In April 2002, G4 TV was launched. The basic cable network was geared toward young male viewers and centered around the world of video games. For years the specialized network gave viewers the scoop on what to play with shows like “Judgment Day,” “Cheat!,” “X-Play” and “Attack of the Show!” But television is in the midst of a major identity crisis. Networks no longer like the idea of being “labeled” or “limited.” Hence Sci-Fi Channel becomes Syfy and starts airing professional wrestling. Hence History Channel runs an awful lot of docu-reality shows about rednecks. Hence OWN occasionally shows series that do not have Oprah in them.
So, like a midwest girl showing up on campus for freshman orientation, G4 is taking the opportunity to completely reinvent itself. As of April 22, G4 will transform into Esquire Network, patterning itself after the upscale men’s magazine. Video games are out, hair putty is in. The goal is now to focus on programming aimed at “metrosexual viewers” (a marketing term most of us assumed had disappeared with the cancellation of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”).
What does “metrosexual” programming look like, you ask? Taking a glance over the network’s new lineup—it looks exactly like every other basic cable channel. Among the net’s mix of “travel, cooking, fashion and non-sports related male programming” are reruns of Starz’ “Party Down” and NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” (Apparently metrosexuals really like Adam Scott.) Week-delayed episodes of NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” are perfect for people who neglected to get the free local channels on their cable package. Throw in some old episodes of “Psych” and “Burn Notice” from USA Network and you’ve got a really stripped-down version of Hulu.com.
So what about original series? Esquire has a few in mind—although the word “original” is probably stretching it a bit. Things get fresh on April 23 with “Knife Fight” (Tuesday, 7 p.m.) and “The Getaway” (Tuesday 8 p.m.). “Knife Fight” is exactly like every other cooking competition on TV—except that producers are saying it’s “unlike any other cooking competition on TV.” That translates to cooking in a real kitchen instead of a staged kitchen and including an audience to hoot and holler over every julienne cut. If this qualifies as markedly different in your book, eat up. “The Getaway” is what you’d get if you took “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” and replaced the host with a different celebrity each week. For the first show, we have Joel McHale drinking his way though Belfast.
Future shows include “American Field Trip” with photojournalist Matt Hranek traveling to off-the-beaten-path tourist destinations and “Risky Listings,” a New York-based real estate show. The network intends to launch at least five more unscripted originals in the fall. For now, all we get is “Knife Fight” and “The Getaway.”
It’s not the most inspiring collection of shows. And not much of it really screams Esquire. Can a ghost-hunting show and something Cajun/fishing-related be far behind? But hey, at least executives won’t have to worry about all those video game-playing nerds watching the network anymore.