Television and the Internet are in a relationship and it’s complicated.
Like all forms of media and entertainment, TV is still adapting to the ever-changing technological landscape. Obviously, “watching TV” doesn’t even mean what it did 10 years ago. With Wi-Fi access and enough subscriptions, one could stay caught up on most if not all current shows without actually having cable or even a television. In fact, if you don’t have Netflix at this point, you’re missing out on some of the best programs out there, like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. We’re getting closer and closer to the point where viewers can select the programs and networks they want, only pay for those and watch anywhere, any time.
But we’re still in the early, awkward phase of this relationship. As the BuzzFeedification of TV continues, we see more cheap attempts to draw in the easily distracted modern viewer: blatant listicle-style reporting on morning news and talk shows, live quizzes and polls throughout the airing of various programs, and let’s not forget the recurring “GIF of the Night” segment on Watch What Happens Live. Some click-bait just doesn’t translate to watch-bait.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. When a theme proves successful on television — no matter how you watch — it starts to catch on. So whether you have Time Warner’s SignatureHome rich people package or you illegally download all your shows using your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, here are some trends that stood out on screens in 2014.
Late Night Overhaul
Late night talk show changes were aplenty this year across nearly all major networks. It all started in February on NBC. After 22 years of hosting The Tonight Show, Jay Leno stepped down — for real this time. Poised to take over after hosting The Late Show since 2009, Jimmy Fallon made the jump and the show was rebranded as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The change has been well received, with Fallon, sidekick Steve Higgins, house band The Roots and a gaggle of good-sport guests bringing some of the funniest TV moments of the year. Longtime SNL writer and cast member Seth Meyers began hosting Late Night that same month. Unfortunately, the strongest element of the show may be bandleader Fred Armisen; Late Night is still finding its groove and audience.
Over on CBS, David Letterman announced his retirement in April. The Late Show with David Letterman doesn’t wind down until May 2015, but the rumor mill began speculating about the longtime host’s replacement immediately. Many big names were in the mix: Jon Stewart, Chelsea Handler, even Conan O’Brien, but ultimately Stephen Colbert got the gig. He left The Colbert Report just last week to prep for the move. It will be interesting to see how audiences react to Colbert as a “real” host, as opposed to his beloved right-wing character. Letterman’s later-night counterpart Craig Ferguson (who wasn’t offered the promotion like Fallon on NBC — ouch) left his hosting desk last week. James Corden (now onscreen as the baker in Into the Woods) will take over The Late Late Show in March 2015 with Reggie Watts (Comedy Bang! Bang!) leading the band.
On HBO, Last Week Tonight was a welcome addition to late-night news and commentary. The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver definitely proved he could carry a show on his own. My only quibble is that it’s only a weekly show, but I guess Today Tonight just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Let’s Get Naked
It’s no secret that television is getting more and more graphic. You can watch a zombie eat a person on AMC, or Hannibal Lecter eat a person on NBC, but god forbid you show a woman’s nipple on TV. That rule isn’t stopping folks from jumping on the latest reality television trend: nudity. Intense survival docu-series Naked and Afraid can probably take credit for the craze. The show, wherein a man and woman must survive 21 days in harsh conditions without provided food, water, shelter or clothing, debuted in 2013 but really gained a following this year — even Seth Rogen and James Franco got in on the fun.
Buying Naked followed suit on TLC, providing a much-needed look at the riveting world of nudist real estate. And this summer, VH1 premiered a nude dating show called — what else? — Dating Naked.
Of course, the human body is still a very scary and confusing concept for American audiences, so Pixelated and Afraid might be a more accurate title of what we’re actually watching. But it’s fun to see what censors deem appropriate: sometimes butt crack is OK but other times it’s not; male nips are cool, boobs are not. There’s an “If a tree falls” joke in there somewhere …
Alaskans: The New Rednecks?
When television bigwigs discover a new group of people to celebrate/exploit on camera, they really go for it. That’s nothing new. Over the years we’ve seen an influx of all things New Jersey (Jersey Shore, Jersey Couture, Jerseylicious), “redneck” (Duck Dynasty, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Redneck Island), gypsy (Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, Gypsy Sisters, American Gypsies), Amish (Breaking Amish, Amish Mafia, Amish: Out of Order), even wives (The Real Housewives, Basketball Wives, Sister Wives, Mob Wives). One could argue that any of these dominate the reality TV world, because there are so many examples and knockoffs of each.
But I’m calling Alaska for the win for 2014, thanks to MTV’s Slednecks. The network basically reworked its ill-fated 2013 reality show Buckwild (which came to a halt after a cast member died while going off-roading — an activity often seen throughout the show) for a colder climate. Same basic concept: Wild group of kids living together despite no one seeming to have a job + dating drama + dangerous outdoor stunts performed while inebriated. Just add snow! Slednecks joins the ranks of the Alaska-centric Life Below Zero, Bering Sea Gold and Yukon Men, among others. ©