Are We Heading For A Whole Lot Of Vanilla?

September 29, 2009 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

lenoIf you believe nearly every major entertainment publication on the newsstand right now, Jay Leno’s new show appearing nightly on NBC is the clearly ordained future of Television. And if that’s true, how sad is that?

That’s not an indictment of Jay Leno – the quality of his show is as good as it ever was. Let’s be honest, it’s “The Tonight Show” an hour and a half earlier. What it is an indictment of, is the notion that scripted shows cost too much and that the only way forward is a return back to where Television started in the early ‘50s when variety shows like “The Jack Benny Program” “Texaco Star Theatre” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show” were all there was to watch.

A number of cable networks – namely AMC and TNT – seem to be thriving with scripted fare. Yet, talk at the networks is all about reality shows and shows like Leno’s that comparatively, have very little overhead cost. The complaint is that new shows are expensive to develop and that with so many of them failing, the networks can’t always recoup their money. Understandable. But it’s hard to believe, with all the smarts and creativity in Hollywood, New York and in between, that killing off scripted fare is really the answer.

When you go to buy ice cream at the grocery store, each one has that giant tub of generic Vanilla that’s less expensive, still delicious and perfectly fine. But it’s perfectly fine because there’s also chocolate and strawberry and sherbet and coffee to choose from. If you want nuts, and brownie pieces and cookie dough chunks and fruit and caramel, you can have it. If you want to pay a little more there’s super premium fare like Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s and cult brand regional favorites like Blue Bell andGraeter’s too. There’s a reason the saying isn’t “Vanilla is the spice of life!” We want choices, don’t we?

It remains to be seen if indeed Jay Leno and shows like his, will be the future of television. Perhaps the network/cable model of the future will be paying for the show’s you want to watch a la carte. Maybe we’ll pay just for the channels we really want like HBO and Showtime. Whatever the case, let’s hope the creativity of the writers, producers and accountants can figure out how to make sure prime time doesn’t turn completely Vanilla just because it’s cheaper.

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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