I like Alec Baldwin’s podcast, “Here’s The Thing,” but was surprised when ABC essentially picked it up and turned it from audio-only content into a weekly television show. One-on-one conversation has never worked in primetime (late night is a different story, as Bob Costas proved on NBC’s “Later”), and it’s a bomb this time, too.
According to “The Wrap,” Baldwin (with guests Robert DeNiro and Taraji P. Henson) only attracted 2.2 million viewers for his debut Sunday night, losing almost half the audience of his lead-in, “Shark Tank.” In the 18-49 demographic, the one advertisers care most about, Baldwin was so far behind NBC and CBS he tied with the Spanish-language network Univision.
Now, ABC might look at those numbers and think they’re fine because “The Alec Baldwin Show” costs next to nothing to produce. But I remember when NBC sacrificed an hour of primetime to air five nights a week of “The Jay Leno Show,” which was also relatively cheap compared to the cost of an hour-long drama or two half-hour sitcoms. Not only were Leno’s numbers horribly low, but he dragged down the ratings of the late newscasts on NBC affiliates, who were already unhappy with the less-than-desirable lead-out audience that Leno’s “Tonight Show” replacement, Conan O’Brien, was attracting. While the network was saving money, an outcry from the affiliates forced NBC to yank Leno out of primetime.
I predict it won’t be long before ABC does the same with Baldwin. If we’re lucky, it will happen this week before he gets to his one-hour conversation with Kim Kardashian (which is approximately 61 minutes longer than my interest level in her or any of her relatives).
It might be different if ABC plugged Baldwin into a Friday or Saturday night time slot, when fewer people are using TV — in fact, the networks have essentially given up on Saturday, using it for nothing more than a night to rerun their primetime shows from a few days earlier — but Sunday is the most-watched night of the week! Granted, ABC is going up against the Sunday Night Football juggernaut on NBC (15.6 million viewers) and one of the “NCIS” franchises on CBS (7.4 million), along with whatever HBO puts up between “Game Of Thrones” seasons (at the moment, a new Jennifer Garner series called “Camping”). Still, for ABC to throw in the towel on 25% of its programming on the highest-rated night of the week sends a disturbing message to the creative community that would love a chance to get their new one-hour dramas a primetime showcase network slot.
It’s not Baldwin’s fault. He’s a fine interviewer, a good listener, and interjects some amusing anecdotes and impressions into each conversation. Yet it’s ironic that, with his Trump impression, he’s become a “Saturday Night Live” regular on NBC while simultaneously proving himself Not Ready For Primetime on ABC.