Everything old is new again. At least at some point. Acid wash jeans, Pokémon, June Squibb: every so often, the wheel spins back around and things go through a bit of a reinvention. After all, there is no such thing as an original idea in Hollywood anymore (har har har), so we think it's high time the variety show had its comeuppance. It's time to revitalize the variety show, and not just because Maya Rudolph, glorious, multi-talented, hilarious queen of comedy that she is, is doing The Maya Rudolph Show (though that certainly doesn't hurt matters). Rather because given the way our modern audiences work, the old standby totally makes sense for right now.
Listen — it's no secret that we live in the era of the seconds-long attention span. The Internet has ensured that anything over a few minutes is a challenge for us to keep our media-saturated minds on. We're constantly looking for something new, something quick, and something funny. And last time we checked, that sort of thing is variety show bread and butter. Quick skits, silly sketches, improv'd theatrics, and even musical numbers can all fit into these neat little timeframed packages.
Which makes them perfect for our modern age. With easy-to-digest little segments — the perfect size for social sharing, which also means additional advertising dollars — variety shows are essentially tailor-made for a second life scenario online. Content that did really well on live TV, or even stuff that's a bit more niche-y and weird, would have the opportunity to thrive online, potentially exposing new fans for the series in addition to the content existing beyond the limits of the small screen. Not that this is any sort of groundbreaking secret revelation: late night shows and Saturday Night Live have already been doing this with success for years. Who says they're the only ones who get to have all the fun?
And there's no shortage of already-impressive talent waiting to get in on the hosting game in addition to Rudolph. Recently, Neil Patrick Harris admitted he was offered the desk at CBS' Late Night but turned it down after expressing a desire to instead do a variety show. Which, let's be real, makes perfect sense for someone as creatively ambidextrous as he, considering his unparalleled ability to host pretty much anything, ever. Networks would be stupid to tell him no.
When you look at the state of comedy on network television at the moment, too — it's okay, we'll admit it for you: it's at a bit of a standstill at the moment — a variety show allows its talent to push the envelope a bit more: see what works and what doesn't, and in turn open up audiences to new ways of finding the funny. On a variety show, broad and niche humor can coexist, meaning there's an actual chance for multiple comedic senses to be engaged without over-placating the more sensitive of the middle American senses.