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NBC: "I Used to Be a Network... Get Me Out of Here!"
June 1, 2009  | By David Bianculli
IM-A-CELEBRITY-09-Jn01-wres.jpgIn late-night this evening, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brienpremieres (11:34 p.m. ET), continuing a proud NBC tradition that goes back to 1954.

But before that, NBC fills two hours of prime time with I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, reviving a vile ABC tradition that should have stayed buried in 2003. NBC plans to show this live reality show not just once, but nightly, gobbling up hours of prime time all month.

NBC may have just stumbled upon its next branding slogan: "I Used to Be a Network... Get Me Out of Here!"

ABC's "old" Celebrity, based on a British show, wasted time in the jungle, and the time of anyone who tuned in, by alternately flattering and torturing such "celebrities" as Nikki Ziering, Alana Stewart and Downtown Julie Brown. The only thing I remember about it, six years later, has something to do with leeches and Melissa Rivers -- which may sound redundant.


The new series makes room for Sanjaya Malakar from American Idol, Stephen Baldwin from the first Celebrity Apprentice, Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag from The Hills, and former WWE diva Torrie Wilson, shown in the photo atop today's column. Isn't this edition of I'm a Celebrity missing a question mark?

Why revive such an obviously awful idea? Because that seems to be NBC's taste-dead playbook these days. Why else revive Knight Rider, The Bionic Woman, and now this?

What's next? NBC's new version of Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People? (Don't laugh: ABC presented that piece of guano, too, the same year as I'm a Celebrity.)

This is the same network that once brought us Must-See TV, and Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, and Cheers and Seinfeld?

No, not really. Not even close.

And over the summer, that will become more evident than ever. NBC may be saving money with its new programming approach, but it's losing something more valuable: its reputation.




Chris Collins said:

Your line about Melissa Rivers and Leeches almost made me snort my water out my nose! Thanks!

(Thanks right back. I wondered if I might be being too mean with that one -- but if I get a nose-snort reaction, I'll take it as a sign of approval. Besides, she deserves it after her Celebrity Apprentice tantrum. - David B.)

Comment posted on June 1, 2009 9:35 AM

Dave Lifton said:

"This is the same network that once brought us Must-See TV, and Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, and Cheers and Seinfeld?

No, not really. Not even close."

Well, it's also the same network that brought us Supertrain, Manimal, and, I think, Pink Lady and Jeff."

(True enough... and Pink Lady WAS one of the all-time super-stinkers. But one end of the quality spectrum always was on NBC the same time as the other in those days. The profits from The A-Team made St. Elsewhere possible. Today, it'd just finance a spinoff called The B-Team. -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 1, 2009 11:18 AM

Davey said:

NBC has been dead meat for a while now, and judging by the summer "season", the rest of the big networks are heading for the same graveyard. And there's no such thing as too mean when it comes to wannabe/hasbeen "celebrities" on the electric garbage trucks they try to pass off as enterntainment. Let the bile flow!

Sorry to go off-topic, but I'm concerned about the one new show that promised to develop into something special: Glee. Saw the first episode, then it seemed to vanish without a trace -- or did I just manage to miss it somehow? Seems unlikely that a show with such enthusiastic reviews would be ditched after one episode, but it is the ever-hapless Fox, after all. Any news, David?

(Indeed: That was just a sneak preview, to introduce the show to the potentially massive post-Idol audience. Glee, I'm gleeful to confirm, will return in the fall. -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 1, 2009 12:28 PM

giggles said:

Well, after trying to watch the season finale of "Breaking Bad" through the pixelating on Comcast, and reading your post here, I'm turning in the digital box for as much of a TV-free summer as I and the family can muster.... I can't stand the sh**ty comcast service for which I am paying through the nose, so I'll minimize and enjoy the peace and quiet....and find gems worth watching at the video rental place...

No fear though, I'll still be reading you here to find out which gems I should not miss!!

