Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What the hell is "Donuts?"

Remember a few months ago I did a post showing survey results of American viewers, which shows they watched, etc.? You can find it here.

It was shocking how little awareness most people had about most shows. 66% of the population has never even heard of TRANSPARENT, despite all the hype. 56% has never heard of VEEP even with all the Emmy wins and the fact that it’s been on for years.

On the other hand, there are some shows that are so well-known, so popular, that just a nickname suffices. AMERICAN IDOL became known as simply “IDOL.” A typical promo would start: “Tonight, on a new IDOL…” People at the watercooler would say, “Did you see ABBEY (for DOWNTON ABBEY) or THRONES last night? Or “HOUSEWIVES?”

In some cases it makes sense if the show has a long title. IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA has sort of just become SUNNY. It’s a shorthand that big hit shows have the luxury of employing.

But it has to be a hit. It almost signifies that the show has become an actual “thing.” A pop culture darling. So many people know the show (and fondly) that you don’t even have to say the entire title. There can be only one IDOL and there’s no confusion that it’s referring to a certain television show.

Okay. Recently, I saw a promo on CBS for their Monday comedies. And the promo ended with “And an all-new DONUTS.” Do you know what DONUTS is?

It’s referencing a midseason show introduced just a couple of months ago called SUPERIOR DONUTS. I imagine a lot of you are still scratching your heads. Considering how few people have ever heard of VEEP, and that’s been on for six years, what is the awareness level of SUPERIOR DONUTS? Yes, VEEP is on HBO, but it’s also won Emmys on CBS. If there’s one cable channel people know it’s HBO and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a pretty recognizable star. (I always hate mentioning Julia Louis-Dreyfus because I always have to look up the spelling of her name. I absolutely adore her but she would get way more blog mentions if her name was Julia Hall. Just sayin’.)

This is not to knock SUPERIOR DONUTS. It’s the promo department. I guess they think that by using the shorthand version of the title they are trying to convince the audience that it’s more popular or zeitgeisty than it is. But they’re doing the show a disservice. It’s hard enough to get on promos. Especially these days when viewers are bombarded with shows and titles. This is the most common complaint showrunners have with networks. And even if they get airtime they still sometimes get gyped.  I used to see :30 promos on ABC that hyped MODERN FAMILY for :25 of it and then tagged it with, “followed by a new episode of THE MIDDLE.” Gee thanks.

But my point, regarding SUPERIOR DONUTS is this: Why waste their precious few seconds by identifying the show by an ambiguous word? When people think of “donuts” they don’t automatically think of Judd Hirsch. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

It also makes CBS look like some 70 year-old trying to act like a hipster.

New shows need all the help they can get. They’re no longer allowed to have opening titles. They’re no longer allowed to have theme songs. All they have is their title. The least network promos can do is say their complete title – even if that title is two whole words.

And it gets worse.  Here's an ad that doesn't say the title at all:

40 comments :

Curt Alliaume said...

How much Photoshopping did CBS do to the Judd Hirsch picture? He's a fine actor and looks considerably younger than his age, but he's 82 years old. I wish the network didn't try to insult our intelligence just because one of their sitcom stars has an AARP card.

Tom Scarlett said...

Craig Kilborn (remember him? no? he used to host LATE LATE SHOW) would mock CBS late night promos that were 98% about Letterman, and then the announcer would say "ThencatchCraig" as fast as an auctioneer.

Doug in Dallas said...

I watched the premier episode of Superior Donuts, and was struck by the fact that at the very first commercial break, CBS was already advertising "a new night and time for CBS' newest hit show: Superior Donuts." Really? A hit after only four minutes??

Bill Jones said...

Your post instantly made me think of this Onion article (back when the Onion was consistently funny): http://www.theonion.com/article/just-shoot-me-writer-assumes-everyone-he-meets-wat-202

tavm said...

Makes me wonder if a channel showing "The Bob Newhart Show" references it in promos as "Newhart" making viewers confused if it's the one about the Chicago psycologist or the owner of a Verment Inn...Oh, and I just found out the "CPO" of the late Don Rickles series "CPO Sharkey" stood for "Chief Petty Officer"!

BobinVT said...

