TV Land part 1

July 8, 2010

During my sophomore year of college the school introduced a RF remote that would be registered individually to students.  The students would bring the remote to class and the professor would pose a poll questions.  Students would vote with their remote and ultimately it was a way to log attendance.  I would guess it had very little to do with the teachers’ desire to hear the students’ opinion.  This seemed like the next great thing, until everyone got tired of it.  I used mine once in three years.  But the concept was interesting, aside from being an attendance leash.  Teachers could pose a question and get instant, quantitative results.  “How many of you like chunky peanut butter?”  “Who thinks Al Gore hooked up with the masseuse?”  “Who wants me to cancel class on Friday?”  Why not bring this to the masses?  The truth is, it’s already there.

Aaron Brown said that “television is the most perfect democracy.  You sit there with your with your remote and vote.”  He’s right.  We watch, and based on the statistics the networks know what is successful and what isn’t.  This isn’t the entire story, viewership isn’t the only factor for canceling a show, think  the Jay Leno show.  But the rankings regularly dictate the longevity of a particular series.  So each season we have the option of re-electing a show.  Then let’s talk about our senior statesmen of TV land.

When you talk about current longevity, only a few shoes come to mind, Meet the Press, the Today Show, the Tonight Show.  These shows have been around for 55+ years.  But since they have changed hosts and are current event shows, we’ll say they don’t count, otherwise Larry King would be the king of TV Land.  Let’s talk about shows that we elect to watch, rather than the ones that are just on while we fix/eat dinner.  Currently American Idol takes the top 2 spots, Tuesday and Wednesday night, so Simon Cowell is our King.  He has been elected by the viewing public as our most popular television show.  As recently as 10 years ago the most popular show was “ER” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”  As an AI watcher I can’t get too down on the public, but at least ER and WWTBAM? were slightly educational.  Further back, in 1992 and 1993, the most popular show was 60 minutes.  We actually elected to watch the news over all other tv shows.  And there were solid options, “Roseanne”, “Coach“, “Seinfeld” and “Home Improvement”.  So, our elected TV Land officials have began to decline somewhat, as long as we don’t have anyone from New Jersey or E! elected anytime soon, I’m OK with that.

So that is a brief look at what we elect for ourselves, AI isn’t the worst option, but we have done better in the past (I would argue that a show that provides some sort of educational value trumps all others).  But let’s see what we are electing for our kids.  “Sesame Street” has been on television since the beginning of time.  In fact, when the first television was invented and turned on Big Bird was there explaining that he was yellow and Oscar was green.  They had not even invented video cameras yet, it was just there.  Beyond that, we  force (force isn’t really the right word here, but we don’t exactly make every option available) children to watch shows like “Dora the Explorer”, “Blues Clues” and something called “Yo, Gabba, Gabba“.  These shows all try and provide some sort of education to our kids.  Either, Spanish, math, analytical thinking or something else altogether.

So we have shown as a society that we understand the value of programming that provides vital information, we have just changed how we absorb it.  As kids we watched “Sesame Street”, “Legends of the Hidden Temple”, “Ghost Writer” and “Carmen San Diego” and continue to have our kids watch similar programing.  We continue to watch the news, just not as rigorously, and we prefer to have our medical jargon presented by a smug, sarcastic, drug addict rather than George Clooney and Maura Tierney.