Tuned In

MyNetworkTV–Yours, Whether You Asked for It or Not

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Today at the Hilton Theater in New York City, executives of MyNetworkTV announced their exciting, provocative, all-high-definition new fall schedule of shows. Undoubtedly the first thing you want to know about the exciting, provocative, all-high-definition fall schedule of MyNetworkTV is… what the squank is MyNetworkTV? Whose NetworkTV? Did I order a NetworkTV?

Answer: probably not, but the package is here and you gotta sign for it anyway. MyNetworkTV is the fledgling creation of News Corporation, formed mainly from an assemblage of stations left without programming when The WB and UPN announced that they would merge to become The CW. Starting Sept. 5, it will  run serial, telenovela-type soaps six nights a week.

Does it qualify as a real network? Think of it as Sedna or Xena, one of those listlessly orbiting frozen rocks in the Kuiper Belt, which are or aren’t planets, depending which astronomer you ask.

The MyNetwork telenovelas will air nightly for 65-episode runs, for 13 weeks, under two franchise names, Desire and Secret Obsessions–both of which, I assume, will also be available as bottled fragrances. MyNetwork showed clips from both its fall debuts, Table for Three (the Desire novela) and Fashion House (the Secret Obsessions story).

Like the Latin telenovelas by which they’re inspired, both shows feature hunks with six-packs, tanned heroines and bitch goddesses with plunging necklines, and the kind of dialogue in which 90% of the sentences end in exclamation points. ("She’s not my type!" "She’s anybody’s type!" "You disgust me!" "I said no! He forced me!" "My son isn’t dead, Peter! I would know it if he was!") Did they look any good? Of course not–that would be a failure. But they did look better produced, more expensive, than the Spanish novelas you might be familiar with. The big casting coup of the day: MyNetwork "scored"–their word–Bo Derek to star as the villainess of Fashion House.

The big question, this being the upfronts, is whether advertisers will buy the untested network. News Corp.’s Roger Ailes argued that they should, because the big networks–one of which, Fox, News Corp owns–have been fruitlessly trying to revive a failed TV business model, while "short scripted dramas" are the wave of the future. They’re also, MyNetwork execs promised, a success in countries around the globe. In other words, MyNetwork is a good idea because (1) it’s new and never-been-tried and (2) it’s not. The execs also argued that their shows will appeal to second-generation Latinos who speak English but were raised on telenovelas. The most attractive pitch, however, was probably MyNetwork’s unabashed willingness to work product placements in, illustrated by sample scenes using Cartier jewelry and Evian water.

I can’t say I’ll be making MyNetwork my network come fall, but in a week full of soon-to-be-belied promises of quality from the networks, it’s refreshing to see a network whose programming and pitch is so guilelessly, unapologetically crass and commercial. MyNetwork, for one, is proud to carry the banner of crappy TV, and if that doesn’t make it a real TV network, I don’t know what does.