Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Ugly Demise of Television

Okay, now you've done it. You network executives have sunk so low in your money pinching, profit maximizing, lowest common denominator programming, bottom line wrangling and board of directors assuaging that you've wrecked the whole thing. And now, not only has over-the-air, free, quality programming gone the way of the dodo bird, television in general is headed toward extinction.

Paid programming fills valuable airtime with 1/2 hour commercials that preach the health benefits of electric blenders and takes up space that could have been used for innovation. Thanks to your profit-centered commercial motivation the general public is subjected to 1) hairy-armed, brawny men yelling at us to buy their cleaning products, 2) once overweight ladies trying to convince us that their nutritional supplements should be a part of a daily healthy lifestyle, 3) unbelievable demonstrations of little plastic cups that should be employed in place of nature's shells to hard boil eggs, 4) mean-faced, spitting owners of gold buying services shaking hundred dollar bills in our face, and 5) some guy named Vince jumping around with a clothes brush telling us to get rid of our pussy hairs (he actually uses that term, I'm not trying to be stupid). This is not advertising. These are acts of ugliness and a personification of the phrase attributed to P.T. Barnum – "there is a sucker born every minute".

You, television industry leaders, have taken what could have been a positive element in the lives of millions of viewers and done nothing but try to prove H.L. Mencken's “No one in this world, so far as I know has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people” with a preponderance of senseless reality shows, idiotic game shows where every contestant appears to have "a beautiful wife and three lovely children", mindless pseudo-celebrity-ridden talk shows and three hour so-called newscasts complete with opinionated news readers, self-professed pundits of every persuasion and weathermen who presume to tell me what I'm eating is wrong. Why? Simply because these shows cost little to produce. And the associated profits resonate with shareholders. And after all, bonuses are given for slick frugality, not quality.

Well your three hundred dollar haircuts have caught up with you – television's days are numbered. You have given new technology, with its interactive, personal experience, a reason to be.

Parents would much rather have their children using their free time playing video games or surfing the web for age-appropriate sites rather than watching an "arts" channel showing poor, disturbed people who pack their houses to the ceiling with crap or confrontations with hapless addicts in hotel rooms. Young people, instead of purchasing a cable television package and having their intelligence insulted with freaky bounty hunters, embarrassing talent shows judged by so-called stars (sipping their sponsored soft drinks), and "entertainment" programs that do nothing but follow the antics of celebrities of no particular redeeming social value, are now getting their news from the web and downloading the programming they want to see when they want to see it. Quality dramas, educational programs, sporting events, and movies. Older folks are flicking off the tube and discovering YouTube, watching a video, taking walks in nature, reading books on tablets, getting together with friends on Skype or rediscovering actual in-person visits and even playing (shudder) board games. Even 1080 HD, 3D, gazillion-inch flat screens and PBS can't save you now.

Now, people have options. And instead of spending the last 40 years building reasons why they don't need these options and need not switch to them, you have done nothing but give people every reason to do so.

As Gomer Pyle once said, "Shame, shame, shame!"

17 comments:

  1. And yet. And yet. Cannot recall shows as good as Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men ever being offered 20 years ago or back in the so-called Golden Age when, bewilderingly, people thought Lucille Ball was funny. Or commercials as good as the e-Trade babies. And it's alway's been about the money.You're right, of course, about the lowest common denomintor getting lower but that may be a mark on the US educational system rather than the TV creators who, for 60 years, have been giving 'em what they want.

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    1. Have just ordered Boardwalk Empire on blu-ray and have the Mad Men series already. Both, I believe, aren't available with my package... BTW: Isn't Deadwood a chick thing? I may have to eBay it.

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  2. I think you have pretty much described that state of television shows with perhaps a couple of exceptions. Although the advertising in everything is blatant-even the very rare show worth watching has plenty of 'product placement' which mimics the overt advertising (also called branding) that you see the minute you go outside. How many people can you see just walking down the street that isn't wearing or carrying something with a clearly visible logo on it? Transit stops, vehicles, schools, community buildings etc. All have corporate names and logos attached to them.

    The talk shows and reality shows are thinly veiled advertisements-sometimes it is hard to tell when the show 'breaks' for an ad as it seems to be nothing more than one continuous ad. Nothing to see here is a good description for television these days.

    There are a few amusing shows and of course which those are depends on what appeals to you but overall ditching the cable bill is not a difficult choice.

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    1. Thanks Karin! Always exceptions to the rule. Unfortunately "a few" is not enough to save a medium we used to race home from school to watch... I'm going to miss it when it's gone. (Which it practically is already.)

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  3. You forgot to include your sponsor's name Rand!

    Great piece - good to see the Rand Rant is back in force.

    Craig.

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    1. The above comment has been brought to you by one mean Aussie-turned-Scot! Thanks Craig. I feel better now.

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  4. Great Rant Rand. Hey that sounds like a good nic-name Great Rant Rand. No seriously, I couldn't agree more. I'm so sick and tired of poor programming and obnoxious advertising.

    I just noticed that the couple in the picture accompanying this post are looking at the mushroom cloud of an a-bomb on tv and smiling. That's really funny.

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    1. New blog coming up maybe: Rand's Rants! Don't tell anyone but I did that thing with the picture on purpose... very deep, psychological meanings there... lol

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  5. Ages ago, the TV my aunt had donated to me broke down. I put it to the curb and did without. Man, did I ever have lots of time to do things with my son, my friends, my family! New relationships, new habits, new TV. Today, I'm with the same guy that showed up in that new relationship, but we ditched the cable two or three years ago. We do have a projection room, and watching movies there is awesome. Still have time for friends, family and children. And hobbies. And reading.

    I remember rushing home a lunch to watch Popeye. Now our children don't rush home to watch TV; but they are still connected to a permutation of the tube - perhaps more pervasively.

    They're still stuck having to learn how to navigate relationships, determining their futures, making choices, growing up. And they do it with so much choice dangling in front of their noses, it's scary.

    Well, that's my ramble for now.

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    1. Life was so much simpler when it centered around getting home from school in time for reruns of "Bewitched"... five miles in hip deep snow towing big blocks of ice...

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  6. I decided a while ago that I would read more instead of watching tv so much. Now I find that I still watch tv and read during commercials. I'm not sure if this is a real improvement. A lot of books are just as worthless as the programming. I suspect it's all a plot to make us all stupider.

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    1. Linda, I tried reading books but they're so heavy! Much heavier than my remote! (kidding)

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  7. Rand, quick, change the channel! Yes, the 'big' tv stations -ABC, CBS, NBC, etc. have really sunk to newer depths. But the specialty channels picked up the slack- inventive, creative shows like the Sopranos, The Wire, Rome, Breaking Bad, MadMen are first-rate for any time and era.

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    1. Hey Fred, appreciate your comment. I actually found a good show on my television last night. Too late, as I had already watched it on blu-ray...

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  8. Hey Rand, what was the name of the show? I usually rent DVDs of shows; set aside a couple of hours and watch 'em back to back. One good show that WAS on the 'big' channels was Friday Night Lights. critics loved it. it was good drama. But to your point, the 300$ haircuts kept switching it's time slot; it lost fan loyalty; they pulled it; fans complained; they relented but put if 'off-season'. A real butcher job. But watch it if you can. Don't even have to be a fan of football to enjoy it.

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    1. Downton Abbey. Do yourself a favour: tell your friends you'll be unavailable for several days, stock up with fine British lager and rent the first two seasons.

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  9. you had me at "fine British lager"
    cheerio, I"m off to the video store then
    ;-)

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