Charlie Chaplin famously said: “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it.” That saying may be the inspiration behind CBS’ newest pilot, “The Great Indoors,” about the demise of a fictional print magazine as it transitions to a digital-only property.
For those in the media, the narrative is depressingly familiar: Print magazine shutters operations, cuts budgets for reporters, moves resources to the web where the publication is run by younger, more economically friendly digital employees.
“It’s happening everywhere,” said the show’s executive producer Mike Gibbons, who was influenced by Newsweek’s transition from print to digital. “I’ve had guilt-piles of The New Yorker, The New York Times and New York Magazine. Web sites are very much a cause…Not only is print dead, print anything is dead.”
Gibbons, 49, co-created “Tosh.0” and has producing credits on several shows, including “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” “The Great Indoors” premieres on Oct. 27 and stars Joel McHale as Jack Gordon, a grizzled adventurer/star reporter of “Outdoor Limits,” who is called in from the field by its old-school British editor in chief and told the print magazine is closing. He’s asked to mentor the digital team, which is populated by social-media obsessed, overly sensitive Millennials with silly job titles such as “online content curator.”
The pilot episode has Gordon’s bosses explaining that there’s “no out there” for reporters anymore due to shrinking budgets and his self-centered coworker Emma obliviously asking for a raise, despite the pullback, after only eight weeks on the job.
Other choice moments include the Millennials making fun of Gordon’s non-existent social media presence, as he, in turn, marvels at the clickbait digital stories from the team such as “Three ways to drink your own urine.”
Jokes aside, Gibbons has tapped into how technology has not only changed media, but also culture and behavior overall.
“In my opinion, America has taken this digital age to the highest heights,” he said. “America is leading the charge in self-absorption whether it’s with the popularity of the Kardashians…or with selfies.”
The mention of selfies brought the conversation back to Millennials, who Gibbons thinks will tune into “The Great Indoors,” despite the drumbeat of mockery. He noted that the show will occupy the 8:30 p.m. time slot every Thursday following “The Big Bang Theory,” which attracts a young demographic.
But Gibbons may be giving the Millennials too much credit; when CBS showed its pilot to the media, Millennial reporters went on a tear over the generalizations made about their generation. During the presentation, an offended Millennial reporter piped up: “I’m a Millennial myself. How are we so coddled, and what about our overly politically correct workplace bothers you?”
After a brief back and forth with Gibbons and cast members, another reporter chimed in to make the point that his generation likely won’t watch the show because it mocks the fact that Millennials are “so sensitive and PC”— an ironic twist that wasn’t lost on Gibbons.
“It was like an irony wormhole. I was afraid people were going to think we paid that reporter to prove our point. The outrage that we’re calling them easily outraged,” laughed Gibbons, who brushed that episode off. “I think this generation is going to see very relatable characters.”