The announcement that comedian Aziz Ansari will debut a new stand-up show via Netflix is another semi-manufactured huge event by the pay online service, but it is entirely possible that the special Ansari “Buried Alive” concert performance could be at least as significant as “House of Cards” or “Orange Is The New Black” have become.
Ansari isn’t the absolute hottest comic in the nation, but he’s certainly in the top ten. He’s damn good, and in this case, it’s also important that he’s well known from his past starring role on MTV’s “Human Giant,” but especially because of his role on NBC’s only remaining comedy hit, ”Parks and Recreation.”
So when he comes to Netflix, he’s not just some pretty funny guy with a stand-up comedy special. He’s a TV personality and many of the millions of TV fans have never seen him anywhere else but on that sitcom, a few other roles and some talk shows. He’s a thoroughly likable person—oddly, probably least of all as Tom Haverford, the self-centered, frustrated entrepreneur he plays on “P&R.”
Here’s the cool part, for Netflix and Ansari: His special debuts on the pay service on Nov. 1. That’s a Friday. That’s also a day after “Parks and Recreation” airs on NBC. So, it would seem likely that if there’s a place for Netflix to place advertising, it would be on NBC that night.
If I was a betting man, I’d also wager that Ansari will show up talking to Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno or David Letterman (or all three), maybe angling a guest gig on “Saturday Night Live,” and an interview on the “Today Show” and in all those other places that brands like to find “earned media.”
It will be extra simple because on that Oct. 31 episode, appears (if I’m counting right) to be the night in which series regulars Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones—whose characters are now sweetly romantically entangled on the series—will leave the show. So it is going to be, as they used to say on TV, a “very special” episode of the Amy Poehler comedy.
Its pretty decent numbers should be inflated that night, which is just perfect for one last batch of inevitable “Buried Alive” promos from Netflix.
Netflix doesn’t have ar way to very effectively promote its home grown programming on it own air—it doesn’ t have air. So it has to depends on the kindness of strangers—in this case, most of them on Comcast-owned NBC, and the umpteen Hollywood shows and fab mags, and its own advertising. Reportedly, it will put major bucks behind “Buried Alive.” And Netflix plans more comedy specials including one with Marc Maron.
That’s right from the HBO playbook. Remember what HBO’s 1977 George Carlin and 1979 Richard Pryor stand-up specials did for that pay service? Suddenly, HBO was the pay service that dared to push the First Amendment envelope, the place that took chances. That’s still its image.
So Ansari is a great test of how well Netflix can do with a star that has great currency, and a track record. He has already done a “Comedy Central” special and another as a self-marketed Internet special last year. This Ansari special is, by his own account, a little rawer than what fans have seen previously. All in all, Nov. 1 ought to be an interesting, even pivotal day, for online video.