Saturday, January 14, 2012

Retirement Wish List — Discussion Shows for Retirees

Some of the most popular TV fare are discussion shows with panels of regulars. The quintessential example and my favorite is ABC’s The View. For those living in a man cave—oops! my bad (banned phrase in 2012)—under a rock, The View has five female co-hosts of varying demographics, backgrounds and, appropriately, points of View.

CBS developed a competing but less successful show, The Talk. They must have thought their title would deliver women who meant to tune in The View but got confused. As if. Meanwhile, ABC, pumped by its continued good ratings and CBS’s less than stellar entry, concluded they are simply better at this format. They expanded from women’s issues into The Chew, about—you guessed it—food.

Notice that discussion shows all have four letter titles. That includes The Five, Fox’s replacement for Glenn Beck when he bailed on them. The Five, with a rotating panel of—you guessed it again, five—Fox personalities, was created as a stop-gap. When it was still gapping nicely without stop after three months, it became permanent.

As I mulled this over, I decided there’s an opportunity for discussion shows for retirees. The network that hops on this should develop one version for women and another for men, for two key reasons. First, with all the flirting and fawning, there’d be too much sexual tension in a co-ed group. You couldn’t have serious conversations. Second, the ideal panel size seems to be five. So a co-ed panel would have an uneven number of members of each sex—never a good idea. (Remember Spin the Bottle?)

I have suggestions for the composition of these panels to get the same level of head-butting (or butt-heading?) as on The View. I’ve worked hard to get a range of ages and points of view and to provide diversity. It wasn’t easy. Just try to find an older conservative female celebrity. Or an older black one, for that matter; most of those even close to retirement are already on a discussion show.

For the women’s panel, Betty White is a must. She’s hot (in Cleveland) now, is opinionated and funny, and has demonstrated her chops in female-group programming. Another good choice is Jane Fonda, who has just put out exercise DVD’s for seniors. She’s also opinionated, though not funny, but we’ve got that covered with Betty. Jane should come cheap; she’ll want to push her DVD’s at least until her leotard wears out. (She still has that striped one from her original workout video.)

I’d also include The Brady Bunch mom, Florence Henderson; her RLTV cable show is obscure enough to be a non-issue. Wikipedia claims she supports a Catholic charity and, out of respect, refused to dress in a nun's habit for a comedy skit. That makes her quasi-conservative compared to other celebrities, even if she did get crabs from NYC Mayor John Lindsay when she had an adulterous affair with him in the sixties.

Faye Wattleton would be a great panel member. She’s known for speaking out on controversial topics, plus she provides that sought after diversity. Candice Bergen rounds out my choices. She’s one of the contributors to the women’s website Her pregnant-out-of-wedlock Murphy Brown character could debate Planned Grandparenthood with Faye. Can't wait.

Moving on to the candidates for the men’s show, we have lots of choices, several of whom have had talk shows of their own. We think they can be lured into joining our discussion group, now that they are in or are approaching their own retirement.

Two obvious ones that will add excitement, controversy and color are Jerry Springer and Larry King. For color of a different sort, we’ll pull in Bill Cosby. Less obvious, but faces that are familiar on the late night circuit, are Terry Bradshaw and Ben Stein. Bradshaw is borderline manic and Stein can be depressive. Talk about stirring the pot. Stein has the added advantage of offering a conservative voice.

Once a month, we’ll bring the two panels together on a current hot topic that is highly polarizing. That should really liven up the discussions. Betty White going at it with Larry King over clip-on vs. button-on suspenders! Florence Henderson taking on fellow Dancing with the Stars alum Jerry Springer on whether the rumba can be adapted for pole dancing! Talk about sexual tension…

The only thing left to do is come up with a four-letter name for these suckers. The Perk is a possibility, but isn't it too Central to the Friends TV show? Perhaps The Brew; that can have several meanings. We’ll tell the men it’s short for Brewski.

Oh, yes. These shows are destined for critical acclaim. I think I’ve found my next career: TV programming. Sta-a-ay tuned!

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