Sunday, January 11, 2009

Just a few thoughts on the state of serial television shows these days....

I went through a period in which I whittled away most of the televised serials that I watched regularly, mostly because I felt it had gotten to be a bad use of my time and I hated watching all of the commercials. But getting a DVR a couple of years ago has made broadcast TV a bit more watchable for me again. So I'm back up to double-digits in the number of current shows that I watch fairly regularly:
  • Daily Show - Comedy Central
  • Colbert Report - Comedy Central
  • Survivor - CBS
  • Mad Men - AMC
  • My Name Is Earl - NBC
  • 30 Rock - NBC
  • The Office - NBC
  • Monk - USA
  • Doctor Who - SciFi
  • The Thirsty Traveler - Fine Living
And just to prove that I'm participating in the decline and fall of broadcast television ad revenues even beyond fast-forwarding through commercials on my DVR, I'm watching Battlestar Galactica on DVD and The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon via YouTube on my iPod Touch.

Firefly is probably my favorite show to come out in the last ten years. But it's also a really good example of exactly why I think the broadcast networks are declining even faster than they might have otherwise. That was a great show and Fox stuck it into a bad Friday night time slot and cancelled it after fewer than a dozen airings. I can understand yanking a stinker that isn't drawing ratings, but you can't possibly tell me that Fox had anything in development that would've been more likely to succeed than taking a flyer on another 13 episodes of Firefly. I'm sure I would've come across it and become a regular viewer had it made it longer than two months. But instead, before starting to watch it on DVD on a friend's recommendation, about all I remember of its broadcast career was thinking, "Hey, that looked pretty interesting. Too bad it was cancelled."

It's a vicious circle, since the propensity of networks to yank shows so quickly has made viewers pretty reluctant to commit to any show until it's been around for a season or two. And so new shows get cancelled quicker than ever. It's no wonder that most of the good TV these days is on cable channels that are more willing to give a show a longer chance to find an audience.

I'm kind of hoping the growth of the DVD after-life for most shows will help to give good shows a longer window of opportunity. I recently heard an interview with one of the producers of that new Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon who said DVD revenue was an important part of the business model that led Sony to green-light the production.


  1. I have two guilty pleasures, 2 1/2 men and Big Bang Theory. Guilty because I shouldn't approve of either of them. 2 1/2 men focuses on meaningless sex, and Big Bang Theory plays into the idea that smart scientists are all nerds, a bad idea to be selling when our country isn't convincing enough young people to go into science and engineering. But I can't help it. They're funny.

  2. ... and as I said in my "Superbad" review, whether it makes you laugh is the true measure of whether a comedy is funny.

    I think the show I might be most likely to add to the lineup would be "Eureka" on the SciFi channel, but I'm not sure what I'd knock off to make room.