NBC's Esquire Network Is For Upscale Gentlemen

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It's standing room only inside The Gorbals. The hip downtown Los Angeles eatery is filled to the brim with loud lookie-loos who've gathered to sip free-flowing beer and wine while watching a pair of professional chefs sizzle their way through a new televised cooking competition called "Knife Fight," the first series debuting on the new Esquire Network.

The boisterous room is momentarily interrupted by Drew Barrymore. Yes, that Drew Barrymore, the Drew Barrymore from the films "E.T." and "Never Been Kissed." She's one of the show's executive producers and is serving as a guest judge for tonight's battle. Without any provocation, Barrymore suddenly hoists herself atop a table and screams at the top of her lungs.

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"I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO JUDGE A (EXPLETIVE) COOKING SHOW!"

The crowd roars. The chefs keep working on their improvised dishes.

Yep, this is not one of those by-the-books cook-offs like "Chopped" or "Top Chef," and it certainly doesn't feel like the sort of series that would launch a channel inspired by - and named after - the slicker-than-slick Hearst men's magazine. That's the point, programming director Matt Hanna notes in a nearby ballroom serving as a makeshift control room.

"There's an integrity that you're gonna see with this show that will hopefully reflect what we want the network to be," Hanna said over the clamor from the restaurant next door. "Whether I'm talking about a great comedian, restaurant or TV show, it all comes down to honesty, and there's something really honest here. We're hoping to defy expectations."

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The network kicks off Monday with a two-hour 80th anniversary retrospective about the network's namesake narrated by "Mad Men" star John Slattery. "Knife Fight," which is hosted by The Gorbals owner and second season "Top Chef" champ Ilan Hall, and a docu-series about Scottish beer aficionados James Watt and Martin Dickie titled "Brew Dogs" both debut Tuesday.

Other shows include "The Getaway," a travel series featuring celebrities like Joel McHale and Aziz Ansari trekking to new destinations, and "Boundless," which is about a pair of endurance athletes. The rest of the schedule will be filled with reruns of shows like "Parks and Recreation" and "Party Down," as well as delayed installments of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."

Despite the fact there's already a fistful of channels targeting guys - Spike, Comedy Central and ESPN, to name a few - Esquire Network general manager Adam Stotsky believes a particular class of upscale gentlemen interested in travel, food, booze and fashion have previously had to curate their own content. Esquire Network is providing them, in essence, one-stop shopping.

"There's this white space on the TV dial," said Stotsky. "Outside of sports and news, we don't see a single TV destination exploring the diverse passions men are about today. Our goal is to reach slightly more educated, upwardly mobile and perhaps urbane men that have a dynamic set of interests to serve as the backdrop for these interesting stories."

When the network was originally announced earlier this year by owner NBC-Universal, the channel was supposed to debut in April and take over G4, the geeky network catering to gamers. The launch was delayed to cook up more programming. Earlier this month, NBC-Universal decided that its Style Network would instead be the one reborn as Esquire Network.

The thinking was that NBC-Universal already owns several networks that serve mostly female audiences, including Bravo and Oxygen, so that means Style is out, Esquire is in and G4's game isn't totally over. Stotsky said the fate of popular Style Network series like "Tia and Tamera" and "Guilana and Bill" will be later decided after Esquire Network opens for business.

Other shows coming to the Esquire Network this fall and next year include: "Risky Listing," a reality series chronicling New York nightlife real estate; "White Collar Brawlers," which pits co-workers against each other in a boxing ring; and "Horseplayers," a docu-series about the world of professional horse race betting. At this point, Hanna said there's no plan to air any sports.

Esquire, which will be available in 75 million homes at launch, is among several cable network makeovers this year, joining the remodeled Current news network Al Jazeera America, FX offspring FXX and millennial-seeking outlets Pivot and Revolt TV, the upcoming passion project from Sean "Diddy" Combs. Launching a new network ain't easy. Just ask Oprah. Esquire isn't sweating it.

"One of the hallmarks of NBC-Universal is our ability to collaborate across a wide collection of assets and promote new initiatives like the Esquire Network," said Stotsky. "There have been a handful of new entries. For us, we're super-focused on Sept. 23 and what we're doing. Fortunately, we've got great partners both internally and externally to help get the word out."

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Comments (1) -

TomDeBaum Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Please, please, please, please, please come up with some original programming-not just more reality shows and cooking shows and copies of British TV shows. Give some young writers a chance ie: find the next Lena Dunham. Otherwise you risk turning a well-known and respected brand into just another vapid pop culture icon bereft of any real substance, and one that doesn't stand for anything other than making money. But then again this is America and money talks.
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 26, 2016
  • 1.
    4.4/12
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    2.8/8
  • 3.
    2.5/7
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    1.5/4
  • 5.
    0.8/2
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    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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