Catholics Media and Culture

The Right Network (which launched yesterday) is off on the wrong track.

Now, let me start right off by saying I’m a big fan of Kelsey Grammer’s work (Frasier may just be the greatest sitcom in TV history) and I think the idea of a conservative values entertainment network is golden.  There’s definitely a traditionalist audience out there — as demonstrated by everything from Fox News to box office receipts (i.e. The Blind Side) to (agree with them or not) the Tea Party movement.

I just think this particular exercise is a bit wrongheaded and that there’s a better way to launch essentially the same idea.

First the problems with the Right Network.

1. The Name. You don’t see any of the many liberal networks announcing themselves as the Left Network.  The name is overly self-conscious and tags the whole operation as being fringe.

Grammer says the network just wants encourage people to look at things from another point of view and is “not out to vilify or accuse or identify anybody as an enemy.” That may be so but the name has a spoiling-for-a-fight quality that is counterproductive.

2. Too Much Politics. Despite its billing as an entertainment network, a quick tour through its programming reveals a preoccupation with politics. What a America really craves is an entertainment network that respects and promotes traditional values through intelligent series (i.e. solid dramas and genuinely funny comedies). And those values are not political. They are the human values of faith, hope, love, forgiveness, humility, personal responsibility and gratitude (which includes patriotism) that have served this country very well since its founding.

Such a network would change hearts and minds through positive storytelling — like modern-day parables that need not be preachy to make a point.  How often, for example, did Ralph Kramden teach us that bragging and/or lying virtually always leads to trouble. Yet no one would describe The Honeymooners as preachy. Even Grammer’s own Frasier made some very keen observations on life without coming across as moralizing. 

3. Poor distribution.  It’s shows are available online (still not the way most people get their television) and, reportedly, on-demand through Verizon FiOS and mobile phones via Nokia. There’s still no word on how you can access the shows via your refrigerator or toaster or (except for Verizon FiOS) your television for that matter.

To be successful a conservative network will require full distribution and the same sort of financial support as an ABC, CBS or NBC. It can’t be done on the cheap.

And there are forces out there that can pull it off — if they only would demonstrate the will (and business savvy).

More on that tomorrow.


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