Sunday, September 28, 2008

ON THE NEW 2008-09 TV SEASON

Well, I must apologize for my lack of posts about the new TV season. Quite simply, though, when you don't spend much time actually watching TV -- and I haven't lately, at least not the traditional way -- you kind of miss out on the happenings.

I was going to go ahead with a prediction of what might be the "first new show cancelled" of the new season, only to find out that FOX lived up to its trigger-happy reputation and yanked sitcom Do Not Disturb after three episodes. Who knows what will happen to the other four episodes they shot for that series. So much for that!!

Anyway, this has got to be the least-hyped new season in history as far as new shows are concerned. The only shows that have gotten any buzz at all seem to be Fringe over on FOX and that 90210 show over on the CW. But 90210's ratings have slid since the debut.

Let's face it, no one cares about these new shows, all because the traditional networks don't care anymore about developing good shows. These networks are cutting back on development (especially over at NBC), and it shows. They've been reduced to bringing shows like 90210 and Knight Rider back from the crypt, and CBS is planning regurgitations of Streets of San Francisco and Hawaii Five-O.

Needless to say, these new shows are quite buzz-challenged. What has everyone excited instead has been the return of the old favorites that everyone likes anyway-- the CSIs and Dancing With the Stars, Survivor, Ugly Betty (which has been crowing about taking advantage of that new tax credit scheme offered by the city of New York), and comedies like How I Met Your Mother and The Office.

NBC had a one-hour Office which was hilarious, and CBS had a two-hour Survivor. Overall, though, ratings are down. Thursday was in the sink compared to a year ago.

I have my own theories for why TV audiences are down the tubes these days. Much of it has to do with the flight of young people to other media, and I did a whole rant about that here ages ago. Young people will go to the movies or watch DVDs or play video games, while saying "to heck with this crap" aimed at older audiences on the tube. Fat chance that young people will watch Desperate Housewives or Dancing With the Stars. There's also a big flight of people to cable TV: people would rather watch the quality stuff they show on HBO, FX, USA,Sci-Fi and these other places -- stuff like Mad Men, which airs on AMC. That's the kind of stuff real fans of series TV are excited about. But these main networks won't take chances on stuff like that, because quite frankly they want to play it safe and are too chicken to try something new. When they do take chances, what we end up with is truly weird stuff like Pushing Daisies or even Eli Stone. Really crazy stuff -- too crazy, in fact, for the audiences.

I think what it comes down to is that TV watching used to be an EVENT. You had these big premiere weeks and so on, and the networks would really knock themselves out coming up with programming to get viewers. Now, it seems they don't freaking care anymore. What happened at the Emmys was a perfect example: cable cleaned right up. That's where all the action is at the moment.

I do think the writer's strike had something to do with the lower numbers. When the writer's strike happened a lot of people fled the TV medium and didn't come back. They're still not back because they don't see much improvement on the horizon, what with all these reality shows and so on.

For me, it's gotten to the point where the only shows I tune into on network TV seem to be the late shows and the sports! I'll watch a lot of cable TV, but that doesn't do the job either these days. Instead, I have to search the web for these old favorites that I used to watch on TV, but which don't get shown anymore. One night I found some old Flintstones episodes on the Web, for instance. The other night, I was watching Baywatch. Now, Baywatch is a really stupid show, but after spending a heavy week absorbing all kinds of information in my job, stupidity is exactly what I want in entertainment. At least sometimes, anyway. My mind needs to go on a vacation occasionally, so that I am fresh and ready to go for the work week.

Tonight, I'm planning to look for some old Ed Sullivan stuff and other old "variety". Beats this reality junk they show on TV. I understand tonight is the Amazing Race's season opener. Big deal!!

I think the folks who run the networks need to get back in the business of providing actual entertainment that people actually want to watch! Heck, there's a market for real entertainment. Look at the movie grosses this year -- the grosses are up! There is no reason for the movies to be up while TV is down. Get back to the basics is what I say these networks should do. Make TV viewing an event again and knock yourself out developing good shows. Then maybe audiences will come back.

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