Positive Cynicism – The life cycle of a niche cable channel

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

Paul McCartney’s comment on the Golden Globes the other night that he was now known as “the guy from Rock Band” sparked a conversation between my wife and I about the recent marketing onslaught of the Beatles, a band that is constantly being repackaged, rekejiggered, and rereleased to a public ever eager to repurchase everything they own that has a moptop or a guitar with a Beatles logo on it. But it was also a conversation that ended up revealing how niche cable channels – channels devoted to one idea, like food or travel or classic music videos – end up operating.

Do you suppose these things come about because highly-paid television executives end up having the same conversations?

ME: They sure did push the hell out of The Beatles: Rock Band on VH1. They showed actual game play as music videos.

WIFE: The animation was great. And some of the nice fallout was that they actually showed Beatles videos on VH1. The actual clips they made, stuff like that.

ME: VH1 Classic aired a lot of their solo clips, too. Lots of John Lennon, especially. Not very much Wings, I noticed …

WIFE: Well, why bother?

ME: They’ve showed The Beatles Anthology again, too.

WIFE: Cool. Kind of a sucky documentary, but lots of great concert footage. I swear, there’s enough material for an entire cable channel devoted to the Beatles. The Beatles Channel.

ME: VH1 Beatles.

WIFE: Oh, man, I would watch VH1 Beatles 24 hours a day.

ME: All Beatles music videos and movies?

WIFE: And specials. And their old cartoon! That would be awesome. Just a lot of Beatles music and nothing else.

ME: Yeah, but then it would start to suck.

WIFE: You think so?

ME: It’s inevitable. It’ll get too repetitive, and they’ll want to sell more advertising, so that means more viewers. It’ll happen little by little. They’ll start devoting time to Beatles covers and some kind of show about how the Beatles affected, apparently, everything in the history of pop culture. Something like That Metal Show on VH1 Classic, where people sit around and talk about how great the Beatles are. Only it’ll be hosted by those 15 year-old girls who always think they’re the first ones to discover how great the Beatles were.

WIFE: Ugh. Have you ever listened to, like, radio shows where they devote time to the Beatles, like Breakfast with the Beatles? They just keep trotting out the same factoids as if they were revelations, like Tony Sheridan’s “My Bonnie” record with the Beatles playing back-up, or the German version of “She Love You,” like it’s never been available, or something.

ME: Then they’ll do a karaoke show. With a celebrity version, only with people who barely qualify as celebrities, like on any NBC show. It’ll be, like, Carrie Prejean or Rod Blagojevich or people who aren’t celebrities, but are just kind of newsworthy. Months ago.

WIFE: And a trivia game show to see who’s the biggest Beatles fan in the US, because they’re too cheap to send a camera crew to England.

ME: How about a syrupy reality show where people tell stories of the time they met one of the Beatles, or a Beatles song changed their life?

WIFE: How does a Beatles song change someone’s life?

ME: I don’t know; like, maybe it lifted a car off of them or something.

WIFE: I can see it now: personal stories of redemption, obsession and teeny-tiny brushes with faMe: Touched by a Beatle. With reenactments.

ME: And then they’ll put a bunch of Beatle impersonators in a house with a bunch of desperate blow-up dolls on a reality show like A Beatles Chance of Love.

WIFE: Yeah, but first they have to find the perfect Beatles impersonators, so they’ll do a reality competition show with phone-in results, like Beatles Idol. America’s Got Beatles. No, wait, America’s Next Top Beatles. Making the Beatles!

ME: Finding Fab.

WIFE: Oh, god, that’s it! And after they do the reality shows, they’ll all star in a sitcom! Which will be horribly ironic, because the Monkees were a rip-off of the Beatles, but the new Beatles sitcom will be a rip-off of The Monkees. Or, you know, the TV version of irony, which is really just coincidence.

ME: Don’t the Jonas Brothers already do a Monkees rip-off for Disney Channel?

WIFE: Maybe they can get the Jonas Brothers to be on the Beatles sitcom. Crossover!

ME: And, of course, there will be the inevitable week-long special I Love the Beatles, which features a bunch of shitty, low-tier, fifth-rate comics taking a break from doing insurance commercials and hosting game shows on Animal Planet to put the Beatles into perspective for all of us idiots who don’t realize how culturally important and hilarious they were.

WIFE: Yeah, but they do it by pretending Michael Ian Black is funny. Which is no fun for anyone.

ME: No. This whole channel is really starting to suck hard.

WIFE: Time to move on to another channel, I guess. VH1 Beatles just becomes another channel in a sea of channels that gets skipped whenever I’m flipping around.

ME: Man, when VH1 Beatles was just showing clips, their old cartoon and Yellow Submarine, it was classic. Now it’s just … VH1 Classic. And no one watches that anymore for pretty much the same reasons.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

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Comments (1)
  1. Amy January 22, 2010

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