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June 24, 2024

Ramblings of a TV Addict

By Josh Brown

Crap, Crap, and More Crap

Hard to believe there is such a thing as a good television show, isn't it? You can sit there scanning 200 or more channels in search of entertainment and nine times out of ten you'll end up with the same old crap.

Rehashed storylines are popular, especially on sitcoms. This is extremely noticeable if you watch the syndicated sitcoms that come on before and after Prime Time on most of the local stations. The stories are the same, the characters are different and there's usually a slightly changed twist. But overall it's the same thing you've seen a dozen times. Just the other day I saw an episode of Just Shoot Me where Character A stole Character B's grandma. Haha. What a funny concept. Oh, wait. I just saw that a week ago on an episode of Suddenly Susan. (You see what desperation has driven me to watch?)

The problem isn't there's only crap on television. The problem is that the real shows, the good shows, the great shows get cancelled. You have character development? You're cancelled! You have original storylines? See ya! You have supreme writing? Get out of here! You know these shows or at least, you did at one time. But, odds are, they were cancelled so fast you can't even remember them now.

What's the problem with these shows? That's easy. They require you to think. They need an audience that has a brain and loves to use it. There are not many people in that category. In this day and age? Get real. So, the execs give it a whirl anyway, what the hell, right? It's good, they know it's good or they wouldn't have let it get made to start with (debatable). So, what happened? All those in favor of a brain tuned in. All those in favor of reality TV did not. Results? Low viewership. And low viewership equals low ratings. We can't have low ratings then we won't make money off of sponsors! So, in the can it goes. Goodbye. Don't come back again.

Not that I want to ramble on about this but...

How many times can the people that make those wonderful shows get kicked in the ass before they lose hope? They pour their hearts and souls into making shows that are original and new because they are true storytellers. But what do they get for their troubles? They get crap. Oh, sorry. You have a wonderful show, but you don't have a big enough audience. We need money! Not greatness. Go away.

The geniuses behind these works suffer greatly as do the audience that latches on. And they latch on, believe me. For every good show that's been cancelled, there's a fiercely loyal fanbase that is going insane because of this action.

And we're not talking about freaks that like shows that are crap. The majority of the time these wonderful shows are purely cancelled because of ratings. Critically acclaimed? Who cares? Smart and witty? Big deal! We have Joe Millionaire! (Yes, I'm bitching about Fox but it's hardly the only culprit.)

Shows like Firefly, Farscape, Witchblade, Miracles, Odyssey 5, and dozens of others never get to reach their fullest potential because of one reason or another and television as a whole suffers because of it. We have this wonderful storytelling medium that ends up being used for sole purpose of making money. The people with the power are idiots, plain and simple.

Of course they want to make money, that's what they are paid to do. The more they make, the more they get. That's fine and dandy, whatever turns you on. So how do we fix the problem? Good luck. If the execs that make these untimely decisions would put a little more effort into getting these wonderful shows seen, then perhaps their money-making audience would expand. But they don't even bother to do that. They stick these shows on in terrible timeslots that are destined for doom then they don't even advertise them. How can the show get an audience if nobody knows where to look? Joe Millionaire was a runaway hit for Fox. Why? Because they pimped it on a dozen channels and spammed the billboards and airwaves with advertisements until people couldn't do anything but watch the show. It certainly didn't succeed because it was a great show.

So that leaves it up to the audience to make shows survive. How? Call about a million of your friends and get them to watch. Oh, you don't have a million friends? Not that it matters. Odds are even if you did have a million friends, only one or two if even that would count. Without being a part of the wonderful Nielsen family, it doesn't matter what you watch because you aren't being counted. There are roughly an average of only 25,000 homes that are used by the Nielsen ratings to calculate the average viewership of the roughly 110 million people in the United States. Don't get me wrong, that's not to say only 25,000 people have the privilege of determining what is watched. It's not always the same 25,000 people every single night. But on a given night, there's a select 25,000 people that determines how the ratings look that night. You tell me, how accurate is that? For all we know (and if there is any hope for the future of mankind), Joe Millionaire doesn't have 20 million viewers. It has 15000 viewers.

I have to believe there are far more people with intelligence out there; people that are actually watching these shows that strive for excellence and achieve it. There have been new technologies introduced by the Nielsen people in order to try and achiever greater accuracy, but the results have be controversial in nature due to the alarming fact that the network executives are realizing people are not, in fact, watching the crap they think is so popular.

What's better? I don't know. I'm not one for statistics of any kind. There are millions of people that would be willing to let their voice be heard on what shows they watch. Be it phone-in, online, house-to-house, or some kind of recording device people would sign up in bucket loads to participate. Yes, yes, there are reasons it's not done this way. Anonymity issues, people abusing the system, there are reasons I won't deny that. But there has to be a better way to go about recording who is watching what.

Bottom-lined it's simple. There's a fascinating, truly great world of television out there if you can find it. There are people in the television business that put forth an effort to make quality shows that we can get deeply invested in and experience a whole new world of possibilities from the comfort of their own home. It's hard to do though because shows like that don't make it. Imagine reading a book, only to find out halfway through, after you're wrapped up in the story and feeling deep connections to the main characters, that there's nothing else. That's it. End of story.

Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2003-06-02
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