While some more hotly discussed and dissected TV series have launched a plethora of podcasts, TV Land will head in the opposite direction when it adapts the podcast “Throwing Shade” to TV. On Jan. 17, the first of 10 weekly episodes, hosted by comedians Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi, gives TV Land the late-night show it believes cranks up the network’s in-the-moment quotient.
As the suddenly booming late-night business welcomes the likes of Gibson, a comedian and feminist, it steps further from being the exclusive domain of white male hosts. But with anything that’s suddenly booming, TV Land finds a mighty crowded after-hours landscape in which to establish a foothold.
Keith Cox, president of development and originals at TV Land, offers three reasons why the net is getting involved in late night. “Urgency, urgency, urgency,” he says. “In the age of [video-on-demand] and the DVR, how do we get people to talk about us in the now?”
TV Land can only hope it’s not too late to the party. As B&C reported Dec. 16, the broadcast late-nighters are having a tough go of it, with CBS’ The Late Show down 4% in total viewers, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live off 8% and NBC’s The Tonight Show down 10%. Toss in newer players such as TBS’ critically adored Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Netflix’s Chelsea Lately and Nat Geo’s StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson, and gestating projects such as Freeform’s Iliza Schlesinger project, and it’s a brutal fight for eyeballs, DVR space and advertiser dollars.
Perhaps indicative of how competitive things have gotten, Freeform pulled the plug on a late-night concept called Later Bitches, from Daily Show producers Jennifer Flanz and Elise Terrell.
“I think we’ve reached peak late-night TV,” says one network chief. “There’s only so many shows you can watch. I try to catch up with all of them and it’s absolutely impossible.”
Throwing Shade got its start as a podcast in 2011, became a Funny or Die video series in 2013, and is a live stage show too. The show had initially been developed at Logo before ending up at TV Land; both are part of Viacom. Throwing Shade began rehearsals a week before its TV debut; it will touch on pop and celebrity culture, feminism, gay rights and whatever else pops into the antic minds of Gibson and Safi. Safi, whose varied credits include a role in Freeform comedy Young & Hungry, anticipates a “built-in” audience for the TV show. “We want it to feel just as fun and weird and edgy as the podcast,” he says. “We hope they all come with us.”
(Gibson and Safi did not share podcast listener figures. Displaying a hint of their banter, Gibson says their listenership is “a lot” while Safi confirms that it’s “a big amount.”)
The pair says they won’t conduct regular guest interviews. Veteran programmer Garth Ancier believes that may be a good thing as it’s distinct host personalities, not celebs talking up their movies that ultimately builds audiences after hours. “God knows the world could use a lot of late night these days,” he says. “The question is, can you find the right hook for the host, figure out exactly what you want to do with them?”
Gibson notes the evolving face of late night as the segment further expands into cable television. Besides its female lead, Throwing Shade is unique in that it has two hosts, she says. “All the hosts are a cookie cutter kind of person,” adds Gibson. “We bring something fresh to the landscape.”
Fingers on the Buttons
The show is part of TV Land’s efforts to be more serialized in its originals, both unscripted and scripted. Comedy Teachers will be Throwing Shade’s lead-in. Cox says he wants Gibson and Safi to “push some buttons” each week.
But it’s on Cox, and TV Land’s marketing department, to show potential viewers how Throwing Shade is unique from the pack. “We need to do a great job clarifying what it is,” Cox says. “It could easily get lost if we don’t show how different it is.”