Where did all these after-show talk shows come from? And why do we love them?

after show talk trend watch what happens  live
Water-cooler talk about the hottest shows on TV isn’t a new concept. But in a day and age when social media is replacing the water cooler and the talk consists of hashtags, an interesting trend is emerging. The concept of the network after-show talk show is blowing up, whereby episodes of top shows are dissected in an open, and thoroughly entertaining, forum. And on television.

From the beginning

Inspired by Bravo’s late night talk show Watch What Happens: Live hosted by Andy Cohen, AMC led the charge toward this trend for the primetime drama genre. In 2011, the network commissioned self-professed geek and CEO of Nerdist Enterprises Chris Hardwick and aired an hour-long talk show called Talking Dead immediately following episodes in the second season of The Walking Dead. Seeing how committed fans became sparked a light bulb moment: There’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes of such an elaborately-produced show and so many theories floating around, why not create a talk show where super fans, cast, and crew can express their thoughts, and viewers can weigh in?

Are viewers really so invested that they’re willing to tune in for an extra 30-60 minutes after a show to talk about the show?

AMC continued to capitalize on the success of the format in 2013 with a half-hour version called Talking Bad that aired after its newest hit series at the time, Breaking Bad. The breakout show polarized fans, and left plenty of room for analysis, debate, and discussion.

That was followed up by another edition of Talking Dead, which airs after The Walking Dead spin-off Fear the Walking Dead; then Talking Saul to follow Better Call Saul (Breaking Bad’s spinoff). Most recently, Talking Preacher, airing after the pilot and season one finale of that new AMC series, joined the list. Meanwhile, Talking Dead is still going strong as we anticipate The Walking Dead’s seventh season. The episode that aired after (spoiler alert) Glenn’s possible death scene last year brought in 6.2 million total viewers, about 36% of the 17.1 million total audience of the actual show. At the 67th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, Talking Dead received further kudos with a nomination for Outstanding Interactive Program.

Not surprisingly, other networks are taking notice.

Recently, Space launched Innerspace: After the Black, a half-hour talk show that follows each episode of Orphan Black; and earlier this year, HBO devised After the Thrones for Game of Thrones. The latest to get the after-show treatment is USA Network’s Mr. Robot with Hacking Robot, which is set to air after the two-part season premiere on July 13.

Are viewers really so invested that they’re willing to tune in for an extra 30-60 minutes after a show to talk about the show?

Andy Greenwald, host of After the Thrones, told HBO’s Katie M. Lucas shortly after the talk show was announced that, while covering Game of Thrones on his show Grantland (alongside co-host Chris Ryan), the pair “quickly realized that the fandom and culture surrounding each episode … was just as thrilling and engaging as the show itself.”

Keeping the viewers tuned in

But what does it take for an after-show talk show to succeed? Take a gander at each program and you’ll instantly notice a familiar, cookie-cutter formula.

An engaging host, or hosts, is key. Hardwick is so clearly and genuinely passionate about the shows he covers that it shines through. Viewers feel as though they’re sitting in a coffee shop with friends, geeking out over the minutia of the latest episode. The conversation flows seamlessly; it feels casual and conversational, not scripted.

Viewers crave being part of an exclusive club, and getting a secret window into the show.

An equally excited panel of guests presenting their own analyses and opinions is a critical part of the formula as well. Typically, these include a rotating list of cast and crew from the show; and sometimes celebrity fans. Everyone from comedian Patton Oswalt to rocker Dave Navarro to actor Nathan Fillion has appeared on Talking Dead. The one caveat to being a panel member: you must be a super fan. But cast and crew guests are important, too. It’s difficult not to be enthralled listening to Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero describe the intricate work and thought that goes into the creation of each and every walker or fight scene. And hearing Tatiana Maslany’s body double Kathryn Alexandre explain how they shoot scenes in Orphan Black where she and Maslany are playing multiple characters is fascinating.

What’s an after-show without some juicy inside information? Viewers crave being part of an exclusive club, and getting a secret window into the show. After the Black addresses its viewers as “Clone Club” members. Talking Dead keeps the chatter going online for an additional 30 minutes after the show airs. That “inside” information is highly desirable for those inevitable “did you know” conversations later.

