Saturday, 4 March 2017

Let's Talk About Viacom's "Flagship Six": Spike and Paramount

The end of Spike TV is, frankly, tragic. It only goes to show how far cable television has fallen when men can't even have their own TV channel anymore. Sure, they can play the sexism and misogyny card, but that doesn't change the fact that a majority of ratings-driven cable networks these days play favorites to women. Not to mention women's television can be just as trashy as men's can be juvenile, as evidenced by the Bad Girls Club franchise and other C-list reality shows.

Alas, even without the politics, Spike has been in a rut for some time now.

Their 2015 rebrand has failed to elevate the network beyond its previous "A&E-knockoff for men" format. Though the success of Lip Sync Battle begat an entourage of original game shows, Spike's main programming still consists shows like Cops, Police Videos, and other programs aimed at men. In other words, not much has changed since 2013.

When Spike talked about its return to scripted programming, I was hoping this would extend to acquired shows as well. I'm not talking about syndicated sitcoms, I was thinking more along the lines of Smallville or 24: big, action-y, explosive television shows that don't get any airtime anywhere these days, mostly because you can find them on Netflix. But as long as Viacom insists on running My Wife & Kids to death, I should think they would at least be more "inclusive" to something other than sitcoms to fill daytime hours.

This is what makes Paramount getting their own TV channel so attractive. For one thing, why doesn't Transformers or Mission: Impossible have their own spinoff cable drama like the Marvel Cinematic Universe does? Why not take all the spectacle and hype of the big-budgeted, summer blockbuster and squeeze it into a cable drama? Who said such programming was limited to premium networks like HBO; The Shanarra Chronicles on MTV lacks characters worth rooting for, but looks and feels on par with something like The Lord of the Rings. THIS is the kind of programming Spike should have done more of after they cancelled Blue Mountain State and ditched Impact Wrestling.

While The Paramount Network will also incorporate unscripted programming, you gotta believe the majority of Spike's current slate will get the axe. For one thing, Ink Master, Bar Rescue, Lip Sync Battle, and Bellator events are all guaranteed a spot on the new network, but shows like Cops might not be so lucky. Beyond that, I can't say I'm exited about what else Paramount will offer to the unscripted genre that hasn't already been done before.

More than that, it's still disheartening that men can't have their own cable network anymore. Yes, there's El Rey Network, MTV2 (to an extent), and various subchannel networks that offer all the things guys like. But between Spike TV, and the inevitable downfall of the Esquire Network, I just don't know anymore.

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