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08 September 2011

A 'Sign of Civilization Collapsing' Rant: As you may or may not know, I used to write about TV for a "major media website" but have stopped. I do still get a daily email newsletter about 'the biz' which I skim through to remind me WHY I stopped writing about TV. [More:]But this block of ratings data I saw today is REALLY depressing:

Top 10 Broadcast Programs for the week of 8/29-9/4/11 among adults 18-49 (the prime advertising demographic) with rating (% of 130 million total population)/share (% of total watching TV, 35-45 million depending on night and hour) and raw number rounded to thousands...
1. Big Brother 13 WED (CBS) 3.3/11 4,162,000
2. America's Got Talent TUE (NBC) 3.1/8 3,997,000
3. Hell's Kitchen MON 9p (FOX) 2.9/8 3,710,000
4. Sat Night Football (ABC) 2.7/10 3,497,000
5. America's Got Talent WED (NBC) 2.6/7 3,325,000
6. Big Brother 13 THU (CBS) 2.5/7 3,133,000
7. Big Brother 13 SUN (CBS) 2.4/8 3,097,000
8. Bachelor Pad (ABC) 2.0/6 2,603,000
9. Wipeout TUES (ABC) 2.0/6 2,548,000
10. Modern Family (ABC) 1.8/5 2,286,000

But even worse...
Top 10 Cable Programs among A18-49 for the week of: 8/29-9/4/11 (not including HBO and other 'premium' channels)
1. Jersey Shore 10p (MTV) 2,889,000
2. Teen Mom Season 3 (MTV) 2,500,000
3. Storage Wars (A&E) 2,479,000
4. Keeping Up with the Kardashians (E) 2,405,000
5. Jersey Shore After Hours (MTV) 2,295,000
6. WWE 9-10pm (USA) 2,247,000
7. Family Guy 8/31 11:30p (AdultSwim) 2,210,000
8. WWE 10-11pm (USA) 2,142,000
9. Family Guy 8/30 11:30p (AdultSwim) 1,993,000
10. Family Guy 8/29 11:30p (AdultSwim) 1,977,000

The dismal news in a nutshell...
"Big Brother" is #1 (and #6 & #7), and up 12% over last year (it's usually top 10, but not #1).
"Jersey Shore" is #1 on Cable and has more viewers than the #8 broadcast show.
"Family Guy" RERUNS at 11:30pm have more viewers than most Prime Time cable shows AND more viewers than Colbert and Conan COMBINED.
And WWE Wrestling, which used to be the most embarrassing top-rated shows on cable are now knocked out of the Top 5 by Kardashians and Teen Moms.

I used to think only the Cable News ratings were depressing (FoxNews averages almost 2 million in PrimeTime, but 3/4 of that are over 50... MSNBC second with .7 million, 2/3 over 50)

Yes, TV ratings-wise, it's the 'Dog Days of Summer' (with Reality and Game Shows the only things not in reruns), but this dog has gone rabid (and I'm not just talking about Gordon Ramsey and the WWE wrestlers).

But think about this... if you could get over 2 million INTELLIGENT adults under 50 (yeah, I know, that group is not watching TV) to tune into the same GOOD show at the same time a couple times a week, you could go far to change Major Media thinking. So each of you recruit a couple hundred people to watch Doctor Who. What? Not Who? Okay, what do YOU recommend?

Yes, I'm considering getting my own blog (again), but only if I can get this rant-y more than once a month. Thanks for tolerating me.
If it's not on Hulu or Netflix, I don't get it.
posted by Ardiril 08 September | 16:46
Despite what the ratings show, there's damn fine television out there. Modern Family is on that list you provided, and it's a very funny show. So is Archer. Then there's Doctor Who, as you suggest. Downton Abbey. Fringe. Cougar Town. Breaking Bad. All of these shows have had enough viewer support to take them into at least a second season, if not more (or WAY more).

TV may be a vast wasteland, but it's not without its little shoots of green poking up from the dirt and ashes.
posted by WolfDaddy 08 September | 17:03
Another question you could ask is whether your cable bill is worth what you're paying.
posted by Ardiril 08 September | 17:04
That's easy: No. Got rid of cable almost a year ago and don't miss it at all. Of course, my idea of good tv is watching Party Down and Firefly reruns. YMMV.
posted by jeoc 08 September | 17:08
I disagree.
posted by Eideteker 08 September | 17:37
I haven't had a TV or cable for over 2 years and it's fine. I highly recommend it.
posted by doctor_negative 08 September | 17:37
Unfortunately, this does not lend itself to multiple blog entries.
posted by Ardiril 08 September | 17:49
What's Modem Family?
posted by Obscure Reference 08 September | 18:40
Another question you could ask is whether your cable bill is worth what you're paying.

It was last year, but I was watching TV 'professionally' (and taking a percentage of my cableTV/Internet bill as a Business Expense on my taxes). My CableTV-based viewing has dropped to near zero (and I have to pay for a higher tier just to get BBCAmerica and The Doctor), but I was still making the monthly payment as long as there was any chance I'd resume that writing. One of the purposes of this self-involved post is to point out to myself that that likelihood has dropped to zero, so I can safely unplug (but stay plugged in to Charter Cable's Internet because there are no alternatives in my wilderness-based neighborhood). It should save me $60-$70 a month that I can save up for when the Tea Party President takes away my Disability.

Unfortunately, this does not lend itself to multiple blog entries.

I agree. I would be blogging about other things, but I am getting either too content or run down to rant about anything frequently enough to justify the blog.

