brotherpeacemaker

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Reality TV

I am convinced the traditional broadcast networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC, are doing their best to sink broadcast television.  When these companies had the virtual monopoly on what we watched on our televisions, they had a much better grasp on what makes for good television.  These are the companies that brought us such notables as the original Star Trek or Hill Street Blues or L.A. Law.  There are so many old school television shows I’d actually watch before watching any of the crap that passes for television these days.  These days, reality shows rule.  American Idol, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Survivor, and more has become more of the staple of broadcast television.  The theory is that these shows are so cheap to make that the network would be much more profitable doing another Star Search than it would be doing another St. Elsewhere.

But one of the best things about the old shows that have become classic reruns is that they were watch-able over and over again.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the USS Enterprise on the verge of utter destruction.  I could write the dialogue from most of those old classic Star Trek episodes word for word from memory.  And more than likely, I’ll see them again some time.  They are still making money for their studios almost forty years after their making.  The Star Trek franchise has ballooned from a budget strained production with salt shakers as a medical scanner prop that could barely last three years of production, into a multi billion dollar phenomenon marketing a wide range of trekkie paraphernalia.  Compare that to the future money earning potential of the Big Brother franchise.

It’s almost as if the broadcast networks are taking business lessons from the American automobile industry.  After years of having a virtual monopoly on the automobile market, the domestic car companies under estimated the impact the foreign car makers would have on their market.  The foreign car companies weren’t satisfied with their inferior products and steadily worked for improvement.  The domestics rested on their laurels and watched their market share dwindled to a fraction of what it once was because they insisted on pushing inferior products with higher profit margins.  The Ford Taurus hit the ground an instant homerun when it made its debut a couple of decades ago.  It was the car that the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord aspired to.  And as the foreign cars aspired, the Taurus stagnated.

Today, the automobile markets have flipped.  Now, it’s the domestics that are trying to keep up.  It’s the domestics that now have to embark on a relentless campaign of improvement to convince the car buying public that they are just as good as the manufacturers they once scoffed at and dismissed as no real threat.  The Taurus is back, but it now has to prove that it can compete with the foreign car makers that have the reputation for quality products.

So we’re watching the television industry go through the same script almost word for word.  They can remain profitable by marketing their reality shows.  NBC was so bold that they decided to let Jay Leno do his late night routine at prime time.  It’s so much cheaper to do a talk show than to do a dramatic series or some kind of comedic production.  Shows like Friends and Seinfeld may not have any appeal for people like me, but many people I talk to in my day to day still talk about the episodes from these shows like they had just come on yesterday.  In fact, they probably did with a rerun somewhere.  The number of people who will be talking about a rerun of Wife Swap will be pretty small if any.

That’s okay.  The show will make money for now.  But as more and more people change the channel to see something with a little more polish, something that tells a story and holds our attention again and again.  Reality television doesn’t tell a story.  Much of reality television shows is nothing more than an outline of a scripted drama in order to create a desired situation with a great deal of improvisation.  But next year, who honestly will care to see reruns of The Amazing Race?  And even more outlandish, who’s going to pony up hard earned cash to get some Wife Swap paraphernalia?

Reality television shows might do well initially.  But eventually, most people will want to be told a story with real characters and with real situations.  Ain’t anybody going to tell me that a bunch of people having a contest about who can survive on a Gilligan’s Island remake is every going to hold people’s attention for long.  Hell, even Gilligan’s Island episodes told stories.  And people still tune in to see life on that deserted island.  That stuff is ten times more watchable than some of the latest from the traditional networks.

Friday, January 8, 2010 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

1 Comment »

  1. I’ve been against all this reality tv crap since the first season of survivor came out, and it all turned out to be a voting contest of popularity.

    I stil say the only way to make it real reality tv is to literally dump them on an island with only what they can carry in a small knapsack, and leave them there. HAve a chopper come in once nightly to check on the health of the contestants, to see if they can’t go on for health reasons, or choose to leave. It might be a long season, but at least then you’d find out who can really survive without being fed modern amenities daily.

    But until that moment I refuse to watch the crap.

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Monday, January 11, 2010 | Reply


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