  We can’t do new shows because our audience is old. 

“‘Old and new.’  Isn’t that all that there is?”


Someone decided, in a flash of incendiary insight.

“We’ll make new old shows!”

To which their boss, when they pitched that to them, said,


“We’ll schedule old shows. But we’ll make them brand new.”

“I don’t know what that means.  And on top of that, ‘Why?’”

“To attract younger viewers with the shows’ newness, while retaining older viewers with their oldness.”

How do you define “Desperate”?  (And creatively bankrupt?)

See:  Two paragraphs above.

Although you have got to give these guys credit.  They put “new” and “old” in a blender and they came up with… 


That’s what we have now: 

“Nold Television.”

Which now dominates CBS’s 2018-19 lineup.

Hawaii Five-0.



Magnum P.I.

None of which are labeled “The New(INSERT “NOLD” SHOW TITLE OF YOUR CHOICE HERE.)”

They are promoted as if they were the same show.

Except they’re not the same show.  

Except they are the same show.

Except they’re not the same show.

Which is confusing.  (Not to mention repetitive.)

Especially if you remember the old show.

“What is this?”

“What are you watching?”

“I’m watching Magnum P.I.

“The one with Tom Selleck?”

“The one without Tom Selleck.”

Once, on a series called Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, I wrote an episode entitled “Fine Tuning”, in which, for a school science project, teenaged boys develop a television antenna that picks up shows from an alien planet, discovering in the process that that alien planet has “lifted” their shows’ formats from television series made here on Earth.  They had I Love Lucy, but the “Ricardos” are robots.

That’s what this feels like – a bizarre replication of familiar television series, now inhabited by strangers.  Its like you come home from school, your parents are there, but they are not the same people.

Time will tell how that strategy works out.

My guess?

The younger audience will dismissively give these modernized reboots a pass.

And the older audience? 

“I don’t know.  It’s the same theme song.  It’s the same car.  It’s the same Hawaii.  Why does it bother me?”

“‘Magnum’ got older?”

“No!  He got younger!”  

Saying, “It’s not the same” (“And what happened to the mustache?”), the departing Seniors eventually turn the show off, leaving CBS with nobody, and try once again to find Netflix.

1 comment:

JED said...

A couple of years ago, I remember you said that you heard there are only seven original storylines. I looked it up and a few people have said that. But there are also people who claim there are anywhere from 1 original story (Joseph Campbell and the Monomyth) to 36 dramatic situations (George Polti). If anyone is interested, here is someone else's blog post about this:

My point in bringing this up is that maybe CBS has decided that they've used them all so now they will start recycling them. The least they could do is change the titles!