There’s not a question that HBO dominates Sunday night. But how long until the Home Box Office network spreads its wings and controls every night of the week?
The Sopranos, The Wire, True Detective and Game of Thrones are just some of the series that have owned Sunday nights over the years. In the modern age of Twitter, no network even comes close to the weekly outpouring of excitement, shock and joy that HBO receives. But in the next week HBO is going to be making a subtly major move: they’re debuting a show on Wednesday night. With that, they might be indicating that they’re ready to spread their creative wealth over several nights.
Bill Simmons, journalist and former ESPN personality, will be launching Any Given Wednesday on – you guessed it – Wednesday night. The project is more-or-less a talk show about sports (Simmons’s specialty) and pop culture at large. Simmons has already nabbed Ben Affleck and Charles Barkley as his first guests so it’s clear this isn’t some throwaway show. HBO is investing a lot of energy and hopes into Simmons.
Let’s take a moment to respect the brilliance of HBO for hiring Simmons. He has an encyclopedic knowledge and fun but abrasive attitude that makes him a perfect modern late night host. He’s a phenomenal podcast host in an age when talk shows could take a few cues from podcasts. He will provide some hard-hitting, no-BS interviews and segments that’ll get people talking. HBO was characteristically savvy and ahead of the curve when the nabbed him.
The fact that they are premiering his show on Wednesday is a big deal. Sundays have always been their go-to night: the evening when they present their latest and greatest. They premiere new movies (including their own) on Saturday night and save Friday nights for political (Real Time with Bill Maher) and sports (Inside Sports with Bryant Gumbel). To see them make their way into the regular work week means they aren’t opposed to breaking out of the weekend schedule. That means that Any Given Wednesday might not be the only HBO series that runs on a weekday night.
HBO has always been smart about airing their major shows on Sunday night. They are able to give each of their tentpole series the spotlight and attention they deserve. It doesn’t always guarantee success (examples being Boardwalk Empire, which never really took off, and Vinyl, which has struggled through its first season). Still, it allows the network to give each show the T.L.C. they need to succeed. But why not move into Monday, Tuesday and so on? With the attention of the blogosphere and their new apps, HBO Go and HBO Now, success can be found on any night of the week. Perhaps Any Given Wednesday is them testing the waters.
HBO has given no indication that they are planting their flag in more nights. Yet it’s not often they launch a show on an irregular evening. They are obviously open to the idea of trying new things and expanding their schedule. If they did, you could see this already revered network strengthen its hold on America’s attention. With that, other networks would scramble to keep up. It could be a domino effect that effectively changes the entire television landscape. If anyone can do it, it’s HBO.
As is said often, it’s a transformative time for TV between Netflix, other streaming services and the high level of talent migrating to the small screen. No one knows how Any Given Wednesday will play out. It could be a total snooze. But it’ll certainly be new for HBO, a network that thrives on doing things differently. Not only is it a unique format and focus for them, it’s a weeknight – uncharted territory. It could be a sign of things to come, an indication that they’re stretching their legs and coming for your weeknight as well as your weekends. If this goes well, it might be the start of something big.