Exploiting Fandom: A Brief History of The TV After-Show

By August 29, 2013
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talking-dead-after-showWe are in the middle of what many have called a “second golden age” in television. More and more big name celebrities are moving to the small screen. The longer narrative structure has seen many successes that have also pushed the medium forward into a very cool and interesting place. I suppose we really have “The Sopranos” to thank for this. So many current trends in television can be traced back to David Chase’s brilliant drama. It’s probably even safe to wonder if “Breaking Bad” could have happened if “The Sopranos” never did.

I needed to state the above because there is one trend currently in a steady growth trajectory in television that I’ve grown tired of. It really started roughly six years ago with Bravo. The network created an online show that discussed the results of “Top Chef” after contestants were eliminated. These contestants were featured on the program and soon, the network brass noticed the jump in traffic that resulted from these interviews. This led Bravo to produce an on air show that provided an entertaining recap for every new episode of “The Real Housewives Of Orange County”. The program in question is the still popular “Watch What Happens: Live” hosted by that kooky dude Andy Cohen. This, as far as I can tell, was the first iteration of the growing trend of the “after-show”.

NUP_155002_0029.jpg“Watch What Happens: Live” has since grown into an hour long talk show of its own and has featured big guests like Oprah Winfrey. As TV has gotten more social, with more and more networks aiming for a “second screen experience”, the concept of the after-show began to show up elsewhere. On Lifetime, “Project Runway” had “After the Runway.” TLC’s “Breaking Amish” had a two-part recap special called “Brave New World,” and “The Shunning Truth.”

There’s this “duh” moment I’ve come to with these recap style programs to the companion pieces listed above. Honestly, having such ridiculous (and often stupid) entertainment on television just begs for there to be a means in which decompression is necessary. I’ve never watched a full episode of “The Real Housewives” but the clips I’ve seen on “The Soup” are enough to make me reach for a cocktail while begging for our overall sanity to be restored.

This brings me to the part of the article where I scowl in AMC’s direction. In 2011, premiering after the second season of the groundbreaking zombie show “The Walking Dead,” AMC premiered “Talking Dead”. And thusly, after every episode of the season, we were given a 30 minute after-show hosted by The Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick.

I’ll be the first to say I was a fan in the beginning. Not only were we able to pick apart the episode we just watched, we also got to hear from those involved in production and see some cool behind the scenes tidbits and trivia.  It was almost like we were getting the DVD extras immediately. Plus, this was the first on-air means to vicariously share my passion for the zombie subgenre with others. The appeal of an after-show for “The Walking Dead” still makes perfect sense. That being said, “Talking Dead” is ruining television.

20121121_EP_LIGHT_Punk_Talking_Dead2_CWhat once was 30 minutes long is now an hour. We still do get the celebrity guests but it seems, more-so than not, these celebrities featured will have nothing to do with the actual show. I understand a fan is a fan, and listening to CM Punk talk about his love of zombies is great and all, but I can’t help but yearn for those minutes back. Alas, it seems I am in the minority. “Talking Dead” is about to premiere alongside Season 4 of “The Walking Dead” and the success of this companion piece has bred more shows just like it.

It seems like what was once just a Funny Or Die sketch is quickly becoming a reality.

In the past few months, new faces in the after-show game have begun to appear. A few weeks back, Discovery Channel’s hugely popular “Shark Week” aired a daily talk show recounting all the sharky sharkness to shark. It was called “Shark After Dark” and just reminded everyone how relevant Tara Reid still is.

Announced earlier in the year and premiering along side the final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad” is AMC’s new after-show “Talking Bad” because, duh. Hosted by Chris Hardwick because, duh again. I can honestly say I have not watched a single episode yet. I’m not planning on it either. Look, I understand the appeal of a recap show for a zombie genre phenomenon that has spanned multiple means of entertainment from comic books to television to video games. But, implementing the same formula to follow what many have deemed to be the greatest television show of our time? Now you’re just manufacturing the fandom, AMC. The snake is definitely eating its own tail.

Ouroboros, be damned! This trend has no signs of stopping. It was announced by FX earlier this week that “Sons Of Anarchy” will begin its own after-show called “Anarchy Afterword”. I don’t quite understand why this is needed, but then again I still don’t get why there is a panel at SDCC each year for the show either.

sons-of-anarchySo what’s next? “Gabbing Mad Men”? “Hannibal: Bowel Movement”? “American Horror Story: Beating The Dead Horse”?

Assuming the after-show concept in this current form makes its way to the big four networks, what type of effect do you think that’ll have on the actual programming content being mulled over and talked about to death? Please tell me in the comments below.

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.