Day 4 - 31 Days of Rant

[This particular "Rawr" is not so much a scary story but Hyperion yelling and scaring all his interns]

Of all the new Network shows for Fall 2010, by far the best Pilot belonged to Lone Star, a slick yet very human tale about a Texas con-man trying to juggle a double-life and find something real.  

Of all the new Network shows for Fall 2010, the biggest ratings disappointment (when comparing lead-in audience, expectations, etc.) and the very first show canceled was Lone Star. 

I can't help but feel that the last two sentences are linked, which is why I am so glum about the state of Television in the foreseeable future.  

Orwellian paranoia aside, Television doesn't exist to control the masses.  Neither (as most people seem to think) was it invented to entertain them.  Television was invented for advertisers to show you about their products, that you might go out and buy them.  From this idea sprang Networks, initially side-projects of Radio Stations, eventually their own mini-nation-state companies.  

We all know what the purpose of companies is.  These companies, these Networks seek to make money, and as such they put programs on their airwaves - free of charge - with and then make their money by charging confiscatory prices (which means "as much as they can") to advertisers, which brings us back to the inception of Television mentioned above. 

Another time I will write at length about how Remote Controls and Tivo spell the end of free Television as we know it, but for the moment, let's concentrate on the most basic of TV transactions. Advertisers pay money - a lot of money - to air commercials (an in some cases "sponsor" programs) with the idea that we will watch.  Advertisers are looking for certain segments of the population (the oh-so-coveted 18-49 Demo, as well as others), but as a general proposition, the more viewers a Television show has, the more successful it is, as the Networks can charge more money, etc. 

So far I think you're all with me, as none of this is rocket science.  But here's the rub: while some of the "creative" types at the Networks care about Emmys and Peabody awards and "art," they all take a back seat to the almighty dollar.  There's no simpler way to put this: the Networks serve only one real master: Ratings. If you could guarantee 30 million viewers by putting a baby  up on screen who sat there for an hour (minus 17 minutes of commercials) doing nothing other than picking his nose, the Networks would air it in a heartbeat.  I'm not kidding. Even if all the baby ever did was sit there and root around with a stubby little index finger in each nostril, 30 million viewers would guarantee Thursday night at 9:00.

What does all this have to do with my Lone Star review? 

I created TV Warrior to praise great Television (and lambaste the Awful), for two noble purposes.  One - I do care about sharing great art, and if there is something great out there, I want you, my readers, to hear about it, and get the chance to watch.  I've often been criticized how useless TV is, but that's malarkey.  If I lived in the age of Shakespeare I would exhort you to the Globe Theater, and when Sherlock  Holmes was being serialized I'd have been out on the street corner barking newspapers.  Great art is great art - and there has been TV the last decade to rival anything in human history.  

The problem is - I can't get enough people to pay attention!  If people watched - in flocks, in droves - the good stuff, and actively, aggressively, sneeringly ignored the bad, guess what would happen?  The Networks would be viciously competitive to get great programming. Every night would be show after show with transcendent laughs, life-changing drama and quality up, down and to the sideways.  

As it is, the quality of a Television show is so seemingly unrelated to its ratings that one suspects the two things often have nothing to do with each other.  

This brings me back to Lone Star. 

Would Lone Star work in the long run?  I don' t know.  The kind of show it was (a night-time soap) chews through plot in a hurry, and the tension of a man with two lives - well just how long can that high-wire act stay up?  I don' t know the answer, and it's a legitimate question.  

But I bet everything I have that it's not why the audience didn't watch.  The American audience couldn't be bothered, didn't want to take the time to engage, and instead stayed with something safe and un-thinking.  

It's not the end of the world.  Lone Star wasn't the greatest pilot ever, and there will be other great shows, some of which will actually find enough people who say "Wow!" and go and tell others.  But, it's part of an all-too common trend, and it doesn't bode well for any of us who care about quality.  

One more "what could have been" goes down the drain, as we click over to something else.

See other Reviews for the New Fall 2010 Shows


Unless you're too scared, Go to the 31 Days of RAWR!

Return to the Hyperion Institute Home Page (and possibly win a prize)

1 comment:

jadriana said...

I like how you worked your rant into your 31 days of rawr as scary yelling - and as one of the assistants (or interns, or whatever) i respect the loophole.
Good review, btw. :)