Jay Leno’s Prime Time Show Experiment Flops

I am glad I am not the only one thinking this, but yet my initial reaction was “why are they recreating his incarnation of the Tonight Show an hour earlier?”. Ugh. The same old slow humor? The jokes you really have to stretch, strain and reach for? More not really funny headlines? More lame monologue jokes? Ugh…Click-Off, delete from DVR.

mid century modern house overlook california jay leno show set

this would be a more appropriate set for a late night show from California

I’m not of the prime Jay Leno age audience (I’m 33) but I am pretty sure that the people who collectively voted Jay Leno into office on the Tonight show many years ago are 55+ now and not looking for change. That must be why this is the exact same show, with the same band, the same lame bits and a new set. And the Oprah bit was kind of lame and the CGI used for the TV in the picture looked really fake. And they need a fireplace or something behind the 2 chairs on the stage to make it more like a comfy living room conversation and less like some window to Hollywood lights on that ridiculous over the top backdrop. How about a view of the Ocean? The beautiful scenic cliffs overlooking the ocean in one of those all glass mid-century modern houses would be a cool look.

I think we yearn for something fresh and new and look to see Jay do something unscripted for once. I actually kind of liked the way he was asking Kanye some tough interview questions like Diane Sawyer would do or Charles Gibson.  (although the one about Kanye’s mom was below the belt)  I also enjoyed the car wash sing and dance number for its impromptu serenading of an unsuspecting (or maybe not) girl at the car wash. (although the sex jokes in the song were a bit too much at that hour).

I think we want to see something outside the realm of a studio scripted variety show and more of an impromptu (reality based?) type of variety show. And let things happen as they may when set up for some kind of interaction on stage. Jay is actually funny on an improv basis when NBC lets him. I think we want to see more of Jay’s actual personality. We know little about him that is real and compelling because he has been behind all these writers for all these years. We’d like to get to know him better as a person and a presenter on this show, and it doesn’t have to be all comedy bits all the time. Think about what the variety/chat  show could be when you open up the boundaries.

I would like to see a little more Jonathan Ross and Jeremy Clarkson and that Parkinson guy style in the UK influence on this show, since it’s no longer late night. (with or without a 3 walled green room) Be silly, be open, interact with the audience, run around outside the studio, bring new people in as writers, with an improv background. And interact with people online about the show and take the online interaction into the show itself. Think more Ellen and less Oprah. Think more Jon Stewart and less Rod Stewart. More Letterman ok less Letterman… you get the picture…

And my biggest pet peeve: Where was the star in the reasonably priced car segment? With the tricked out battery-powered Ford Focus? I pretty much tuned in just for that because I am such a Top Gear UK  nut and they did not use that in the show at all. (when they did show it later in the season it sucked, because the track was too small, too slow and too dumb with obstacles)

I think they could bring back Jerry Seinfeld more often for reoccurring appearances if they would let them genuinely show off their friendship and allow them to do segments where they do stuff they genuinely enjoy together as friends. Why not do a road trip challenge ala Top Gear with Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Tim Allen? Three baby boomer car guys with very different personalities. I think there was a bad Disney movie about that, but reality is far funnier and they would have to drive their own cars.

I think there are limitless possibilities to where Jay’s show could go, but recreating the same tired format and segments is so limiting and will lose steam fast. A lot of people were relieved when it ended, looking for Jay to do something more fresh, new, funny and clever.  Let him evolve this show and turn it into something new that people will be fascinated with again. Being risk averse is easy and challenging the safe route will push TV and the show further into new funny territory. At least go see the groundlings improv and see what kinds of ideas some new writing people would have for the show. You never know, you might like it.

(seeing how Jay Leno recycled jokes from his show as the host of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2010 I now believe that all his writers should be fired and he should stop doing comedy if he wants to phone it in. There are too many other funny people who should be there instead)

2009 Super Bowl Ads Commercials Selling Fast on NBC

super bowl 2009 tampa bay florida game logo XLIII

super bowl 2009 tampa bay florida game logo XLIII

It’s that time of year again when the first rumblings of the next year’s super bowl advertisers come out. (for super bowl 43) I think the companies just ask that their info be released this early to start the buzz cycle and get more mileage out of the media buy. There really isn’t any other reason to release the advertiser names now in September when the ads aren’t even finished yet.

