Commentary

With Jon Stewart HBO Deal, CBS "Star Trek" Remake, A Subtle Shift

Every so often, when the movie on HBO ends at 9:45 and the next one begins at 10, it will toss in a short film of some sort, or at least it used to. I haven’t seen those interstitials for a while; usually now HBO fills the time with necessary billboards for coming attractions, or “The Making Of” featurettes which are interstitial-like. But they may still run. I’m just not paying attention to matter that falls in between the real stuff of the schedule.

Now Jon Stewart will begin popping up at HBO Now and HBO Go, its two digital offerings, with short form content.  HBO says it will be updated, the idea being that it can be current and fluid.

It is “The Not Daily Show,” in effect, and it begins to answer the question, “How will Jon Stewart affect the 2016 election?” The answer is, here and there, and probably, very, very effectively, since the essence of “Daily Show” cutting, comical criticism was all briefly told, in a few minutes, not several minutes.

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When he left “The Daily Show,” Stewart all but auditioned for a short form forum. He said, in those last days, that it was the “daily” show that got tired. “I don’t think I’m going to miss being on television every day,” he said on the show announcing his departure. I put my own italics on the “every day” part of that sentenc.

At the time, I suggested Stewart would be a perfect fit for Neflix or Amazon, just another example of my unwavering ability to be nearly, but never quite, prescient. You can take my suggestions to the bank. . . parking lot.

Stewart is being touted as a feature attraction on Now and Go, the two digital services that were formed as adjuncts of sorts to the “real” HBO you could subscribe to at home. Apparently, Stewart’s stuff will appear there too, but the cable outlet wasn’t that aspect of the four year development deal HBO was touting on Tuesday.

And indeed, like I thought about Stewart going to those other content sites would be an inducement to increase subscribers, the same is true for HBO. Having a kind of Jack-in-the-box Stewart at the ready during particularly laughable/lamentable parts of the presidential campaign is a great viewership driver.

The Stewart deal comes shortly after CBS announced that a re-do of “Star Trek” will become the first series specifically scripted for the CBS All-Access site. After the on-air debut of the premiere in 2017, the rest will be available only for paying customers. The “Star Trek” bid to become a drama series that is going where no CBS series has ever gone before is loaded with symbolism. It’s also the first of other series CBS CEO Leslie Moonves says will land there, instead of network TV.

It would be smarter if “Star Trek” was going to launch sooner than 2017; I’m afraid Moonves is still working on Eastern Standard Linear time. The “Star Trek” debut that far in the future could seem a little like a walk through Tomorrowland would come off today. But the reasoning for taking “Star Trek” there at all is pretty telling. “There's about a billion channels out there and because of Star Trek, people will know what All Access is about,” Moonves said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That HBO and  network television---broadcast television, no less--are now edging toward something like digital first is another inch traveled on the road to that world in which what’s on where will hard to figure, and just about irrelevant to advertisers, producers and viewers.

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