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 TV Bites With Neena Louise

Network Boardroom Speak

by Neena Louise

I've always believed that the Big Four networks assume viewers are stupid. Given the rapid decline in quality on network television and rapid rise in quality on cable, I imagine that memos such as these circulate in the networks' boardrooms:


To: All programming and marketing heads
Re: Acceptable terms and their usage

"Shocking ending"
We want viewers to watch our crummy shows all the way to the end. There, they will find an ending they saw a mile away, or the much-reviled "to be continued". Nyah, nyah...made 'em look!

"Just __ Days Until [Fill in series name here]"
We want to fill viewers with anticipation so they'll want to watch the show we threw together in a matter of hours. It's advisable to save this term for Fall Season promos. Begin airing them June 1.

"You won't believe"
Well, yeah they will - they just won't care. Hence, the unbelievable part. Tee-hee.

As we all know, this is a thrice-annual period (November, February and May) where our greed supersedes quality. Put together a slick promo for whatever piece of crap has been slapped together for Sweeps and run it every 22 seconds. Do NOT, under any circumstances, use the word "Sweeps". For some strange reason, viewers don't like this term.

"The Best Episode of the Season"
Save your worst episode for this term. It is advisable to use it during Sweeps only.

"A Very Special Episode"
Again, it is advisable to save this for Sweeps or the last episode of the season. Best used for a ratings-challenged series.

"Special Guest Star"
Use whatever means necessary (other than big bucks) to sign up some actor or actress whose career is sagging in order to use this term. Has-beens are best.

Usually anything BUT dramatic, but we have to say something that sounds good or no one will tune in. The more truthful "lame and boring" is unacceptable.

"Everything changes"
Not for the good, of course, but change is good. Right? RIGHT?!?!

"All New/Brand New Episode"
With our reduction to 20 new episodes per season, viewers have finally caught on and realized episodes advertised as "new" are the only ones worth watching. Suggest eliminating the use of the term "new" - let the viewers guess! Also, for promos of reruns, use outtake footage and fresh music so the viewers won't recognize it's a rerun until it's too late.

"Special Holiday Episode"
These are, of course, exclusively for use during the Christmas season which currently runs from November 1 to December 26. All departments are urged to extend this period and begin airing holiday advertising and specials the day after Labor Day and continue until January 1st.

"Touching" or "Heartwarming"
Do not - under any circumstances - use these for anything other than the blue-rinse-targeted series. Make sure the promo is teeth-rottingly sweet (scenes with tears are preferable). Best used on Sundays and during the Holiday Episode season.

"Special News Bulletin"
Pull whatever comes off the wire and interrupt whatever is airing, regardless of whether it's breaking news or not. Though viewers despise these interruptions, they watch anyway. Make sure to run dramatic music and instruct the talking head to be as serious as possible. Smirking - regardless of how ridiculous the "news" story is - is unacceptable.

"Stay tuned for scenes from next week's episode"
Take advantage of the viewers doing exactly what we say and actually staying tuned (we're so powerful!). Use the following week's promo and run it fifteen times a day until show airs.

"We can't even show you"
We could, but then no one would tune in. Don't forget the rapid cutaways and dramatic music!

"Unscripted drama" (formerly called "Reality series")
We can't fool viewers much longer since they have started to realize there isn't much that's "real" about these shows (took them long enough, didn't it?). We must curb our use of the term "reality series" and start using "unscripted drama". Same thing, but viewers won't notice. 
We would love to know what you think, sound off on the TV message boards and let us know what you think!

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