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All the Lessons Netflix Should Learn From Everybody's in LA

Netflix led the fracturing of the TV landscape, but it also has the power to fix it by breaking the model it created.
  • Jon Stewart and John Mulaney in Everybody's in LA (Photo: Netflix)
    Jon Stewart and John Mulaney in Everybody's in LA (Photo: Netflix)

    John Mulaney Presents: Everybody's in LA only aired for a week and a day, but it might have had the power to change TV for the better. That's probably too much pressure to put on six episodes of a live Netflix experiment that the comedian hosted from an inexplicable 1970s living room set on a soundstage at Sunset and Gower, but that's the feeling I came away from it with. That was what TV's been missing — that fever dream that made Jerry Seinfeld suggest that Mulaney wasn't quite as sober as he now famously is, that weird combo of morning radio and late-night cable access. It's the sort of thing you wake up to at 3 a.m. after falling asleep with the TV on, and it's exactly what we all needed. 

    Streaming no doubt changed the TV game, but it also sort of decimated it. We used to watch the things that were on because they were on. We watched The Price Is Right when home sick from school. We watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer repeats at 6:00 A.M. because they aired on something called Chiller. HGTV was less a bunch of different shows than one big montage of houses that played in the background while we cleaned our own house. 

    Choices were limited, and now all we have is choice. We can watch anything at any time, anywhere. We watch late-night shows in the form of YouTube clips the next day, or even shorter TikTok videos. People see Abbott Elementary as more of a Hulu show than an ABC show. Suits can become the number one show four years after it ended on all of streaming simply by being made available on a second streaming service. Audiences are scattered, plagued by too much choice. Why try something new that might be canceled when you can just rewatch Grey's Anatomy, a show with 20 seasons that will never end? And if that's the case, why should anyone make new shows at all, or let them run more than a season or two? 

    Netflix started it, and maybe now Netflix has the power to fix it by breaking apart the model it created and mixing a bit of the future with a bit of the past. Here's a few lessons the streamer and the industry should be taking from Everybody's in LA.  

    More Live TV

    Netflix has had mixed results with its live events. But by the time Everybody's in LA premiered, the kinks were worked out. The show ran smoothly, and during the moments where it was live, it felt live. Viewers (and/or the mayor of Los Angeles) could call in with comments on what they had just seen. Mulaney could screw up a scripted intro or lose complete control of the situation based on whatever comedian was on stage with him. He could be bombarded with a giant spoon full of cake by George Wallace. Even bits that didn't technically work comedically became funny by failing, because there's a certain amount of forgiveness and fondness that audiences have for live TV. Netflix content is often made so far in advance that it feels disconnected from the present day, but the streamer has now proven itself capable of quality on the fly. 

    More John Mulaney (And Others Like Him)

    Mulaney has had a strange few years. He went from being known as the guy in the suit whose comedy often featured his small Jewish wife (Anna Marie Tendler) and the fact that he didn't want kids to being a recently divorced guy with a new famous girlfriend and a surprise baby, with a stint in rehab and a star-studded intervention somewhere in there.

    He's now very open about the fact that he went to rehab for his cocaine addiction, and it's added a new sense of freedom to his comedy. His comedian friends can bring it up, and he can bring it up, and they're all able to joke about it as a simple fact of Mulaney's life. He has nothing to hide anymore, and his work has only benefitted. He may not be the guy his fans once thought he was, but the flawed version is so much better anyway. 

    It's reminiscent of the culture around comedians in the UK, where endless panel shows or game shows like Taskmaster barely allow them the chance to keep up any appearances or hide from their mistakes. Highly polished stand-up specials are one thing, but we need the rougher, off-the-cuff stuff too. 

    Actual Episodes

    Netflix has essentially changed the way people watch TV, meaning they've also changed the way TV is made. The binge model releases everything at once and we tend to watch everything at once, meaning a season that once would have stretched over six months can now be watched in a day, blending together into one big general shape of a TV show.

    Every episode of Everybody's in LA had a completely different vibe with a specific topic, and while I'm not out here saying Bridgerton should have an episode dedicated to earthquakes, many single episodes have made just as big of an impact as their shows more broadly. The bomb episode of Grey's Anatomy. New Girl's "Cooler." The Chrismukkah episode of The O.C. The Dinner Party from Hell in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Can anyone name a single episode of Selling Sunset?! 

    Bridgerton already knows about the magic of anticipation, of keeping a couple apart until they just can't stand to be apart any longer. Netflix might not need to give us just one episode a week, but imagine the sense of community and conversation if its shows, which already have short seasons, released a new episode at a set time every day, à la Everybody's in LA. Imagine a whole Bridgerton week! Imagine being able to distinguish one episode of Selling Sunset from another! 

    Shorter Is Usually Better

    Streaming has the benefit of time, because without set commercial breaks and air schedules, anything can be as long as it wants to be. But the one downside to Everybody's in LA was the pre-taped segments that seemed to just go on forever, past their comedic prime. No video of comedians touring a house they're not going to buy should be so long it needs two parts. No episode of any TV show should be longer than 50 minutes. Keep it short and sweet and get out while you're ahead. 

    Keep TV Weird

    The best part of Everybody's in LA was that it was just strange as hell. Anything could happen. Anything could come out of any comedian's mouth at any time. Any caller could say anything they wanted, and at any moment, a food delivery robot could come rolling across the stage. Or maybe Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers could be hiding in a Denny's, waiting for two random audience members in limos to come find him, only for those two audience members to never be heard from again. Maybe Cedric the Entertainer could give two white women makeovers to look like Cedric the Entertainer. Why? Why not? 

    Riverdale got a lot of flack for just how strange it often got, but people seem to forget that it was just one of the last in a long line of TV dramas that got real creative with their sense of realism. One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, The O.C., ER, Friday Night Lights — all adored, all made fun of, and often in the same breath. There's a reason I Think You Should Leave has become such a meme powerhouse, and why a random Colin Farrell detective show on Apple TV+ suddenly got a whole barrage of headlines after a bonkers twist. (It's called Sugar, but don't read that if you don't want to get spoiled!) People love a surprise. 

    Everybody's in LA wasn't perfect by any means, but it didn't need to be. It was wonderful and stupid and snarky but celebratory, and while I'm not sure it could have been as fun for anyone who isn't familiar with the quirks of Los Angeles, that doesn't matter either. As long as it taught Netflix the right things about how to fix what it has broken, it will live on in television history. Now what kind of car do you drive? 

    John Mulaney Presents: Everybody's in LA is streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Lauren Piester has been writing about entertainment for a decade at places like E! News, TVGuide.com and The Messenger (R.I.P.). Her parents are thrilled that she turned her TV addiction and questionable tastes into a career, and so are her cats, sometimes. All of her work (even the stuff that got unceremoniously deleted by a greedy billionaire) can be found here


    TOPICS: John Mulaney, Netflix, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, John Mulaney Presents: Everybody's In LA, Love Is Blind, Binge Watching, Late Night, Live TV