Magazine article Variety

Bold Show, Hidden Win

Magazine article Variety

Bold Show, Hidden Win

Article excerpt

Experimentation should be celebrated, even when the result doesn't soar

In today's unscripted landscape, where copycat formats spring up like weeds, this year brings to mind a classic adage: "Nothing ventured, Nothing gained."

Nowhere could this quotation be seen more than with mega-gameshow "Million Second Quiz," airing on NBC, which devoted 10 straight nights of primetime programming to the live Gotham-set strip.

Unfortunately, "MSQ" became a piñata for swinging media ridicule, as viewership slumped throughout its brief run. The finale of the program, which aired on Sept. 19, drew fewer than 5 million viewers, along with a litany of complaints from critics.

It would be naive, though, to dub "MSQ" and other recent reality leaps failed efforts. Though viewers and critics might not have been kind to the Ryan Seacrest-hosted show, "MSQ" unearthed many lessons for the Peacock and shingle All3Media, as well as for producers throughout the unscripted space.

Whether it was the success of the "MSQ" live sync app (after a premiere night stumble) or the fatigue that a live, 10-day strip can bestow on viewers, the show's complicated format added to the industry's understanding of what works and what doesn't. It not only stood as a distinctive (and, albeit, ephemeral) blossom among copycat weeds, but also left the ground more fertile for innovative formats thanks to the lessons it bore.

Digital reality show "@SummerBreak" had a similar run. Distributed only on social media platforms, "@SummerBreak" followed a group of Los Angeles teens during their summer after senior year in high school. The TV-free docusoap struggled at times with YouTube episodes that felt too short, and a mere week's lead time for each packaged clip left the show waffling over plot lines that had yet to fully develop.

And yet, the series was a fascinating experiment in programming to a teen demographic that is virtually fused to social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. …

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