Last week I posted a column here breaking down HLN's plan for revamping its schedule and rebranding itself as a millennial-friendly network with its finger on the pulse of social media. At the time, I speculated that given the fact that HLN is the network that's currently bringing you the middle-aged moral and cultural cancer that is Nancy Grace and which plans to continue to, there was a pretty good possibility that this new direction was going to suck. Well, speculate no more. Now we can say definitively that it's going to suck.
The early line-up for the new HLN has now been made public, and it reads like a parody of a network run by 60-year-olds that's trying to appeal to 20-somethings. Although if what they were going for was hipster irony, it could be argued they knocked it out of the park.
The shows in development for HLN's non-prime schedule in 2014 include:
A panel show that counts down and comments on the most buzzworthy stories culled from social media. Think "Best Internet Ever."
A game show in which contestants use various web search keywords -- what would've years ago been called, you know, clues -- to identify figures, events, and memes popular with millennials. So if the keywords were, say, "sex tape" and "reality star," the answer would of course be "Kim Kardashian." Unless it was "Farrah Abraham," or "Paris Hilton," or "Danielle Staub," or any one of a dozen other people millennials really don't give a shit about unless it's being made fun of on The Soup. New HLN chief and the brains behind the network's rebranding, Albie Hecht says, "It's a really infectious show. But it's really funny and informative too about people's pop culture knowledge." Really.
According to Hecht, this half-hour show aims to bring together the work of web animators, e-card writers, and satire artists and turn it into cartoons. The official announcement via HLN says, "Finally, a place on TV for social media’s best satire cartoons." Yes, finally. Also, look for future shows on HLN like The "Boom Goes the Dynamite" Sports Hour and a Nancy Grace spinoff, All Your Grace are Belong To Us, co-hosted by Leeroy Jenkins and sponsored by Powerthirst.
A show that promises to dig into the real stories behind weird online classified ads. HLN touts this as "going beyond the hyperlinks," a phrase which, when tossed out during a corporate brainstorming retreat offsite, was immediately met with a spontaneous orgasm from every manager in the room over the age of 55.
This is an app HLN is creating that collects and collates people's FOMOs -- "Fear of Missing Out," common among single New Yorkers -- and somehow promises to put all of that crap in one place. As the app won't, I'd imagine, get you drunk or laid, it's tough to see how most people who claim to have FOMO issues would benefit from it. Look for HLN's current audience to wonder what the hell their "First of Many Ovaltines" has to do with anything.
Now to be sure there are some good people associated with some of these shows and others the network is proposing. Among them, Fred Seibert who helped put Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls on the air, and Tom Lynch who created The Secret World of Alex Mack for Nickelodeon back in the 90s. But notice that's what a lot of these people have in common: they're known mostly for what they did in the 90s. Don't get me wrong, I was in my 20s in the 90s and have a special place in my heart for the era, but again what we're seeing here is exactly what I feared when HLN said it was going to aim for millennials and try to capture the weird magic of the internet on television: the network just doesn't get it. It doesn't understand what makes social media and millennial culture tick. And it runs a serious risk of embarrassing itself trying to pretend like it does.
You either have to go all-in, hiring lunatics and geniuses who have social media in their DNA and giving them a wide berth when it comes to creative control, or not even bother at all. You have to be willing to throw relics like Nancy Grace, Dr. Drew and Jane Velez-Mitchell out, or you have to stick to the traditional formula that's plastered into CNN's walls and live with it. Attempting to speak to the next generation in a half-assed way will only look like what it is: Grandpa trying to be hip and just coming off condescending.