Taking a page from the reality TV playbook, a level of interactivity is a must as well. This is usually achieved through viewer Facebook and Twitter questions read live for panel members to answer, as well as trivia that gives super fans chest-puffing honors to prove their vast knowledge of the show.

What can make or break a show?

An after-show talk show needs to find its own voice and address the unique needs of each show’s viewers. It’s the host’s job to set this tone, so a lot of pressure falls on these individuals. This means genuinely being a fan of the show. Hardwick achieves this brilliantly, but it’s too early in the game to know if the others can replicate that accomplishment.

Even with a great host, however, lackluster guests can have a negative impact. And so can the failure to have a steady selection of engaging guests. Often times, live interviews are mixed with pre-recorded on-set interviews that add another layer to that level of “exclusive” access and personal commentary.

Finally, the format needs to be broken up in a desirable, and easily consumable, fashion. To get viewers to tune in for more time, there needs to be some real, digestible, bite-sized pieces of meat on those conversational bones.

The after-show talk show is here to stay

After-show talk shows take fans on a spoon fed, light-hearted, sometimes intense, journey through their favorite shows. They’re CliffsNotes for TV.

But beyond that, the after show has the opportunity to become the modern-day book club. Fans get together to psychoanalyze, theorize, express opinions, and convey emotions about what they just saw on screen while it’s fresh in their minds. And we get to sit back, watch, and nod our heads in agreement as theories are validated, or perk our heads up at the introduction of new insights. It’s cathartic.

The benefits aren’t just for viewers. Networks secure a captive audience for another hour, and get to offer that much-needed added value over streaming services.

Whether the other shows can follow in AMC’s successful footsteps remains to be seen. But it’s clear that viewers want in. So expect to see many more after-show talk shows pop up as more captivating series are released, and spark our desire to dig even deeper into their plotlines, as the networks lead the way.

Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Skip the flowers and sunshine this spring and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: All-digital Xbox One S, hyper-flavorful basil, and more

On Wednesday's episode of Digital Trends Live, we discussed trending headlines like an all-digital Xbox One S. We also welcomed Loni Hull of Structure Cycleworks to the show. Jenny McGrath also stopped by to talk about MIT's hyper-favorable…
Movies & TV

Best new podcasts: The Ballad of Billy Balls, Decomposed, and more

Feel like you’re drowning in podcasts? In this weekly series, we’ll help you pick out the best of the new and returning shows. This week’s picks include a punk love story, disappearing referees, gun court, and intriguing tales from…
Movies & TV

These are the best movies on Hulu right now (April 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

An Obi-Wan TV series? 10 things we’d love to see on Disney’s streaming service

While we know the upcoming Disney Plus streaming service will have tons of great content, we put together a wish list of projects from across Disney's properties we'd like to see on the service in the near future.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: Avengers: Endgame, Child’s Play, and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. We round up the best ones for you. This week, it's Avengers: Endgame, a Child's Play reboot, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and a terrifying gothic mystery.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: Mid90s, BlacKkKlansman, and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Jonah Hill's Mid90s, vampire action movie Blade, and more.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now (April 2019)

Amazon Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be a major undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.

Weekend box office: Curse of La Llorona tops Shazam! over slow Easter weekend

Warner Bros. Pictures' horror film The Curse of La Llorona beat pundits' predictions and middling reviews to end the two-week reign of superhero adventure Shazam! at the top of the U.S. box office.
Movies & TV

Best new podcasts of the week of April 13, 2019: Spacebridge and more

Feel like you’re drowning in podcasts? In this weekly series, we’ll help you pick out the best of the new and returning shows. This week’s picks include a spacebridge, love advice, Topher Grace, and bite-sized history.
Movies & TV

HBO’s Game of Thrones episode 3 preview looks ahead to the Battle of Winterfell

HBO released a brief video that teases the upcoming third episode of Game of Thrones' eighth and final season. It will feature the long-awaited Battle of Winterfell that pits the show's key characters against The Night King's undead army.
Movies & TV

Want to make Netflix browsing even easier? Try this useful trick

If you know exactly what category of film you're looking for on Netflix, you'll find this hack for the streaming service useful. It allows you to manually browse genres and subgenres of interest.