(Blame me, not Diane, for the expletive deleted. I just figured it wasn't crucial, and, at this point in my life, I qualify as an old fa*t. -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 1, 2009 12:50 PM

Carina said:

I'm starting to feel betrayed by NBC. First the Leno thing and now these terrible offerings?

It's like seeing your first grade teacher on the corner trying to catch a 'date'. NBC -- YOU'RE BETTER THAN THIS! You are not Fox in the 90s!

I have a feeling that NBC is about to dig a hole for themselves from which it will take years to recover; it's a little upsetting.

Comment posted on June 1, 2009 3:55 PM

giggles said:

Oh, my! Did I really type that word here? (I was THINKING it, but hadn't realized I'd typed it out LOUD!! I'm sorry....! (I am, however, really, REALLY frustrated with those monopolizing, money-grubbing ... ahem...people....)

(It's fine. Don't feel bad about making an asterisk of yourself. And if anyone can spark profanity, it's a cable company. -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 1, 2009 4:54 PM

Sherman said:

I've loved NBC since the days of Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, but these days it doesn't pay to be emotionally invested in a broadcast network. The business model is changing and the network branding doesn't matter anymore because of the DVR and streaming video on the internet.

I remember when I would watch a block of network programming because of teaser commercials for upcoming shows throughout the evening. I would even VCR extra shows because they were sandwiched between my favorites, and it was better to record the entire evening instead of having the VCR accidentally clip the beginning or ending of my shows.

These days I research what I like to watch (mostly scripted fare) and follow writers (especially on this site) for suggestions. I bounce around based on specific programs and don't pay much attention to the network. Unless of course it's recording TCM straight through based on excellent suggestions like today's from Diane Werts.

So rather than criticize NBC, or bemoan their mighty fall from grace, I'd rather be grateful for not so small things, like the return of Chuck and Friday Night Lights.

(Sherman -- Thanks for the details, and the compliments. I can't speak for Diane, though in this case I probably am, but for this site you may be the perfect reader. Keep it up! -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 1, 2009 9:48 PM

Brett said:

Kings made me think NBC was making progress; the cancellation of it and my first hearing of this last month confirmed my worst fears. Not surprising to hear how many NBC affiliates are laying off employees because the network isn't bringing viewers in with quality or crappy content. (I don't know if this will help, but the remaining unseen episodes of Kings are popping up soon on NBC. -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 2, 2009 12:04 AM

carol said:

I really think that the television development people have given up. We were watching a few David Lynch shorts online, and I told my husband how there were so many of those great dramas. We were able to share them with our kids. For a few years, A&E ran Northern Exposure in the morning, and during the summer, I would have a cup of coffee and watch it with my teenage son This made him a fan of the program.

Also, what has happened to Nickelodeon? My adult children (29 and 25) remember those great shows like Belle and Sebastian. Now, it has become another wasteland.

Unless one has premium channels or the more expensive cable packages, the better programs are limited. I can't believe they shifted TCM to the high tier. A lot of older people enjoyed that channel. (You're absolutely right about the encroachment of the "You get what you pay for" elitism. My biggest concern is what happens next week, when the digital conversion takes Sesame Street out of homes with only over-the-air antenna TV. Let them watch cake? -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 2, 2009 9:49 AM

Rich said:

For all of you that say "NBC, you're better than this" or whatever- the simple HARD truth is: NO, there are not. Otherwise they would make 'better' choices. Even if they made more original choices and failed you could credit them for 'risking' or trying. They know perfectly well what they are doing- They just don't care!...

I watch "Heroes" on G4TV and "Chuck" & "The Office" on Hulu...aside from Conan, I stopped watching NBC in 2005. "SNL" hasn't been funny early 2004! What you should be asking is how soon before Obama 'bails out' NBC...imagine a Gov. owned & regulated TV network. Think I'm kidding??


Comment posted on June 3, 2009 12:42 AM
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