'Viva Laughlin': Singing & Dancing, But Not In The Marketing

Take an unusual TV drama -- so unusual that it has musical numbers as a part of its story. Wouldn't you want to promote that new prime-time wrinkle?

Not CBS. It decided not to show Hugh Jackman warbling like Elvis Presley or anyone in the cast of "Viva Laughlin" -- the show that debuted last Thursday. No music, no songs -- at least not in the on-air promos for the show.

The result? A surprisingly tiny rating for a show coming right after "CSI."

Now, no doubt the producers pushing this drama would probably love to tell you: "Oh, it's more than singing."

Like it or not, in TV, the land of procedural crime dramas, hospital shows, and real people being voted off islands, boardrooms, and kitchens, viewers expect a certain familiar comfort level of drama.

In the mid '90s, I remember not telling my mother about those special extras on ABC's "Cop Rock." Then when the singing started her immediate reaction would have redlined TV testing devices: "No. NO. NO. That's wrong. That's WRONG!" Millions of others shrieked the same way. And that ended "Cop Rock" for ABC.

One wonders whether other people who wandered into "Viva Laughlin" on Thursday were thinking the same thing: that they were going to see a plain old drama about money, corruption, and the usual scandalous goings-on in Las Vegas. Considering the low rating, it seemed their response was: "Make it stop! Make it stop!"

To be fair, I like w the way characters on "Viva" crooned along with the real music -- sort of live-to-tape singing along with the recording -- not the out of-reality, seemingly separately produced music, typically done in movies, added into the story after the fact. Give CBS an "A," or a "V," for trying something new.

Still, good musical numbers tied into the story line like... well, like Broadway musicals. So maybe that was the problem. Maybe the music really didn't work and CBS decided there was nothing that content could do to lure in viewers.

CBS marketing then did the right thing -- offering up the drama, the tension, and the best part of the show for viewers to come and watch.

The only thing left, then, was for viewers to face the music



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