They say the 30 second ad spots are selling for $3 Million dollars each. That is the going rate for a direct sales pitch into 88 million homes and TV sets all at the same time. (when are they going to start webcasting the game and the ads all together like a second delivery system of the same signal? why wouldn’t that work?) Advertisers that actually get a positive ROI from that kind of heavy hitting creative investment are wide appeal mass market companies that have products that are either seasonal at that time of year or products that relate to sports watchers or families watching at home.  Products like snacks, drinks, beer and cars have long been popular categories for Super Bowl Ads.

This year some of the confirmed advertisers are Pepsi and CocaCola, Anheuser-Bush, and a bunch of un-named Automotive, Movie and snack companies. Doritos have done really well the past few years and I wonder if they will plunge in again. I think the trend may be finally waning in the internet sites do ads category since few of them have that kind of money laying around anymore and/or need the visibility.

The timing of your ad during the Super Bowl Game is also crucial. The good spots are probably taken already in Q1 and Q3. Q2 gets boring because people have been sitting a while and just want halftime to start so they can use the bathroom and Q4 may be less well watched if the game isn’t almost tied the whole time. Many people just turn it off when the game is a blowout. The ends of pods are also bad because it just leads back into the game and consumers forget the ad pretty quickly. Being first in a pod is best since people have been proven to remember things in chunks and the beginning and end are usually the chunks they remember most.

Sometimes companies get their ads in at the last moment when 1 or 2 ads are left a week or two before the Super Bowl Game but this may not be available this year if companies are paying 300K more per ad willingly and forking over the money (or deposit) this early in the year. I think that marketers are realizing that in a fragmented market you have to be as prominent on every screen as possible to stay top of mind and above the chatter that gets tuned out. But ad placement is only 1/2 of the strategy. The other half is really the most important. It is really about relevance and humor. If you can make your product funny in a way that real people identify with personally, you have a winner and get all the chatter at the watercooler the next day.

Official News: TopGear USA on NBC confirmed

topgear usa, adam corolla, gear, NBC, BBCSee more info on Jalopnik here. Apparently TopGear (or Gear) as they call it here will be coming to the US with Adam Corolla after all. I am not sure when though. You would expect someone like me to be crazy go nuts for this right now but I have to admit I look at NBC remaking this EPIC series with a bit of skepticism. I find that it is hard to remake a series that was a mix of personalities more than content. It relies heavily on who they choose and even if you get exact replicas of James, Jeremy and Richard there is no guarantee that they will get along in the same manner. Even if it is partially scripted (GASP!). Anyway I guess we will have to hang out watching our old episodes of TG UK on DVD all summer and wait this out to see if the TG UK season 11 and the TG USA season 1 have legs this fall. (they seem to have copied at least the TG hairstyles from this picture)

TopGear USA Names New Host Adam Corolla

adam corolla, topgear USA, Gear, NBC, host, presenter, newAs Jalopnik reported last week Adam Corolla has been named the first host of TopGear USA in it’s newest iteration of GEAR on NBC in 2009. (per an announcement on his radio show and some pix with TG cars, see K Nob left.) I have read all kinds of mixed reviews online and heard people’s opinions on this pick and here are my thoughts to add to the fray:

1. I don’t know Adam Corolla from a bag of rocks but a lot of people seem to know him from The Man Show and they seem to think he is funny and willing to get shoved in frozen lake for a laugh. (which sinefeld and leno wouldn’t do) This is encouraging. He doesn’t have a persona that is so well known it is career limiting (being typecast) yet people are pretty sure he can do (or has done) Improv in his day and has some snark. This was a big qualifier for this job. I am sure they did some pilot episode recording or something to compare the candidates on film (per Richard Hammond’s book where he mentions his interview & audition) and I bet Adam probably does ok in the snark category. (he also seems to do well in the 1991 wardrobe category) This is probably the most important part of the selection process.

