TV/Business NotesA Network and Its Modern, Manly Goals
By Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times
- Feb. 22, 2013
You can imagine the excitement among modern men when the announcement came last week that finally, more than 65 years into the television age, we are about to get a TV network intended just for us. So surprising was this news that we had not even prepared a suitable celebratory gesture. Chest bump? Too Neanderthalic. Forearm bash? Too steroidal. High five? Too unsophisticated. Fist bump? Too passive aggressive.
But celebrate we did, each in our own modern-manly way, because G4, a network that no one had ever heard of and apparently has something to do with video games, is going to be rebranded the Esquire Network. The new network, its general manager said, will be dedicated to “the modern man, what being a man today is all about.”
Whoo-hoo! Oh, wait; sorry. “Whoo-hoo” is too Cro-Magnon for a modern man. But we’re overjoyed, really we are. Because finally someone is going to explain what a modern man actually is.
The new network, an NBC property that will be a partnership with Esquire magazine, won’t go live until April 22. For now we have to be content with discovering what a modern man isn’t, by scrutinizing last week’s somewhat unspecific executive comments.
Bonnie Hammer, chairwoman of NBC’s cable group, described the new network as “an upscale Bravo for men,” which sounds great until you realize that Bravo is a trashier-than-it-used-to-be network with a female slant. So the comment is roughly like calling the new entity “a nonmusic CMT for Northerners.” Not very enlightening.
The new network’s general manager, Adam Stotsky, was more specific, saying that it will define us modern men as interested in something more than “tattoos or pawn shops or storage lockers or axes or hillbillies.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. The modern man, it appears, does not chop wood, frequent pawn shops or live like or near Jed Clampett. As for the tattoo thing, some of us wish we’d heard Mr. Stotsky’s clarifying remark before we got the “whoomp, there it is” tramp stamp back in 1993.
If we modern men are obsessed with learning what the Esquire Network is going to offer, it is because we have for decades been searching the television landscape in vain for guidance on what exactly it means to be a man in the postwar world.
Television has always broadcast shows geared to men of course. Live boxing was among the earliest types of programming, way back in the 1940s. Then came all sorts of shows — “Combat!” and “Rawhide” and the rest — featuring guys doing things guys do, like herding cattle and fighting. There was the genre known as jiggle TV, with attractive women in bikinis and such, and then in 1979 came ESPN and the sports explosion. Nowadays we have networks like Spike, with shows that include “Car Lot Rescue” — yes, it’s a TV show about car lots — and the recently announced “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty,” which is just what it sounds like.
We modern men have watched all of this, but guiltily. It’s hard to shake the feeling that this programming is more premodern than modern, an effort to lure us back to the cave rather than into the glorious realm of higher possibilities that awaits us if we can just stop watching basketball, staring at bathing beauties and chasing possibly fictitious creatures through the woods.
Early indications are that the Esquire Network will be using a stealth approach to elevate our subspecies, because what has been announced so far is a type of television that, frankly, sounds an awful lot like the low-aspiration gunk that already exists.
One possible series, executives said, is “Knife Fight,” a cooking competition that seems as if it may be indistinguishable from the zillion other cooking shows already on television. Another is a travel show called “The Getaway,” which would be swell if there weren’t already an entire network called the Travel Channel.
Executives also suggested that a video feature from the magazine’s Web site called “Funny Joke From a Beautiful Woman” might have a place on the network. In the current installment of that feature, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, dressed as provocatively as any Charlie’s Angel ever was, tells a joke about nuns and hot dogs that will not be detailed here.
Presumably the strategy is to lure us modern men to the new network with shows that appeal to the familiar instincts, then gradually upgrade us to “Interesting Philosophical Discussion Point From a Plain-Looking but Extremely Intelligent Woman.” We’ll find out for sure in April. Which means there are only two months left to track down the elusive bigfoot. Hey, $10 million is $10 million.http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/arts/television/the-esquire-network-has-manly-goals.html?ref=television&_r=0Edited by dad1153 - 2/24/13 at 4:59pm