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Dumb with Aplomb

By Cindy Davis | Industry | January 11, 2011 |

By Cindy Davis | Industry | January 11, 2011 |

It’s all in the slogan, sucker.

I think Paul Lee, the new head of ABC Entertainment is confused. I’m not sure at what age Alzheimer’s sets in (I think I’ve even seen signs in myself) but he may believe he’s still at ABC Family. At the Television Critics Association press tour, Lee proclaimed the ABC brand as “smart with heart”. Uh, what? Really? Have you taken a look around lately?

I don’t pretend to know or understand all the ins and outs of television programming, but it seems clear to me that network television is losing and cable, movies and the internet are winning. But even when the networks are winning, it’s with stuff like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol”, neither of which are in the vicinity of smart and both of which seem edited to have pretend heart. As for the actual programming going on, Lee is holding up as his shining examples “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Private Practice”, “Off the Map” (which I will be shocked to see last a whole season, based on the show description alone), “Cougar Town”, “The Middle”, “Modern Family”, the aforementioned “Dancing with the Stars” and “Desperate Housewives” (which he expects to be picked up again). Dude, none of these fit your bill and even if they did, you need to hire someone to rebrand ABC right now. People don’t want smart with heart, hell, they’ll settle for just plain smart. People want intriguing, quality programming with good actors; new ideas and a network that will back up those new ideas with a full show commitment; stepping outside the box; walking away from reality crap and most of all, shows that really entertain. “The Bachelor” - not it. “V” - not it. “No Ordinary Family” - not it. Heck, even your best doesn’t cut it against cable.

While I applaud the upcoming collaboration with Marvel to produce “The Incredible Hulk”, ABC still isn’t really thinking outside the box. Everyone is doing the superhero/comic thing and it isn’t working terribly well for most of them - never mind that “Hulk” is another series retread. Interestingly, Lee was the founder of BBCA, which basically just regurgitates shows from the BBC, perhaps original ideas aren’t his thing. But perhaps if he was inspired (watch AMC) with a truly clever rebranding, the head of ABC would know what to do with his network. We already know “smart with heart” sucks, so let’s have at it Pajibans. Give a network a clue. Give yourself something to do. Rebrand ABC.

(Here are some to get you going: HBO: “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO”; Discovery: “Explore Your World”; TNT: “We Know Drama”; USA: “Characters Welcome”; FX: “There is No Box”; AMC: “Story Matters Here”)

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