2. Many people seem to be up in arms about the TopGear USA show needing to be an exact replica of the TG UK show down to the exact personality traits of each host. (presenter) They say they need an overbearing stubborn tall guy, and an emotional and hyper short guy and a long haired geeky guy. This couldn’t be more wrong. You need some great personalities, some strong opinions and some great improv and mucking about to make a great show. You can’t re-create the actual people and their attitudes over here that Jeremy, Richard and James have in real life. That would be monkey-stupid and not at all viable. The mix should be diverse but the personalities all will be different.

2.5 I have also read that people think Adam Corolla doesn’t have a car background. He must have some car knowledge though or else they wouldn’t have selected him. I would guess that you would have to have all of the following skills to host: know how to drive a manual transmission well enough to talk to the camera and drive at the same time, know some basic autocross skills for the lap times and tests, be familiar with fancy and race type cars so that you know how to power slide and such. I would also hope the person genuinely enjoyed power sliding and pushing a car’s limits. I think a lot of the technical things that Jeremy, James and Richard say are discussed with the producers and prep people of TG to give them some topline analysis from the team of research geeks behind the scenes. Hopefully NBC’s GEAR will have a team of car geeks behind the scenes too.

3. Some people are complaining that the show will be all about NASCAR and that will suck ass. Yes, that would technically suck ass if it happened, but I think the show will have diverse talent and diverse activities all around the different car type groups. (Imports, Domestics, Pony Cars, Muscle Cars, Roadsters, Trucks, Minvans, SUVs, Street Racing Mods, Low Riders, Classics, Really old Classics, Classics with wooden wheels, Green Ecological leaf-eating Cars, Exotics and Supercars. And hopefully there will be some fun crossover with the auto racing sports in this country Indy, CART, NASCAR, Funny Cars, F1, Unlimited Fuel Dragsters, Autocross, Sprints, and Demolition Derbys at the county fair. (please use the last one I beg you) The content is usually based on a couple things:

    A. Supercars awe inspire us all, so cover as many of those as possible and make the editing and camera work turn it into car pron. This keeps the 10-50 yr old boys happy, and the beauty of the cars even makes it interesting to some of us women. We also enjoy the speed.

    B. People need practical every day cars reviewed in a non-sleep inducing non-autoweek way. This means everything from the YuGo to the Mercs. (by merc I mean Mercedes not Mercury, I can’t believe I just said that) I can’t believe MOTORweek is still on TV. I want to shoot my television when I run across that show accidentally.

    C. Challenges building things and Road Trips through other countries are the comedy and entertainment portion of the program. Do the ridiculous, seriously. Do the serious, ridiculously. And please Fork it up in ways we never thought possible. The only difference here is that it should require less passport use in the USA. Route 66 anyone? Highway 1 PCH?

    D. Weird sometimes stupid stunts. Jumping minivans and seeing how long a car runs with all the coolant drained out of it. endurance, destruction and general stunt-ness is needed here. These segments are short on time and long suspense and hopefully provide either humor or carnage or both. (ala the car chases in the blues brothers movie)

    E. The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment. It allows the BBC to make some marketing money and it gives us some interesting non-car related person in an autocross race situation. This either ends up being impressive or rediculous, it works great either way. I recommend a Chevy Malibu as the car here. It’s so average it hurts. It will also be painful seeing George Clooney actually sit in one instead of the fancy schmantsy things he is used to.

But the question I want answered that no one was asking is: Did Adam Corolla get the job just because he was named after a cheap econo-box Japanese car? If so it’s a really bad pun, and I wouldn’t mention it. I think using the corolla as the reasonably priced car is out too.

Also read about the interview with Adam Corolla and my suggestions for the show here.

Also, I am a little baffled that this got ranked #1 on a TopGear USA search in Google. I am not sure how that happened. This blog isn’t really that great, except possibly when I write about TG or Marketing. Anyway, if for some reason you officially want to contact me about what I write here, you can through my other blog here. My stats say that about 50 people a day are looking for TG USA info and come here. I hope that is enough for NBC’s to keep the show on air this fall.

New Quarterlife TV Show on NBC ROCKS!

