Vanessa Bayer Explains QVC to Us
The 'SNL' star's new Showtime series takes place at a QVC type network. Now, she breaks down home shopping for Thrillist.
Vanessa Bayer fell in love with home shopping when she was around 8 or 9 years old. "I watched QVC and I just would really marvel," she says. "I loved the products so much. And I loved the way that the hosts would talk about them and touch the products. I was very into the jewelry segments. They would, a lot of times, be selling herringbone, either bracelets or necklaces."
Now, in her new series I Love That for You, premiering on Showtime, she plays Joanna Gold, a childhood cancer survivor—which Bayer also is—who fulfills her dream of getting a job on a QVC-type channel. The hitch is: Just as she's about to get fired for flailing on air, she tells her boss (Jenifer Lewis) that she's currently undergoing cancer treatment. Encouraged to make her not-true personal struggles part of her broadcast, her sales start skyrocketing. She's pulled between keeping up the ruse and losing the one thing she's aspired to her entire life—after all she still wears the bracelet her parents bought her from the channel as a kid.
In honor of the debut we figured there was no one better equipped to explain the ins and outs of QVC, the home shopping network that has been going strong since 1986, than Bayer herself.
As they were researching the show Bayer and co-creator Jeremy Beiler got to tour QVC headquarters and speak with two of Bayer's favorite hosts: Jane Treacy and Mary Beth Roe. On screen, Bayer funnels her affection for the on-camera talent through Molly Shannon's character Jackie Stilton, a veteran who takes Joanna under her wing.
I got to meet these two hosts that I used to love watching when I was a kid, Jane Treacy and Mary Beth Roe. They were so great. And they talked to Jeremy and I for like an hour, and it passed so quickly because they're so good at talking.
The QVC hosts that I loved there's something just really pleasant about them. They're funny and fun, but they seem relatable as well. And they just make the product seem so beautiful in a way that you just want to listen to them talk. Even if you aren't going to buy the thing that they are selling, it's so nice to hear them describe it. There's something really soothing about it. But also, I think a lot of people watch home shopping because it feels like you're watching your friends.
In the pilot, Joanna is tasked with first selling a horrible smelling pillow spray, but her win comes when she takes on blouses. And while you can get housewares and kitchen items from QVC, the products that have always attracted Bayer are the ones you can put on your body.
They really sell everything, but the things that to me are true, true, true home shopping are the jewelry, the clothing and shoes, and the makeup and skincare stuff. That was the stuff that was always on when I was a kid. And particularly the jewelry I loved, because I was always a kid who loved to dress up. I felt like I could really relate to the women that were selling when I was a kid because they would be selling a necklace or something, but then they would have like 20 rings on and 20 bracelets. Because they would be showing off the jewelry while they were selling other jewelry. It was just so fun to see a woman with so much stuff on. That, to me is, a glamorous woman, a woman who has 20 rings on.
The more feminine products were the things that I really associated with QVC. It would be like they'd go, you can wear this to a brunch with your friends or wear it to your daughter's graduation, and you will be the belle of the ball. And I'd be like, "Yeah, I could take this to my daughter's graduation." I mean, I was only 9 years old, I didn't have a daughter who was graduating, but I felt like that's true.
Joanna auditions for the fictional QVC counterpart by selling a pencil, which is apparently a fairly common way to get a gig on the network. Host Mike Rowe once famously talked about the pencil for eight minutes.
Jane told us about how she sold a pencil. She has this amazing story that she was practicing with a pencil for her mom or something, but she had no idea that it was going to be a pencil, and then it was. But yes, so many people have auditioned with pencils, which is something I didn't learn until Jane told us about that. And then I've read more about people auditioning with pencils.
I have a lot of my friends who are in these different industries, particularly hair and makeup, have gone on QVC. You have to do this training even if you're not auditioning to be a host, even if you're going to be a vendor who's representing the product that's being sold. I think there's a somewhat rigorous process of training so that they feel like you're ready to be on TV.
The Modern Era
What place does QVC have in our modern world of online shopping? Apparently, still a big one, according to Bayer.
I think people might think that home shopping, where you have to call in to order things, wouldn't be as popular now as it was, but they've really done a lot of smart things. It's still so incredibly popular and successful because they've changed with the times. Now there's an app that you can use on your phone. In these modern times, people don't always want to talk to a person. So you can still avoid talking to people if you don't want to.
That is still, I think a lot of the draw for people is that they can call in and talk to someone, and sometimes call in and talk to the host. A lot of people nowadays use the TV station as sort of like a commercial, and then they order on the app. And then there's also, of course, a website and everything like that. They've changed with the times in a way that has allowed them to stay relevant and stay successful. A lot of people don't really know that who don't watch. They think it's not as popular anymore, and it totally is.