Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NBC’s Evening Line-Up & “Poker After Dark”

'Poker After Dark'Had some extra time last week and so ended up filling some of it watching “Poker After Dark” here on the computer. The show has been around almost exactly three years now, although last week marked the debut of what they are calling season six.

The theme for the week was “Commentators III,” meaning the six participants in the winner-take-all sit-n-go were all people who have hosted poker shows at some point -- Howard Lederer, Gabe Kaplan, Joe Sebok, Ali Nejad, Mark Gregorich, and Kara Scott. I’d seen a few comments here and there about the first episode, and so that got me over onto the NBC poker page where I ended up following the match throughout the week.

I won’t go into particulars of how things went or who won, in case you have the sucker on TiVo or something and plan to watch yourself. I realized as I was watching I hadn’t really seen an entire week’s worth of “PAD” for a while. The show was somewhat entertaining, I suppose. Have to admit, though, I found my attention drifting more than once.

The poker was mostly tight, with really only one or two hands during the entire week demonstrating a player making what might be called a “move.” Thus did the outcome primarily rest on who caught cards in the most timely fashion. The banter was at times interesting, although I found it a little headachy trying to hear everyone. Seems like if the table talk is meant to be a focus of the show, they’d highlight what folks were saying more aggressively by keeping the talkers on camera and maybe turning up their mics now and then. (Then again, maybe there was just more mumbling going on last week than normally occurs on the show.)

I am nevertheless interested to see the show again this week, primarily to check out the debut of Annette Obrestad. Gonna be a big year for Obrestad, who turned 21 last September. They are calling this week “Nicknames” week, although strangely on the NBC site they are not referring to Obrestad by her best-known nickname -- “Annette_15” -- instead referring to her as “The Huntress.” Actually, I’m pretty sure that decision was quite consciously made so as to avoid any need to explain what “Annette_15” actually means.

As I say, I watched the show last week on the NBC website, as I don’t normally stay up late enough to watch “PAD” when it airs on my local TV station at 2:05 a.m. Probably the last time I was watching the show at that time of night was last summer when I was in Vegas helping cover the WSOP and getting back to my room around then after a long day-slash-night at the Rio.

You probably heard all of that news yesterday about NBC’s late night line-up being in serious doubt here following the 2010 Winter Olympics which will be taking over the network for most of February. “The Jay Leno Show,” which currently airs nightly at 10 p.m., has apparently been losing viewers at a rapid clip, with many affiliates saying they’ll drop it because of the way it has been negatively affecting ratings for the local 11 p.m. news. So NBC announced yesterday they’ll take Leno out of the prime time line-up once the Olympics are over, meaning their post-local news schedule is a bit up in the air.

It sounds like NBC wants to put Leno on at 11:35 p.m. for a half-hour, bump Conan O’Brien’s “The Tonight Show” to 12:05 a.m., then move “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to 1:05 a.m. Apparently Carson Daly’s half-hour show “Last Call,” currently at 1:35 a.m., will get dropped altogether if this turns out to be the new arrangement. Other possibilities being reported are that O’Brien could skedaddle, taking his show over to the Fox Network. In any event, the whole thing sounds like a major headache for NBC, compounded by significant regret over the whole Leno prime time experiment.

So the question for poker fans -- especially those of us who don’t bother much with all these late night talk shows -- is what might all this have to do with “Poker After Dark”? Even if I wasn’t riveted by last week’s episodes, I’d still very much like to see the show stay on NBC. Will this shake-up on NBC between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. affect “PAD”?

I kind of doubt it. That isn’t to say the show is altogether safe. But I’m not really seeing these moves as directly affecting the show’s fate all that much.

For one, while ratings for “PAD” aren’t without meaning, they aren’t nearly as important as they would be without Full Tilt Poker’s sponsorship. Indeed, my understanding is the show wouldn’t exist without FTP supporting it. Recall how about year ago PokerStars decided no longer to send its pros onto the show? (Daniel Negreanu wrote about it on his blog.)

In other words, the show really operates more like an infomercial than a regular, ratings-driven show. It’s not like the show needs to remain popular enough to attract advertisers to keep it on the air, although obviously if it were to tank too badly Full Tilt would no longer view it as a worthwhile vehicle to advertise their product. So, how well “PAD” is doing ratings-wise compared, say, to Carson Daly’s show isn’t necessarily a huge factor here, I don’t believe.

One other point that seems relevant here: the articles I read yesterday suggested that NBC hasn’t any say over what its affiliates show after 2 a.m. As I mentioned, most were reporting that if the Leno-O’Brien-Fallon shuffle into the night indeed happens, Carson Daly’s show will be axed -- that is, it will not moved to 2:05 a.m. At least that’s how NBC network chairman Jeff Gaspin is characterizing that possible scenario. (EDIT [added 5:45 p.m.]: Actually, it sounds like Conan O’Brien is having none of this proposed shufflin' around, according to the statement he released today -- addressed to “People of Earth.”)

All of which seems to indicate that if local affiliates are presently content to keep “PAD” on at 2:05 a.m., there doesn’t seem much reason yet to think they won’t continue to keep the show moving forward. I suppose if they were presented an option to show that Daly show at that time, that could threaten the future of “PAD,” but it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen.

Gonna be a busier week for me this time around. But like I say I want to find time in here somewhere to watch Obrestad take on the other “nicknames” on this week’s show -- Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari, Erick “E-Dog” Lindgren, Phil “The Unabomber” Laak, and Phil “The Poker Brat” Hellmuth.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking -- no Chainsaw?!

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Blogger bellatrix78 said...

Hi Shamus!
Hasn't PAD been on for 4 years now? I remember because I used to watch it sometimes when my newborn screamed me out of bed at 2am. She's just turning 4 now.

1/12/2010 10:46 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Looks like the show debuted the first week of 2007, although it does seem like it has been around longer than that (?).

I remember a lot of screaming and crying then, too, 'cos Phil Hellmuth was pitching a fit during those first eps.

1/12/2010 3:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was in the US recently on business and I happened to catch an episode and I was very impressed. I actually read that NBC has decided to renew the show for a 6th season.

Top notch program.

1/12/2010 3:21 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

I like the show, too, Beach Life. Just started watching the first ep of the week and Annette's new nickname -- made up for the show, she says -- is the subject of the initial round of banter.

1/12/2010 4:12 PM  

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