Be So Good...

On Tuesday, August 23rd, I saw two items back-to-back on Facebook.

The first was a clip of an old Charlie Rose interview with Steve Martin. It focused on his oft quoted quip: "Be so good they can't ignore you," which he followed up by stating that sometimes artists are more interested in making the right connections than improving their craft.

The second item was a story discussing the cancellation of The Jim Gaffigan Show.

Seeing the two in that order, all I could think was, "Odd timing."

The Jim Gaffigan Show started as a pilot for one of the big networks. When they passed, it was relegated to TV Land. TV Land plays mostly reruns, and is so obscure that even though I set my DVR to record The Jim Gaffigan Show as a top priority--#1 on my record list actually--my DVR never once taped it. Every week I had to go into On Demand and watch the latest episode. Every week I double and triple checked my system: "The Jim Gaffigan Show, TV Land, Record all episodes." Everything was always correct, my DVR just ignored, or couldn't find, it.

According to the article, the show ended due to a slide in the already low ratings. Season one did marginally OK; Season two wasn't able to match those "OK" numbers.

This bothers me.

From the first episode, The Jim Gaffigan Show was comfortable in its own skin. It had a relaxed air, and wasn't awkward or clumsy, as some shows are while they try to find their tone. The humor was subtle, yet obvious. The jokes were organic, not forced. Every punchline was said casually, which made it all the better--poor comedy involves yelling, where insecure writers and actors over-emphasize everything: "HA-HA, ISN'T THIS SO FUNNY?!"

And yet, it was first passed over by the major networks, and then by the TV viewing masses at large. It was so good that no one should have ignored it, but too many people did. That such a wonderful program wasn't a ratings powerhouse is a shame.

So, what happens when you are so good they can't ignore you...

...and they ignore you anyway?

I could name numerous musicians, comedians, and other unknown artists who are brilliant, yet struggling. Meanwhile, look at the top of the Nielsen ratings. Examine the #1 movie from week to week and the top of the Billboard charts. Are those the best TV shows? The most compelling, well-made movies? Songs from the most talented musicians?

Rarely, if ever.

Why is this? Because of the second part of Mr. Martin's statement. Smart artists are absolutely more interested in making connections than being good. They know that connections are how things get done. A marginally talented artist with a good manager is going to have more opportunities and more likely to be successful than an exceedingly talented one without representation. Talent can buy you longevity, but connections get you in the door. Without connections, all the talent in the world is but a fart in the wind.

And even with connections and that foot in the door, the problem with "Be so good they can't ignore you" is: they can, and they will.

The Jim Gaffigan Show is proof positive of that.

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