Great Editors Can Make Bad TV Look Good

Updated February 12, 2020.

Featured image sourced from the New York Times.

After rating the 22 promos for the TV networks’ new shows, we came up with two main conclusions. The first is that we have really bad taste in television. The second – and let’s be honest, far more likely – conclusion is that great video editors can sell even the worst of TV shows.

Mulaney (FOX)

Take “Mulaney,” for example. The promo for the FOX show starring Saturday Night Live actor and stand-up comedian John Mulaney, and co-starring SNL alums Martin Short and Nasim Pedrad wound up at number 4. But the show itself is struggling to remain relevant, premiering to a mere 2.3 million viewers and with a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49, a critical measure used by advertisers to determine the worth of the audience (and therefore show).

By comparison, “Scandal,” the ABC drama starring Kerry Washington, aired its season premiere to 11.9 million viewers and received a 3.8 rating with the younger adult demographic. Beyond the ratings, though, “Mulaney” isn’t gaining approval with audiences and critics, receiving a very rotten Rotten Tomatoes score of 25 among audiences, and worse yet, 15 among critics.

GBA Editor Andrew Parkison explained why he had high hopes for the show.

“I ranked ‘Mulaney’ high on my list of promos because the jokes had me laughing the entire time,” Parkison writes. “You take a bunch of very talented stand up comedians, put them on a show that is structured very similarly to Seinfeld, and you watch as your actor/writer/comedian cast builds chemistry. Martin Short is a comedic titan and Mulaney is climbing the ranks quickly through his successful stand up specials.”

But John Mulaney isn’t a household name, Parkison says. That may explain the poor showing for the premiere, but if Mulaney and his cast were putting out a strong show, the audience would start to come. They’re not. At only 2.25 million viewers in the last week of October – and still a 1.0 rating among adults under 50 – “Mulaney” is practically laying itself on the chopping block. Bad reviews suggest the two-minute promo was the best jokes of the first episode, with the other 28 minutes falling flat.

So the “Mulaney” editors sold us on what turned out to be a not-so-great show. But what about flipping the equation? What about a show that we thought looked terrible, but is actually really great?

Jane the Virgin (The CW)

There’s the CW’s wildly popular “Jane the Virgin” for this. Out of 22 promos, we ranked it 20. But the show itself received a shocking 100 score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a 91 from audiences and is by far the freshman show with the most acclaim this fall.

Here’s what GBA Editor Lee Fanning had to say about the promo.

“[The promo] was a genuinely awful first impression, with embarrassing performance moments, a severe lack of information, and overbearing review quotations that clutter the experience and do nothing to add to my willingness to give the show more attention.”

What the Critics Say

What appears to be working for the show just didn’t come across in the promo. “Jane the Virgin” isn’t positioning itself as a show that takes its premise seriously, “both skewering and paying homage to telenovelas,” writes Sonia Saraiya for Salon.

“I’s a show that knows that it’s a show,” Saraiya explains. “The show is hilarious, mining the ridiculousness of its own plot machinations for humor.”

Instead what we saw was a promo for a show that was trying to convince high school girls to stay relevant by watching a show everyone else is glued to. And we didn’t get a sense for Gina Rodriguez’s performance, although we’re hearing that she is a big new star.

Clara Ritger, Assistant Producer at Green Buzz Agency.

Emily Herman contributed to this post.