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 TV Bites With Neena Louise

Network TV's Desperate Days

by Neena Louise


It seems to me that the more people tune out the horror that has become network television, the more the networks seem to be resorting to acts of desperation. For example: the stupid tag lines like "it's so shocking we can't even show you"; the endless hyping of mediocre shows and specials; promos that run over and over and over again; teasers that turn out to be the only redeeming moment in a show; endless "snippets" on tabloid shows like Entertainment Tonight (are they paid for this, I wonder?), etc., etc.

I am amused that the networks seem to be running scared, but dismayed that it hasn't resulted in better programming. Maybe the networks should listen to their viewers' opinions for a change, rather than assuming they know us well enough to run shlock they think will be "good for us". How do they know? They only find out what we like and don't like after the ratings come out (after it's too late to undo a production). And when are they and/or their sponsors going to realize that the ratings aren't always conclusive? The first show of a series may get horrible ratings, which makes the networks panic and cancel it after 2 or 3 airings. True, some series are just plain bad, but it seems that more and more shows aren't even given a chance to find an audience before they're trashed. Then there's all the day- and time slot-shifting, making it extremely difficult for any given series to find (and keep) an audience. Conversely, if a series' first few airings are good, the networks get smug and produce a slew of the same type of show, boring us all to death.

So the networks try to compensate for their poor programming by endless hype and self-promotion. I've never ever experienced such repetitive, overblown ads and I'm damn sick and tired of them. Consequently, the networks' superhype is totally ineffective. I rely on printed television listings and entertainment periodicals to make decisions on what I want to watch, not some puffed-up promo that practically DEMANDS I tune in. In fact, the more a show is promoted, the less inclined I am to watch since I feel very much like I'm being goaded into it. Case in point: Before A&E's The Golden Spider was broadcast, I had every intention of watching it. Then they ran the same bloody promo over and over and OVER again. I got so irritated by the tiresome ads, I had no desire to watch the program when it finally aired.

I've always felt the networks viewed their audience as stupid (though, to be fair, when a show like Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? gets huge ratings, they're justified in their opinions on viewership stupidity). However, there's stupid, then there's STOOPID. Most of the networks' promo ads seem to be directed at the IQ-challenged and they thus feel compelled to be repetitive, blatant and, at times, downright obnoxious in their attempts to get us to watch. I, for one, am disgusted.

Something I was told a long, long time ago - "If you're good, you won't have to tell anyone; they'll know" - seems appropriate here. Of course shows need to be advertised, but if TV were good, more people would watch (DUH!) and the overblown promotion wouldn't be necessary. All the tag lines and hype in the world can't save bad television, after all.  
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