Saturday, February 28, 2009

Television Networks Don't Understand Why Sucking for Years Is Affecting Their Bottom Lines

The best shows on television right now are, in no particular order:

- Mad Men
- Flight of the Conchords
- Always Sunny in Philadelphia
- Top Chef
- Project Runway
- The Life and Times of Tim
- Entourage
- 30 Rock

Guess how many of those are on network TV? One--30 Rock--and it's the most uneven of all of them.

Network execs are quick to blame the economic downturn for declining ad revenue, but the bottom line is that it's hard for anybody to get behind a ninth incarnation of CSI or Law & Order. During tough times, advertisers aren't likely to spend their money on shows that viewers aren't obsessing over; it's like a weeding-out process.

ust because three million people watch the show doesn't mean it's a hit--shit, they probably just left the TV on while they went out to Burger King for dinner, or, more likely, are too old to figure out how to turn their TV off, so they just turned their hearing aids down. There is no buzz around network shows; nobody eagerly awaits the season premiere of My Name Is Earl to see what new hick joke the writers came up with in the off-season. There is more buzz around long-ago-canceled Arrested Development than any show on network TV, save perhaps American Idol.

Two and a Half Men? According to Jim? This is the best they can do? Even The Office stopped being funny several years ago and never was as funny as the original British version.

In fact, that makes for a good case study. To anybody who had never seen the British version, the first half-season of The Office--when they remade all the British episodes--was extremely funny. Then the show runners got a little lost. After a bit of a break to think long and hard about things, they came back strong with a funny Season Two. But then they fell victim to the biggest no-no--they had Jim and Pam get together! They even had Michael in a couple of long-term relationships! Rule #1 in a sitcom is to maintain the flirtation and chemistry, but avoid a relationship. Sam and Diane? Yes. Ross and Rachel? Ick.

Why do Hollywood TV producers insist on the romance these days? Are they really that uncreative? There is no surer way to kill comedy than to bring in a sappy romantic subplot. Movies make the same mistake, falling victim to the Spielberg complex. No character can simply save the world--he must also fall in love and win the fair lady's heart before the movie ends.

So, the bottom line is, unless network execs get their asses in gear, they will be the channels that play nothing but awful reality TV shows, game shows, and corporate news nobody watches. Cable will be the new networks--even the Mayor of Television agrees with me!

Fair warning, CBS/NBC/ABC/Fox--get under your desks and put your heads between your knees, cuz y'all know what happens to dinosaurs...


1 comment:

Alfred said...

Of that list, I've only seen Flight of the Conchords as I can no longer be bothered to watch television and it is readily YouTubed. Hear that, Hollywood? Your little shitbox is going the way that king of ripoffs, the CD (and when was the last time ANYONE bought one of those? 1999?)