Last night I had the misfortune of walking into a TV switchback in my living room. By TV switchback, I mean one of those situations when someone else has the remote and is watching 2 programs simultaneously, switching back and forth at the most inopportune moments. Normally, around our house, the programs are usually something like “85 kids with Old Testament Names and Counting” and “Medical Mysteries: The Baby Who Was Born Inside Out”, but last night the switchback was ping-ponging between the Colbert Report and something called “20/20 on We”. 20/20 Ennui? I sat up straight for that one, because I was intrigued by a show about dissipation with unusual clarity.
Apparently, however, ABC has taken a cue from Dick Wolfe and is merely franchising one of its top brands. Just like the 31 flavors of “Law & Order” we see sprinkled across the TV universe on any given night, 20/20 is starting to syndicate and expand its brand’s reach and frequency by broadcasting stories aimed at specific market segments. Niche broadcasting. Which seems like a lot of extra work, generating content for these new shows. As I understand it, 20/20 is a journalistic TV news magazine, so they can’t really show reruns, because that isn’t news. Right?
Last night, they were showing a 4 year old story about a teenager who was torn between giving her baby up to a childless couple for adoption and keeping it. Now, on other news magazine shows, they feature new stories about things that happened several years back, but this story was first aired 4 years ago. So, I’m thinking, this should be interesting; they’re going to follow up with the subjects of this piece and see where they are now. Except they didn’t. They slapped an awkward intro/outro on the piece and ran it as is. At least when Law & Order and CSI have spin-offs, they get different casts and storylines – they create new content.
I imagine that “20/20 on We” has a deliberate double meaning: it is 20/20 on the We network, and it is also programming for when you are so bored, you’ll watch anything. Personally, I’ll be watching “Dateline Insouciance”.
The grand spectacle of the sporting world — the Olympics — has, after a year of delay and confusing information, come and gone. But now