Very recently, my wife and I made the decision to cut our premium HD cable package (which we only got because it was part of a Time-Warner bundle) in order to use the new TV watching alternatives like Hulu and streaming netflix.
But when my laptop cord stopped working the other day – thus reducing almost all of our choices – we found ourselves in a strange fix. In a world with only four channels where there used to be infinite amounts of crap to watch, we suddenly found ourselves watching Prime-time scripted programming and looking to each other to ask – who watches this stuff?
Outside of NBCs so-called “must-see comedy bloc” (more on that in a later post) every show on Thursday night seems to have a handsome but quirky male detective and a wisecracking female sidekick with bangs. Flipping between Bones and the Mentalist (with a little Grey’s Anatomy thrown in for good measure) produced one all-encompassing conclusion:
If you were caught in the net of the plots of these shows and somehow invested in the characters, I’m sure they were rewarding, but for an outsider looking in, it was almost alienating – and also – so gross (click here if you want to see the bowling alley crime scene in the last episode)!
The main question we have is – who is the audience for this stuff? Recalling that even the youngest of network audiences (NBC) is 48(!) I would venture to guess that crime shows skew older. But also, what kind of image of the world is this producing?
The example of $#*! my dad says, as well as its renewal may be a prime example of the disconnect between generations raised on TV and those who were not.
But on to last night, where a solid marathon viewing of ABC shows brought more surprises, some pleasant, some not.
On the pleasant side was ABC’s What Would You Do? bizarre cross between Candid Camera, Punk’d and The Price is Right, where you “win” the chance to either be an ethical person, or a complete asshole, depending on your reaction to an awful situation staged around you.
More often than not, the show ends up actually producing better people than not, as seen in this clip, where a gentleman (in the best sense of the word) defends a gay couple with children against a bigoted waitress in a fairly moving scene.
As this particular episode was shot in Texas (where we live) one of the show’s more interesting conclusions was the interventions on issues like a discussion on abortion on religious, rather than strictly moral grounds. I also think that the Texans on this show mostly showed themselves as the friendly sorts who have no problem getting involved in any circumstances.
The show is a pretty fascinating and paradoxically moving portrait of what people do in particular situations and the payoff is when people “win” by doing the right thing and helping others out in tough situations.
On the other hand, it seems as though the show is being sold by ABC as news. It is a spin-off of 20/20, which I hadn’t watched in years. What disturbed us most was the level of address in all of these programs, and the idea that this is what is passing for “news” on network TV. For instance, the hard-hitting story “Infomercial-Nation” which spent a half-hour suggesting that infomercials do not, in fact, sell quality products.
All of which makes me pine for a decent internet signal or a better way to find and stream the hockey playoffs to my TV. As it stands now, my method resembles a combination of holding my laptop in my hand and yelling at the TV as I miss the goal. In other words, despite all of the technology at my disposal, I am left with the same options of 20 years ago, perhaps as clear a sign of the apocalypse as anything else.