Cable networks have 168 hours a week to fill. Most of it is repeats. Original content costs money.
When a network does have a hit, there are ways to leverage that hit. Repeat it often. Create spinoffs. And now several are doing “after shows” for shows that seem to inspire “water cooler” talk. These are low-cost talk shows where the host and guests discuss what had just aired. This type of talk is what’s happening on social media and fan websites anyway. It’s smart programming with low risk and hopefully deepens a viewer’s loyalty to that program.
Bravo’s Andy Cohen had so much success with his post-”Real Housewives” shows, he recently turned “Watch What Happens Live” into a five-day-a-week talk show.
MTV for a time did after-shows after each “Jersey Shore” episode. VH1 has been doing “Mob Wives: The Sit Down” after its Sunday night episodes. Lifetime’s “Project Runway All Stars,” which concluded this past Thursday, aired after shows following each original episode. Some networks do these shows only after the season conclusion, such as WE-TV’s “Braxton Family Values” with Wendy Williams as host.
(Broadcast networks, which don’t have as much time to fill, have been doing targeted after shows going back to the season conclusion of CBS’s “Survivor” in 2000. NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and “The Apprentice” and ABC’s “The Bachelor” followed suit.)
But AMC has broken ground by doing a post-show for a scripted show: “The Talking Dead,” based on “The Walking Dead,” shot locally in Atlanta. This past Sunday, about half the 9 million viewers who watched the season finale stuck around to watch host Chris Hardwick go over the revelations with stars and executives of the show. Every week, the show, tongue in cheek, held “in memoriams” for each dead person and zombie and a mini “pop up video” providing insight into various moments on the show.
Hardwick is a stand-up comic and TV host (he did MTV’s “Singled Out” and G4’s “Web Soup”). He also hosts a popular weekly podcast called “Nerdist.” (He sometimes takes the show on the road. You can see him tape a podcast live Saturday, March 24 at the Variety Playhouse.)
The live podcast show includes stand-up comedy, interviews with local celebrities and a Q&A. In the past, over 180 podcasts, he’s had guests ranging from They Might Be Giants, Conan O’Brien and Joel McHale. He said he receives an impressive 2 million downloads a month.
“It’s Prairie Home Companion with more [penis] jokes,” Hardwick said in an interview earlier this month.
He sees the appeal of post-shows, though not in every situation. “You don’t need an ‘Antiques Roadshow’ after show,” he cracked. “It has to be for a very specific kind of show. A ‘Lost’ after show would have been great. The show needs drama and twists and turns.”
With so much death on a show like “Walking Dead,” he said his talk show is like “therapy. People need to get some of their emotions out.”
As a fan boy, he said hosting “Talking Dead” is “not a job for me.” Though he sometimes has access to episodes ahead of time, he only watches that current “Walking Dead” episode that same day so it’s fresh for him and he doesn’t blurt out any accidental spoilers. And since it’s live, “it’s organic. I love it! I’m the traffic cop. I keep the conversation going. We don’t plan anything.”
For one episode, he even did a taped segment where he was turned into a zombie, makeup and all. “I imagined what it must have been like to be covered in zombie makeup in August in Georgia. Mosquitos and other bugs. It must have really felt like a zombie apocalypse!”
Chris Hardwick with Jonah Ray and Matt Mira
8 p.m. Saturday March 24, $30.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk