Esquire TV’s lineup puts stylish spin on basic TV rundown

By Matt Singer / Senior Staff Writer

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Its initial programming launch now completed, it’s already clear that Esquire Network is continuing to do what its eponymous magazine has already succeeded in doing: showing that class, culture and cash can make men think something is cool and — most importantly — new.

This “new” factor is made most obvious by the network’s lineup of original content, which is currently mixed with reruns of other shows, such as “Parks and Recreation” and week-old episodes of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” Esquire Network’s self-made series seem incredibly similar to programs that already exist: There’s a travel show created by Anthony Bourdain, a cooking competition, some guys doing difficult physical challenges and two brewers drinking beer all across America. 

So if all of this “original” content comes off as rehashed versions of pre-existing shows with slimmer fits of button-up shirts and nicer sunglasses, why would anyone bother to tune in?

Well, the answer to that lies in Esquire’s tried and true “coolness.”

The 80-year-old magazine holds a hyper-specific niche that has generated intense brand loyalty. And although there are other magazines out there that target well-off and stylish men, Esquire is known for its sense of reliability. It never falters and never tries to be what it’s not. Its focus is on making men more cultured and exploring the world through new experiences.

And when looked at through that lens, Esquire Network’s lineup starts to appear to be more than just regurgitations of already-on-air culture shows.

“The Getaway” is a show that features celebrities visiting far-off destinations. Although this premise has been done before, it is effectively Esquire-d by having the stars do more than just wine and dine. They’re supposed to absorb the culture and the history of the place they’re visiting. And although that’s supposedly the purpose of every destination show, the Esquire Network hopes to keep it fresh with a rotating sortie of hosts that make the show into more than just one person’s monologue of musings on travel with an alternating background.

Esquire Network’s cooking show, “Knife Fight,” borrows from a slew of other culinary competitions such as Food Network’s Chopped by pitting two chefs against each other and then surprising them with random ingredients, but it’s supposed to go off the beaten track and focus on a sleek and simple setting with relatively unknown cooks. It’s a short, not in-depth show that’s meant to be a short burst of cooking programming — a way for non-foodies to dip their toes into the water and see what the experience is like.

For readers-turned-viewers who wish to see a show in which the hosts pit themselves against grueling odds and push the limits of their body, “Boundless” is supposed to be a location-focused adrenaline rush. Starring two Canadian athletes who try to tackle eight endurance races in five months, “Boundless” should expose viewers to some of the most challenging physical trials in the world. But rather than alpha-male dialogue between the two hosts, the time between exhausted gasps of air is instead filled with appreciation of the locale, the human body’s capabilities and the race’s ability to merge an understanding of the two into an exploration of challenge and conquer.

Finally, “Brew Dogs” — which is much less bro-ish than it sounds — follows two Scottish beer brewers as they move across America and, well, brew beer. They make it a point to use ingredients specific to each city through which they pass, which makes for a hokey yet adorable relationship between the hosts and the residents they convince to try their products.

The network will soon roll out other original series, which will of course focus on topics such as fashion, food and culture. And again, when they premiere, they will at first glance seem to be some sort of redundancy, as shows of similar topics already exist.

But the point of Esquire Network isn’t to shy away from airing new content just because something similar already exists. The point is to air the type of program that is proven to be well-received by audiences and then add a dash of Esquire flair to it.

With television networks becoming more and more stratified into one-dimensional aggregators that meet the needs and fulfill the desires of viewers, Esquire Network will do very well for the same reason that meatheads enjoy the network Spike.

Many of the networks that appear to be robust these days actually follow a relatively common pattern when determining their programming, with the core concepts of shows being malleable to fit each network’s audiences. All the network has to do is slap a new name on it and find a host who embodies the network’s “it factor.” And the Esquire Network is no different.

The men that read Esquire do so because they want to be told what is cool, and they like how the magazine answers. They like the idea of sophisticated countenances, higher-than-average price tags and food of which they’ve never heard. They like the answers so much so that they’re willing to hear more of them and in different forms. And now they’ll continue to hear these types of answers on the television instead of just reading them on paper.

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