Will Max Be The Next Netflix - Or Maybe Just 'John From Cincinnati'?

Years ago, I had my mom watch a new TV crime procedural show on NBC. I did tell her it might be a bit unusual.

First, there were standard scenes of cops in a precinct complaining, examining a crime scene. And then out of the blue, a detective started to sing, complete with a musical accompaniment -- like a filmed Broadway musical, but with lyrics pertaining to the storyline. 

My mom's reaction was immediate -- and dismissive. “What! No, no, no! This isn't right.” In other words, a “musical cop TV show” is just plain wrong.

I refer, of course, to NBC's “Cop Rock,” where tangentially one of my favorite songwriters lent a helping hand to the show's overall musical effort -- Randy Newman, who wrote its theme song.

Although many pointed the finger at the show's creator Steven Bochco, I cheered this way out-of-the-box attempt to break up a traditional TV formula effort.



Failure is part of any creative process. Big dramatic failures are even better.

All of this brings us to Warner Bros. Discovery's Max -- the premium streamer which up until this May was called HBO Max. Then reviews came in: Rolling Stone recently said the Max relaunch was the 34th-worst decision in the history of television.

In essence, blame was put on the name -- as well as the process. 

For many, dismissing the premium brand name "HBO" in favor of a plain Jane nondescript adjective seems like a major letdown -- a diminution of the “quality” of content for this streaming platform. 

Mixing what some might say are low-rent unscripted TV series from Discovery+ with stellar TV production values of a “Game of Thrones,” “Barry” or “Insecure” might seem to cheapen a highly regarded TV enterprise.

Hey, no one is immune from the process. Trouble is not all are entirely visible.

Many can point the finger at Quibi, for example -- that recent short-lived, short-form video platform. But what about other media brand alterations? Can we celebrate some of them as in the typical refrain: “It's So Bad, It's Good"?

Companies have, in fact, re-branded cable TV networks -- highlighting a "change of direction." But maybe something more: ABC Family has been the former Freeform. Spike TV changed to the current Paramount Network.

For sure, even HBO has had programming clunkers: “John From Cincinnati” started up right after the series final episode of the hugely popular series “The Sopranos.” “John From Cincinnati” didn't last. The New Yorker called the show "stunningly dull."

Big streaming networks and platforms need lots of material to spike up day-in, day-out too comfortable and safe viewing habits. They always want to bring in new subscribers or lure back those who have left. New and returning series episodes are the way to do it.

Even then, no one wants to be dull and predictable. How about re-formulating an unscripted cooking competition show?

Bursting into "Food, Glorious Food," written for the Broadway musical “Oliver,” might be a good start.

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