For most of its existence, TV Land was devoted to classic, family-friendly reruns; but recently, the network “rebranded” itself as a home of original, more “edgy,” scripted programming…thus perpetrating a gigantic fraud on every cable and satellite subscriber in America.
First, there was Nick at Nite. The nighttime programming block of the children’s network Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite was devoted to showing classic, family-friendly TV series like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Father Knows Best, Leave It To Beaver, and others. In his 2004 book, What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, media scholar David Hofstede states, “The original appeal of Nick at Nite was in how it thumbed its nose at change and proudly lived in the past…[but] after building a successful brand name as the home of classic TV, Nick at Nite kicked Donna Reed to the curb.”
Hofstede goes on to praise Nick at Nite’s successor channel, TV Land, as a “24-hour channel devoted to the great shows of the past.” Unfortunately, now TV Land has also betrayed its original mission. Last month, TV Land announced “a complete overhaul of the network’s brand identity to complement a slate of new, original programming.”
TV Land’s new direction is far out of step with the family-friendly programming of the past. Said Kim Rosenblum, TV Land’s Executive Vice President of Marketing:
“The majority of our audience in prime time and weekends are now Gen Xers — vibrant, working adults who grew up on MTV and edgier shows. They demand and deserve a brand that is more connected to where they are today. They are layered and complicated, and their idea of escape is to lean in and go deep. We are a new TV Land for this new audience.”
TV Land’s management is clear about its desire to distance the network from its previous image as a home for family-friendly classics. TV Land’s Executive Vice President of Development and Original Programming, Keith Cox, states that management is “committed to bringing in content …separating us from the TV Land of the past.”
So what will TV Land’s new, allegedly “layered,” “complicated,” and “deep,” shows be like? One example is Younger, a “comedy” from Sex and the City and Good Christian Bitches creator Darren Star. The program – about a forty-something woman posing as a 26-year-old in order to land a job (and bed younger men) — has contained such hilarious scenes as a woman removing her panties in a café, while her friend takes pictures of her naked crotch under the table to post online; a woman selling her dirty underwear online to sex fetishists; the main character helping her friend remove a feminine product that has become “stuck” inside her; and much more in this vein.
Another new “comedy” is Impastor. In this program, a con man named Buddy falsely assumes the identity of the new pastor of a liberal church. As The New York Times notes, “A wrinkle here is that Buddy quickly realizes that the man whose identity he has taken was gay, and that the new parishioners know this. That leaves Buddy, a lusty heterosexual, not only pretending to know the Bible, but also fending off advances from the congregation’s gay members.” Unsurprisingly, the program also contains other caricatures of Christians, such as an “officious church president” and a “bimbo-ish church treasurer.”
Similarly, The Jim Gaffigan Show also deals in adult content. While Gaffigan personally has developed a large following for his clean stand-up comedy, which largely centers on food, family, and fatherhood instead of foul language, his new show definitely contains some less family-friendly fare, such as episodes about Jim considering a vasectomy, one of his children drawing a picture of his penis in school, and Jim trashing his wife’s “Shiite Catholicism.”
The move of TV Land away from its “classic TV” mission is unfortunate enough — though viewers can still find family-friendly classics on broadcast digital “sub-channels” like MeTV, RTV, and Antenna TV, as well as dedicated family cable channels like INSP. But far worse is the way in which many cable and satellite networks have pursued the same strategy over the years…all the while forcing viewers to pay for networks they didn’t ask for and don’t want.
“Rebranding” has become a time-honored, if utterly dishonest and fraudulent, practice in the pay-TV world. Most pay networks start out with a clear “mission statement,” and a base of viewers interested in that mission. Like history? Watch The History Channel. Science-fiction? The Syfy Channel. But all too often, the huge mega-conglomerates that own 90% of the networks on satellite and cable think they’ll attract more viewers, or get more ad revenue, by watering down these networks’ content – or even eliminating the networks themselves, and putting something else, something nobody wanted, in their place…all while still forcing subscribers to pay for it.
As we’ve noted before, examples of this mania for “rebranding” are legion. In 2000, the country music-centered Nashville Network was transformed into the sex-and-fart-joke frat-boy Spike TV. In 2008 Court TV, which was intended to give viewers a look inside the judicial process, was renamed “TruTV,” and now shows such educational programs as Barmageddon, Las Vegas Jailhouse, and the aptly-named World’s Dumbest. In 2010, the Discovery Kids channel, which was dedicated to providing educational and documentary programming for children, was sold to the toy company Hasbro, which renamed the channel “the Hub,” and filled it with “entertainment” programs which were essentially glorified commercials for the toys Hasbro makes. (Hasbro discovered the hard way that making toys requires a different skill set than running a TV network, with the result that the network is once again run by Discovery, now under the name Discovery Family.)
And there are plenty of other examples of such “rebranding”: the SPEED network, formerly devoted to NASCAR racing, has become a generic sports channel, FS1; Fox Soccer became FXX, a spin-off from the FX network devoted to sleazy, gross-out comedies; Discovery Health became the Oprah Winfrey Network; the video-game and technology-centered G4 became the Esquire Network, dedicated to reaching “today’s educated, upscale man” (apparently, the network’s owner Comcast believes video-game and tech fans are neither “upscale” nor “educated”); the former Biography Channel is now FYI, which pumps out garbage like The Seven-Year Switch; and even the TV Guide Channel has “rebranded,” and is now the POP TV, with crass original programming like Schitt’s Creek sandwiched between reruns of The Love Boat and Melrose Place (with time out for other “original programming” like Jane Seymour’s Secret to Youthful-Looking Skin).
Aren’t you glad you’re paying for all this?
And you are. Every network on basic cable gets a slice of your monthly subscription bill. True, it may only be 12¢ a month per channel. Over the course of a year, that’s $1.50, still not a lot; but multiply that amount by the 100 million+ cable and satellite subscribers in America. The entertainment industry is making over $150 million a year – PER CHANNEL! – on channels nobody asked for and nobody wants.
“Rebranding” is the ultimate scam, forced on pay-TV subscribers through the extortion of the entertainment industry’s cable and satellite “bundling” scheme. As a result, customers are forced to endure, time after time, the bait-and-switch of conglomerate-owned basic cable networks… all while the customer is forced to pay every month while the networks go through increasingly nonsensical metamorphoses.
To learn more about PTC’s Cable Choice campaign, click here.