By Jason Parker
January 14, 2020
Get ready to turn on the laugh track, friends. Esports is coming to your weekday-night comedy slot! NBC has set out pilot orders for a pair of esports-themed TV shows. The first is a Big Bang Theory-inspired series, from Johnny Galecki’s production company (Alcide Bava). That’s right; Warner Bros. is getting into esports TV in a new way.
This one doesn’t upset me, at least, not at first thought. The second one seems to be unreal. There’s no way this can be real. The second show is a comedy based on Echo Fox founder Rick Fox’s life. This second tv show is from CBS, this time.
I don’t. I mean. What?! You’d think as an esports writer, I’d be excited about this. But to be frank, I’m not. I’m horrified.
I’m not a big fan of Big Bang Theory, but I understand it made mountains of money and capitalized on geek culture. It was pretty much a first of its kind. I didn’t think a whole lot of it was funny. It felt more like it poked at geek stereotypes instead of doing a whole lot of positive good. I hope it has a laugh track too, so regular viewers know what to laugh at.
But here we are, in 2019, talking about two Warner Bros. esports comedies. That’s right. It’s going down. The first of these is titled The Squad. The show inspired by the Big Bang Theory will be executive produced by Alcide Bava. Anthony Del Broccolo, co-executive producer and writer of Big Bang Theory, will be on board alongside Galecki, Holly Brown and Cory Wood of Alcide Bava.
The premise is that it will follow a new group of friends who find companionship and common ground in their love of esports. It sounds like they will also occasionally be rivals and enemies. That tracks though because esports fandoms are vile sometimes.
I hate this idea. I’m not going to mince words: This show will probably do well. All they must do is say “Big Bang Theory but Esports!” and people will at least watch it. Everyone I know that loves Big Bang Theory are not geeks or nerds. They don’t care about science, comics, or anything else that shows highlights. They watch it and laugh away.
That’s fine! I’m not here to shame someone for what they watch, but I do worry that it’s going to offer an unrealistic look at what esports fandom is. Are these people going to be fans or actual esports players? That’s another question I have. A lot of esports is watching matches, too!
Is the show going to pair up with real games, or use fake TV games like League of Leagues or Call of Striking: Modern Fire? That would be hilarious, but weird. I’d like it to be met with real-life teams, games. I want the gossip-mongering and rumors that the esports scene is known for! If it gets non-esports fans watching the real deal, I’ll call that a win, but this one is way better than the other show revealed.
Rick Fox’s autobiographical series (name pending) is also supposed to be a comedy. That’s a sentence I must tread carefully around. Rick Fox, one of the founders of Echo Fox (which is no longer around) wound up deposed after using a racial slur during a conference call.
Is that going to be a part of the show somewhere down the line in Season 4? The premise of the show is it follows a “recently retired pro basketball star who attempts to reconnect with his estranged son by buying an esports franchise,” courtesy of Warner Bros.
While I have no idea if the other show has any guarantee of getting a pilot, Galecki’s name has enough weight to at least give it that. Variety pointed out that CBS put out a “put pilot commitment” for Rick Fox’s show, though. That means serious penalties will be faced if the pilot doesn’t at least get aired. That means at some point; I’m going to be able to talk about an esports comedy that aired on TV.
What a world we live in. Between this and The Squad, these are the first of their kind. Do I think it’s cringy? Incredibly. Do I think it’s a weird grab at an untapped audience? Without a doubt. Most esports fans are probably not going to tune in to a TV show when their favorite streamer or matches are on. Now, I could see it being watched later via DVR.
I don’t think this show aims at established esports fans at all. It could be, in my guess, a long shot at changing the perception of esports. By getting the casual TV audience watching, they could see just how serious and intense esports are. It leaves CBS, NBC and other TV giants an avenue to show esports on their channels.
They could also use this as a chance to fund their teams. For billion-dollar companies like Warner Bros., the millions spent are just a drop in the bucket. But if it pays off, it could mean a serious future for viewing esports.
I think it’s essential to take the long view, though. While I’m not vested in these shows, I don’t see them making it big, anything is possible. I didn’t think Big Bang Theory was going to last if it did either, so here I am eating crow.