Monday, July 24, 2006

Press Tour, Day Nine: He's Just Not That Into You

This day, Sunday, started out with breakfast at the Ritz. Since it was an off-day – meaning no network was scheduled – non-network affiliated syndicators wanted to take advantage of the free time. This is a bit of a hard sell because we’re coming to the end of press tour and people are wanting to do non-press-tour type stuff, like laundry or exercise. To try to overcome that objection, Sony hosted a breakfast buffet with almost everything you could ever want in breakfast food – everything from ricotta pancakes with lemon curd to bagel pizzas with salmon to a toast bar including almost every possible toast topping (honey butter, peanut butter, almond butter, body butter, and so forth). I didn’t think at this point in the tour food would still prove a lure to many critics, but there was actually a good turn out to see Greg Behrendt, who is launching a syndicated talk show with Sony this year.

Greg is a funny guy. He’s been a stand-up for years, and he once held dreams of becoming a rock star. He made his fortune, however, by casually telling a woman that the guy she was dating was “just not that into you.” And boom, a star was born.

Greg used to be a consultant on Sex and the City, and the woman he said that to was a writer on the show, so it was immediately incorporated into an episode. If you aren’t a Sex and the City fan, let me refresh the scene for you: Carrie and Berger (my new boyfriend Ron Livingston) are having dinner with her friends, and Miranda is recounting the tale of a date she just had. When she completes the story, Berger reveals he didn’t want to come back to her place with her because “he’s just not that into you.” Miranda’s friends go into a frenzy of analysis and defend her to the end, but Miranda says, “thank you. That was the most freeing thing I’ve ever heard.” She then tries to repeat the line to a couple of younger women she overhears on the street to poor effect. She also accuses a later date of being “not that into her,” only to learn that no, he actually is having serious intestinal problems. So it’s not a hard and fast rule.

In any case, this line had a similar ripple effect in the country. Behrendt, with encouragement from his wife, Amiira, wrote a book called “He’s Just Not That Into You,” which shot to the top of the best-seller lists. The book offered pretty basic dating advice – if he’s not calling you or asking you out or generally paying any attention to you, it’s time to move on and get a new guy. But apparently women nationwide did not know this and the book shot to the top of best-seller lists. Behrendt ended up on Oprah, and even more books were sold.

Sometime last year, Sony decided they thought Behrendt was a good choice to host a one-hour syndicated talk show. He is charming, funny and relatable, but there’s some problems with this premise: 1) syndication is pretty much an impossible business, and all the more impossible for Sony because the company doesn’t own stations and has a hard time getting shows on good time periods. But this show was done in partnership with Tribune, which owns many stations, so perhaps that will prove helpful with the ratings; 2) I’m not sure how long Greg can jump off this “he’s just not that into you” schtick, and I’m not sure where it can go from here. 3) Even with Sex and the City, the book and Oprah, most people haven’t heard of this guy. People in Hollywood think that just because something’s a phenomenon in their little world, everyone in the U.S. feels the same way, and if they don’t, that’s their problem because they live in the rejectable “flyover” states. (Like Colorado, for example.)

That snobbery is all well and good when you are in your glassed-in office on a studio lot, but Hollywood suits would be better served if they paid attention to what the people want in the flyover states. Most of the country lives in those states, and those viewers are needed in order to make any show a success.

I wonder who will be first to write the headline in the likely event that Greg’s show fails: “Audiences just weren’t that into him.”

1 comment:

Caribou said...

I can't stop reading. I started back at your first post and have been reading forward. Your blog is so refreshing. I don't know what else to say about it other than thank you.

I too, am a huge fan of Dr. Who and Hitchiker. I watched them every evening on PBS, and read all the books over and over, and then some. I think if I had the inclination, I could recite them verbatim.