Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
NFL Draft day arrives this Thursday – and it brings back fond memories. The Draft has become a three-day heavily marketed extravaganza with the first two rounds taking place in primetime on ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network.
When I was growing up, the NFL Draft was barely a blip on the cable TV screen. It also happened to break my perfect school attendance record.
ESPN approached the NFL after being on the air for six months in 1980 asking to televise the Draft. NFL owners wanted no part of it, but Commissioner Pete Rozelle foresaw the power of TV and told ESPN to cover it as a "news event." And so they did.
When Draft day came around the next year, suddenly I wasn't feeling so well and couldn't summon up the energy to go to school. I pretended to be sick, but my mom caught on to my fake temperature pretty quickly.
Mom did the math and realized that my illness coincided with Draft day, but she played along and made sure I got plenty of rest for a miracle cure the very next day. I was a good student, so if this was my "cut day" she was onboard. Thanks, mom.
The NFL Draft took place live on a late weekday morning in the Sheraton ballroom, and this event was anything but made for TV. There was a small stage with a podium for the commissioner, and a room full of folding tables with men in suits sitting behind NFL helmet phones. I felt like a fly on a wall watching those lucky guys preparing to write a secret name on a blue card the commissioner would read.
My dad was a New York Giants fan, and I called him at work the second Big Blue made their pick. He cared as much as I did, and since there was no internet or 24 hour sports radio, I was the most reliable source he had. Thankfully, he wasn’t a Jets fan.
The appeal of the Draft back then was simply the information. It was clunky and discombobulated which made it feel so real. Pundits would flip through papers and pontificate on who would be taken when, and a camera would follow that blue card from the helmet phone to the stage where the Commissioner announced the pick. The excitement of trades, the general awkwardness — it felt like being part of something only NFL staff got to see.
These days, the Draft is way too polished. The NFL hype machine is on overdrive. The hats, the jerseys, posed photographs... it's a blatant showcase for the players, teams and the league in general. All the posing and pre-taped montages feel so overly produced. Those hugs from the Commissioner are cringeworthy.
And taking three days to televise the entire draft is ludicrous. This is not, and should not be, a primetime event. Let's leave that time slot for the games. The NFL will never go back to the awkward hotel ballroom, but this isn't a rock concert. I guarantee there will be a band performing at some point during the broadcast. Substitute some real fan reaction like the Jets fans booing in the 1980's, and you'll get plenty of fireworks.
The crossover between sports and entertainment will be on full display during the NFL draft. Never lose sight of the fact that this is a special night (or two, or three) for a couple hundred college kids waiting to hear their name called. That's all the excitement that’s needed.
All the glitz and glamour actually makes me feel a little bit sick. Mom would understand.
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Exposure (HULU) – A photography reality competition show. Yup. Watch preview. Premieres Monday.
The Handmaid's Tale (HULU) – It's the 4th season of this award-winning drama. Real life is too depressing for me to tune in. Watch trailer. Three episodes drop Wednesday.
Sexify (NETFLIX) – A Polish comedy about a student who wants to invent an app for female orgasms. Watch trailer. Wednesday.
The Innocent (NETFLIX) – Another Harlan Coben book gets a Netflix adaptation. If it ain't broke... Watch trailer. Debuts Friday.
Pet Stars (NETFLIX) – Explore the ins and outs of the talent agency for the world's most popular pets. My dog Molly will be tuned in. Watch trailer. Debuts Friday
Girlfriend Experience (STARZ) – This kinky award winner profiling high-end call girls is back for a third season. Watch trailer. Sunday night.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Muppets, mosquitos and late night…
Sesame Street: 50 Years Of Sunny Days (ABC)
Monday, April 26th 8pm
I've raved about this life-changing children's series many times. Be a kid again and look back on five decades of meaningful television programming with some of the world's most important people.
The Mosquito Coast (APPLE TV+)
Friday, April 30th
Apple might not be thrilling the world with their latest computers, but there's some good programming coming out of Cupertino. Defending Jacob, Ted Lasso and For All Mankind are well worth the watch.
Justin Theroux brings his uncle's novel to the land of the iPhone starring as Allie Fox who has many doubts when it comes to the American dream. Allie will protect his life and his family at any cost. No one is going to tell Allie what to do.
Theroux excels at playing this type of character, but it'll be a challenge to live up to his uncle's book and the Harrison Ford film. Watch trailer.
The Story of Late Night (CNN)
Sunday, May 2nd 9pm
Here's a tale told many times that I simply can't get enough of. Late night gets the CNN treatment, breaking down the history of shows that help us laugh as we try to get some sleep.
This six-part docuseries covers 60 years of late night TV. There's plenty of focus on Johnny, Jay, Joan, the Jimmys, and of course, Dave. We know all the players by now. The television audience has dwindled over time, but the effect on our culture remains just as pronounced as it was decades ago.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.