The copycats of cable news are at it again.
Following in the footsteps of a handful of cable channels that got there first, CNN and MSNBC have both discovered marijuana -- not for smoking (that we know of) but for programming.
A few weeks ago, CNN announced a new show called “High Profits,” an eight-part series that will premiere next year (exactly when is anybody’s guess). “High Profits” will focus on a Colorado couple -- Brian Rogers and Caitlin McGuire -- who have opened a handful of shops for the now-legal sale of marijuana in that state.
According to CNN’s press release, the two mean to become “moguls of marijuana” through the expansion of their home-grown business into a chain of pot-shop franchises located in Colorado and beyond (although the only other “beyond” would be Washington State and now Oregon, the only other states where the sale of pot for recreational uses -- such as watching CNN -- is legal).
Not long after this CNN series about Colorado pot barons was announced, MSNBC began promoting its own upcoming pot show titled “Pot Barons of Colorado.” This six-episode series, scheduled to premiere on Sunday, Nov. 30, began to be promoted on MSNBC’s own air earlier this month. It was officially announced a few days later.
When I inquired about the show, an MSNBC press rep took umbrage at my suggestion that MSNBC was copying CNN with this pot show. The press rep pointed out that MSNBC’s show is already produced and ready to air -- implying perhaps that it was CNN that was trying to get the jump on MSNBC by announcing a pot show that won’t be ready to air for several months. On the other hand, CNN last year produced a series of special reports on marijuana starring Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And CNBC has an occasional series of reports called “Marijuana USA.”
Whatever. The fact is, cable channels such as Discovery and National Geographic Channel have already mined the pot business for reality television. In 2011, Discovery had a show called “Weed Wars,” about a medical-marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. The show was short-lived.
In 2013, Discovery came up with an innovation it called “Weed Wednesdays,” based on two pot shows airing back-to-back on that evening. One was called “Weed Country” and the other was called “Pot Cops” (about police who pursued growers of illegal marijuana). “Weed Country” is still on the schedule. “Pot Cops” is not. And the Wednesday lineup does not seem to be called “Weed Wednesdays” anymore.
NatGeo had a series called “American Weed” that reported on a full range of pot-related subjects in episodes carrying titles such as “Rocky Mountain Medicine” and “Weed-Jacked!”
The point is this: Two cable channels -- MSNBC and CNN, which are having a difficult time competing in the news business during the many hours when news isn’t breaking, are looking at various ideas for reality- or documentary-style TV shows in an attempt to boost sagging ratings. And the two channels -- especially CNN -- are not above looking toward these other reality-oriented cable channels for “inspiration” (these marijuana shows being just the latest example of this phenomenon).
The (high) times they are a-changin’. Once upon a time, people would get high to watch TV. Today, people are getting high and getting on TV.