I have been reading for months about this new show Quarterlife and how because of the writer’s strike, it got a shot at airing on network TV when it had only been an online show before that point. I ran into the Quarterlife show the other night on TV by accident and thought I would check it out. I was surprised that despite being 32, and not the target of the show, I really liked it. I specifically remember being 25 and having a quarterlife crisis (term coined by John Mayer in a song) and going through some things with being on my own for the first time, with my first job, dating woes and dealing with being a full on adult for the first time. Plus leaving all childhood frivolousness behind is a somewhat scary thing. No more silly stuff? No more hip clothes? Will I just be a boring blah worker that never gets anywhere? All my friends too had these thoughts.

I found that the show Quarterlife represented these feelings pretty accurately. The content of the show was very genuine and right on for that age group and I watched earnestly remembering that time in my life. I thought it was funny and clever and very dramatic and true all at the same time.

they were open and honest about everything from sex to work to relationships and I found it refreshing, although the show moves at a very fast pace. I had to speed up my brain just to keep up with all the cuts to different angles and fast dialogue. Quarterlife does seem very real though and the actors are pretty good. (although one girl that blogs is reeeeaaallllyyy overacting)

Then I saw online that people were calling it a failure because it only had 3.9 million viewers. I don’t know if that is really bad since I saw no online or offline campaign promoting it and I am online all over the place. How would that 20-30 yr crowd that doesn’t watch TV know it was going to be on? Did they do any WOM marketing? Duh? if you don’t invite them and tell them it’s coming no one will show up.

I think this show has all the elements of a West Wing for the Millenials but about personal politics rather than national politics. I think it should stay on the air and they should give it some marketing boost, and maybe a tripod to anchor the camera better in some situations. Anyway, I just thought it was important to say that I watched the show and I liked it a lot and it should stay on air at NBC and online.

I know that the commerical spots were sold with X amount of audience guaranteed and if they miss that point the network has to refund or give away more free ads to compensate for it. But maybe this show was not positioned right, promoted right or sold right by the network. I thing the writers, actors and developers of the show did a great job and the show may get shuffled around, but should certainly stay on the air.

TopGear USA Version 2 with NBC BBC Partnership

According to this news article NBC has contracted with the BBC to produce a USA version of TopGear for network free tv. No estimates on when it would launch but I would guess Fall of 2008. It is sad though that I think they may miss the mark. A lot of funny TopGear stuff is not suitable for US TV let alone would pass the network censors.

Anyway, I did get some hope when I suggested a few months ago that TopGear should hold open auditions for the 3 presenter spots when launching a new show in a new country because you can more accurately find talent that is in touch with what is funny and new with cars. Plus its a huge PR event to get the public involved.

Anyway the TopGear Australian franchise took my advice (or thought of it too) and has open auditions scheduled. Go Aussies! Bring us some Holden goodness.

Another Word of advice: for an unscripted but not a reality show, you need people with a background in Improv and Cars. Or a smart ass who knows cars, or an improv funny guy who knows nothing about cars and gets to be the new captain slow. And these presenters have to have strong opinions about cars for it to clash in a funny way. Who knows. But improv training and quick wit is a big part of the equation. Exploiting your lack of knowledge for comedy can be just as funny as knowing a lot.

So, what I want to know is where do I sign up? You could very easily use a girl in the mix right?

The other part of the successful mix is not chopping it into small pieces with commercials every 5 minutes and not ruining it with dumb stunts like fear factor. I hate fear factor but love TopGear. If you put anything like FF on TG I will hunt you down and hang you by your toenails. It’s supposed to be about humor in car culture and in every day life. Heck, get the Jalopnik guys. They know the cult of cars as good as anyone I know.

My brother just replied to my email I sent alerting him to this and suggested that Jay Leno or Tim Allen host but I really think they need presenters who are unknown and from improv. Jay Leno and Tim Allen are great funny car guys, but they are too attached to other brands and images. And they aren’t a Jeremy Clarkson. Plus how are you going to get through traffic on the 405 with filming big stars anyway? Would either of those guys put on a wet suit and try to windsurf in freezing cold water? And be ok with failing miserably in freezing cold water? You also need unknown people so you don’t attract too much attenton filming in the city as these challenges are happening.

On a side note about the show content, they need to visit all the racing and car history places along the way going cross country as they film different challenges. (think INDY) They go across entire countries in a day on UK TopGear but in the US it would be states instead. At least you don’t need a passport. And we need an American cousin Stig that actually fits in the car this time. Not all Americans are that fat.