There seems to be a coolness factor associated with shortening titles, people's names, even words. Ultimate celebrity status seems to involve shedding your last name. Cher, Kobe, Lebron, etc. When I was in high school, pizza was referred to as "za", mushrooms as "shrooms". I agree that CBS is trying to shortcut whatever the normal process is that results in the one word designation for a tv show. These things happen on their own with time and familiarity and can't be rushed.

VP81955 said...

Heck, many people I talk to have never heard of "Mom," and that's a CBS series renewed for its fifth season, airing on the most popular prime-time night (Thursday), with two well-known stars, one a multiple Emmy-winner in Allison Janney (although these days, it appears Anna Faris is more renowned as Chris Pratt's wife than for her own considerable talent; four years ago, she was better known than he was). But with a title as terse as "Mom," how can you reduce it further?

Jeannie said...

This also reminds me of when poor, pathetic Radio Shack tried to re-brand itself as "The Shack." Um, we'll give you the cool factor nicknames, corporations. You don't focus-group-test them to death and slap them on a promo...though I do think the general public can take credit for Fed Ex finally changing its name to what everyone called it.

Cat said...

Ken, since you brought up Judd Hirsch, how in the world did he win the Emmy award in 1983 over Ted Danson for the first season of Cheers? And why am I still irked about it?

Rockgolf said...

@VP81955: Ma?

Bob Perry said...

I heard/saw the Superior Donuts promo and wondered the same thing!

I'm pretty sure CBS used the same VO tag after Craig Ferguson replaced Kilborn.

VP81955 said...

Rockgolf:

The lady in my avatar immediately said, "'Ma'? That's what Clark called me!" (And Carole called him "Pa.")

normadesmond said...

I suppose it's human nature to "shorten" a name. Makes us feel closer, friendlier...chummy.

If someone introduces themselves to me as Elizabeth, I learned many years ago NOT to call them Liz.

cd1515 said...

This is the first I've ever heard of Superior Donuts, which kind of says it all.

McAlvie said...

Well, Superior Donuts doesn't roll easily off the tongue. Superior is one of those words people have to enunciate slowly in order to get the r's in the right places and hit all the syllables. That said, I get your point.

For myself, I do know about Veep, but don't watch either it or Transparent. I don't have HBO. Sorry, I know it's supposedly the be all, end all of television drama, but it costs extra, I can get good drama on PBS for free, and it's often better than the so-called critically acclaimed HBO series. Not everything that gets hyped is worthy of it. What I find is that for every person who is obsessed with Thrones, you will have 3 who have no idea what you are talking about. It's relativity syndrome. Once you know about something, you see it everywhere. But until it somehow relates to you, it might as well not exist at all.

Salad Is Slaughter said...

Don't let the crappy marketing put you off. Superior Donuts has some decent writing and is pretty funny. And they have yet to do a single vagina joke.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

BobinVT: One of the things I love about YOU'RE THE WORST (another show most people haven't heard of) is the fresh writing and dialogue. Several of the characters have the habit of dropping the last syllables of words ("relaysh" for "relationship") or the noun in adjective-noun combinations ("...like an old" for "like an old person"). I put it down to a generation that has been trained by Twitter and texting to use as little wordage as possible to make their meaning clear.

Calling programs by a small piece of their names grew up the same way. Though I doubt this is CBS's reason!

wg

benson said...

Superior Donuts is ok. It's not great, but its certainly better than a lot of other schlock on TV.

But with the Playoffs starting tonight, thank you Ken for selecting that particular photo to embed in your blog. Go Hawks! #OneGoal

MikeN said...

In the age of Trump, that ad is perfect. It's all about the visual. You will be hungry to watch the show. Just yesterday, I heard Trump in an interview about bombing Syria, and he spoke of the most beautiful chocolate cake.

Terrence Moss said...

Hirsch was confused by it too since "Taxi" had been cancelled for a second time in as many years and two other cast members had also won that night.

Craigmont said...

The reason most people have never heard of a show on CBS may be that they're not old enough to join AARP. "Superior Donuts" is not a title that makes me want to fire up the DVR. They could have called it the Judd Hirsch show, but see the first sentence. Maybe if it becomes a hit they can just shorten it to "'Nuts?"

kent said...

This is the kind of insight you only get at "Levine".

Mike said...

That final picture looks like a pack of condoms with a couple of bell ends.

Gary West said...