What's Modem Family?
posted by Obscure Reference

Oh boy! I haven't had the opportunity to use this word in months...
But seriously, "Modem Family" was a very early webshow (1998, it was only available in 240x160 screen size) that "Modern Family" stole most of its funny stuff from. Just like "30 Rock" stole from "30 Baud".
posted by oneswellfoop 08 September | 19:24
What I like about Hulu and NetFlix is I can let the cream rise to the top. I may be 4 or 5 years behind, but I am watching stuff I actually enjoy and it is commercial-free.
posted by Ardiril 08 September | 19:41
The very first season of Big Brother was genuinely interesting, at least to me, and it was my favorite thing on that year. The characters seemed real to me. This was like in 2000 when I still watched TV (where I live now makes viewing difficult and I have not tried hard to get it back). I eagerly waited the second year of Big Brother, but found it unwatchable.
posted by DarkForest 08 September | 20:17
Bastards at Hulu still aren't allowing viewers in Canada to watch their channel. And I don't want to watch TV on my computer so that leaves out Netflix.

It's been quite a while since I've turned on the TV to watch TV and not a DVD. But I don't want to get rid of cable because I do occasionally want to watch something. Oh, and the shows I do watch are coming back on soon, so there's that.
posted by deborah 08 September | 21:08
We pulled the plug on broadcast TV ages ago. These statistics, at this point, probably largely reflect the apartments of 20somethings and 60somethings. I can't be bothered.

I'm also not sure it's really any sign of decline. I'm not really willing to go to bat for any of the top 10 shows from 1980 either, MASH being the obvious exception, but then it was kind of the exception to everything anyway, even then.

Here's 1985.

60 Minutes held its own for a while, but they were doing a particular kind of thing - hard-hitting topical investigative journalism - that to the degree which it still exists, has completely migrated to online and/or longform magazine media now.

if you could get over 2 million INTELLIGENT adults under 50 (yeah, I know, that group is not watching TV) to tune into the same GOOD show at the same time a couple times a week, you could go far to change Major Media thinking.

Thing is, why would I participate in this? I want more control over my schedule than that, and finally, I can't really be arsed to change Major Media thinking. I just no longer care what's going on on broadcast TV very much. It's not their thinking I'm interested in changing - what I'm interested in is selecting and feeding the entertainment content I want right to me, when I want it. And I learn about new stuff not by lining up with the New Fall Schedule, but by waiting for my friends to buzz about it, and checking it out myself, on my own timetable.

Streaming broadcast TV has never really been any good. It's OK to admit it.
posted by Miko 08 September | 21:56
What's really funny is over the last week, my thoughts have paralleled Miko's except about movies rather than TV. Especially that part about trying to change Major Media thinking.
posted by Ardiril 08 September | 22:24
Yeah, I am also bummed that Hollywood movies have lost all interest. There's really no way to change that - they have it down to a dismal science: stupid catchy twist on formulaic premise + recognizable star name + plenty of advance hype = mad opening weekend box office = PROFIT!! and that's all they really need to bankroll a film. Whatever happens after the initial money is made back is not really of interest. In that equation, there's no room for anything at all interesting to happen.
posted by Miko 08 September | 22:29
I confess I watch my fair share of trashy TV - my current favourite being Millionaire Matchmaker, which is train wreck TV of the highest order.

I do complicated, financial-legal stuff all day at work, and an hour of Judge Judy or an episode of Chopped is the perfect decompression. I particularly enjoy 'competition reality' shows like Top Chef, The Apprentice, Top Model, Project Runway, etc., where contestants are eliminated one by one each week after failing a task.

I am SO stoked at the news of James Spader joining the cast of The Office, and because we're so far behind in the UK (Pam and Jim just got married in our last season here), I catch up online with the latest episodes a few days after they're shown in the US.

I also love Modern Family. I'm even warming to Phil Dunphy, who annoyed me in Season 1, but whose character really developed in Season 2.

On the other hand, I hate Big Brother, blockbuster movies, game shows, talent shows (I stopped watching American Idol after the Adam Lambert season), talk shows (although if, channel-hopping, I catch the start of a Maury "Who's the Daddy" story, I have to watch and find out if you ARE the father").

I recently discovered Current TV, which showed a series called 50 Documentaries To See Before You Die, which it's now following up by showing a number of the featured documentaries, things I never would have thought of watching had I not seen the 50 Documentaries series (and I only watched that because it was presented by Morgan Spurlock, who I adore). The documentary about Donkey Kong was fantastic.
posted by Senyar 09 September | 04:02
Confession: in 2004, I was paid to write about Big Brother. Now, if you know my TV writing, you know that this was one of my snarkiest pieces. (Losing my ability to have fun with writing about a show I don't like is one reason why I quit doing it)
posted by oneswellfoop 09 September | 05:05
King of Kong was great. Is that list of the 50 documentaries online somewhere? I absolutely love documentaries.
posted by Miko 09 September | 07:57
It is worth keeping my cable for football season alone.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs 09 September | 10:30
To be fair, this summers tv has been just really, really awful.
posted by The Whelk 09 September | 10:57
Here's the list, Miko.
posted by Senyar 09 September | 12:06
deborah - you need VPN access. Lifehacker recommend WiTopia or Tunnelbear -- not sure if these are available in Canada, but they probably are. Google Candian VPN service to see what else is on offer!
posted by Susurration 09 September | 12:12
I'm one of those dumb people that actually watch TV. Sorry. And I like Hell's kitchen. Even though I know that it's more about the fighting and drama than cooking. The rest? Never watch them.
posted by Splunge 09 September | 16:54
I want to do something stupid. || Drunk Swedish elk