Anyway, my lack of time for this post is probably evident in it’s lack of  structure, grammar and spelling, but you get the point: NBC/BBC: Don’t FORK this up!

And my brother just emailed again saying he still wants Tim Allen to host with 2 unknown but funny/smart side kicks. Ok, we can compromise on that, but no denim shirts and grunting this time ok? That’s so 1990’s. Ugh. 

Another idea; Why not Ze Frank? he singlehandedly entertained us on the internet for a year and might be perfect for this kind of non scripted show. Check out the show http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/ and his TED talk from a few years ago if you have a minute. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/87  I have been wondering what he has been up to and missing his show anyway. Maybe this would be a good opportunity for him. Hey Studio people, give Ze a call!

 Update: The first TopGear USA NBC host has been chosen: Adam Corola.

Top Popular TV Shows by Ratings November 2007

television, TV, showsEvery once in a while I like to check in on TV ratings and see what the most people are watching these days. My tastes don’t seem to be the same as the general public, but it’s interesting to see what they’re into even if it’s shows I would rather get a root canal than watch. This is how the list looks for the top 30 TV shows on network free TV in the past week (from the media week daily programming insider email)

What I think is surprising is that this list doesn’t look all that different than it did a year ago, or even 2 years ago. Last year Heroes was doing better but that is about it. Statistically we are still pretty much watching the same shows in 2007 that we were in 2005.  (yes, football got shifted around a bit in the mix, and “Samantha Who?” is new but that’s not a lot of change in 2 years)

Is it also just a little amazing that something like Charlie Brown still holds the attention of viewers after all these years? It’s nice to see something traditional on TV actually get some viewers.

Only 1 freshman series on the list. I guess there really weren’t many winners from this year’s new shows, so the writer’s strike could have started a whole lot earlier.

And how does 60 minutes keep drawing in an audience? I watch that and think it’s a show for old people, by old people. (and really bushy eyebrows) But then again only about 25% of our country is high school age or younger, (although it’s 1/3 of our lifespan) so maybe that isn’t such a bad demographic to pursue.

8 shows are Crime Dramas and 8 are reality shows. Except for Dancing with the Stars (which is almost a variety show) I could see all of them dropped and not miss them.

The rest: 5 dramas, 3 comedy and 3 sports. I am really surprised that Football is doing so well on Saturday and Sunday nights. Traditionally people are out of the house on Saturday night and TV ratings (much like internet traffic) is at it’s lowest point of the week so for any Saturday Night show to be on this list is amazing.

Top 30 Network Shows – Ranking by Total Viewers:

1. Dancing With the Stars – Monday (ABC: 22.85 million)
2. Sunday Night Football (NBC Philadelphia at New England: 21.81)
3. Dancing With the Stars – Tuesday (ABC: 20.96)
4. Desperate Housewives (ABC: 18.64)
5. NCIS (CBS: 17.34)
6. House (Fox: 16.89)
7. 60 Minutes (CBS: 16.13)
8. Criminal Minds (CBS: 15.88)
9. CSI: Miami (CBS: 15.83)
10. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC: 15.03)
11. CSI (CBS: 14.75)
12. CSI: NY (CBS: 14.56)
13. Samantha Who? (ABC: 14.38)
14. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC: 14.11)
15. Two and a Half Men (CBS: 13.91)
16. Cold Case (CBS: 12.98)
17. Sunday Night Football (NBC : 12.91)
18. The Bachelor: After the Final Rose (ABC: 12.30)
19. Brothers & Sisters (ABC: 12.25)
20. Without a Trace (CBS: 12.21)
21. The Amazing Race 12 (CBS: 11.80)
22. Law & Order: SVU (NBC: 11.69)
23. Survivor: China (CBS, clips show: 11.58)
24. Rules of Engagement (CBS: 11.48)
25. The Bachelor (ABC: 11.22)
26. Saturday Night Football (ABC: 10.96)
27. Heroes (NBC: 10.80)
28. The Unit (CBS: 10.76)
29. He’s a Bully Charlie, Brown (ABC: 10.42)
30. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC, Sun. 7 p.m: 10.37)