These guys should take a cue from business. They would be no KFC - if not for, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Same with Mickey D's and others. CBS followed the Columbia Broadcasting System on radio. You have to earn it. No short cuts.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I watched only one episode of "Superior Donuts." Are they still finding comedy in how much cops love donuts?

Someone was complaining about not being able to find "Monk." It seems to be on afternoons on the Hallmark Movie Channel.

Diane D said...

Cat
Because it is a perfectly rational impulse to remain irked about a great injustice FOR A LONG TIME. He should have won. But I've always wondered if one bad scene in whole season can actually affect that. In the episode where Diane's cat dies and she tells Sam why the cat meant so much to her, he supposedly cries; but he doesn't pull it off well At ALL. The audience obviously agreed because they laughed. Shelley Long plows ahead with very believable grief, but it was very awkward. I've often wondered why they didn't re-do that scene. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought.

cadavra said...

My sense is because it's an older-skewing series, they need to make it sound hip to attract the yoots.

BTW, I love the show. Smart, funny writing and a swell multi-ethnic cast (including even an Iraqi). And how wonderful to see Hirsch and Katey Sagal back in a multi-cam sitcom. So happy it's been renewed.

Carson said...

I wince at the ABC teaser promos that call The Jimmy Kimmel Show by just his last name ("Tonight on Kimmel...") as if he were a show biz icon on par with Garbo or Brando.

Andy Rose said...

On the positive side, I'm sure the voice-over folks appreciate any effort to chop out some of the overlong copy they always cram into those promos. The ghost of Ernie Anderson approves.

https://youtu.be/dErRrsUTaEk?t=2m36s

Joe said...

Very silly question: I admire your whole body of work, but there's one scene of yours that's one of the funniest in TV history. When you were broadcasting baseball, were you ever tempted to do a Sam Malone rap talking about a player had a groin injury?

Longing for the days said...

Donuts, in my view, is anything but superior. I tried giving it a chance, happy that Judd Hirsch was back on TV. He's still so much better than what they give him here. The whole show seems claustrophobic, which Taxi or Cheers never did. When the less than memorable overly predictable supporting players make their entrances, it reeks to me of "time to make an entrance and spout off a line." Even Burrows can't seem to open it up. Nor do I believe the customers sitting there all the time organically/believably fit. Taxi breathed & seemed multilayered. Multi-cams today sputter along churning out "jokes" that the audience, sweetened though it must be, don't find all that sweet. I'd shorten "Donuts" even more... to (frustrated) "Nuts!"

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Where can I get a Judd Hirsch face donut?

B Smith said...

How about Ju-Lou...?

Curt Alliaume said...

>>>Since you brought up Judd Hirsch, how in the world did he win the Emmy award in 1983 over Ted Danson for the first season of Cheers?<<<

A consolation prize for the show being cancelled? It certainly happened other times: Dick Van Dyke, William Windom, Tony Randall, Danson, John Ritter, and Michael J. Fox were all winners the same year their shows left the air (or, in Fox's case, he left Spin City).

Cheers did win four awards at the 1983 Emmys, including Best Comedy.

forg/jecoup said...

Superior Donuts is a good show though ;)

Cat said...

Diane D:

I love that moment, I think Sam was genuinely crying, thus the laughter, as it was unexpected and he failed to hide it. Plus, that episode gives us one of my all time favorite line readings: "Why don't you just use WORDS?"

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone in the world has ever short-handed "Downton Abbey" as "Abbey."


-Jeff

Diane D said...

Cat

Well, there you go. "One man's life-changing experience is another man's steak." (From an episode of NORTHERN EXPOSURE, when Joe found a living Mastadon who met an unfortunate fate at the hands of a hungry man.)

I'll re-watch that episode with new eyes.

Craig Russell said...

You know who I remember starting this trend? Paul Harvey.

He'd start a segment about the #1 movie in he country on a Monday by saying something to the effect of "If you went a saw a movie this weekend you probably saw "Beauty". The 3rd straight week at Number 1" I liked Paul Harvey alot, not for his politics but for the old school style of broadcasting. But I always HATED when he shortened things like that. Im guessing he thought thats how Middle America talked...

Jerod Butt said...

I was watching MOM on the CBS app, and a SUPERIOR DONUTS promo was shown. It had nothing to do with next Monday's episode, and it played a line from last Monday's episode.

Weird?