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TV's Summer Rerun Wasteland

by Neena Louise

Here we are again in that most wretched period in TV land: Summer Rerun Season. Though this has never been TV's finest hour, this year is particularly abysmal.

It is a new world we live in, since that horrific day of September 11th, but TV has responded with either shamelessly exploitive pieces on that tragedy (watch any prime time news magazine and you'll see what I mean), or mindless fluff that's so devoid of anything - either good or bad - that you might as well be watching a test pattern. I think it speaks volumes on how terrible this past television season was when so many networks (especially the Big Three: ABC, CBS and NBC) are already running endless promos for the upcoming fall season.

Over and over again, I've seen promos touting "From the makers of [fill in hit series here]. Coming this fall." First of all, "fall" is up to 5 months away, since many series often don't premiere until October or November or even later. Secondly, I don't know how stupid they think viewers are to believe that a series "from the makers of" means it's automatically going to be worth watching. And since WHEN do networks start promoting a fall series at the beginning of the summer??? Does this mean we will be subjected to weeks and weeks of tiresome, endless, mindless promos of some upcoming series that probably isn't that good since it needs weeks and weeks of tiresome, endless, mindless promos?

It's just more evidence that the networks (especially those wretched Big Three) think we're so stupid and mindless that we'll automatically tune into a series "from the makers of" and think "Well, gosh, golly. It's 'from the makers of', so of course it will be good." I've got news for the Big Three: viewers actually have brains. Creative talent does not a hit make (duh), and just what decade are you in to think it does? Do you not realize there are dozens (nay, hundreds) of cable and satellite networks that cater to exactly what the viewers want and not what YOU think we should want?

If I were King of all TV, I would run the season's repeats back-to-back (similarly to what NBC did with Scrubs in late June) and fill the rest of the summer with uncut theatrical movies, pilots for the upcoming season, pilots of series that didn't make the fall lineup and, yes, as much as I hate to admit it: silly, witless, harmless, mindlessly diverting nonsense. Dispense with the 9/11 "shoulda-woulda-coulda" think pieces; the increasingly tasteless "horny women desperately chasing men" reality crap; repeats of repeats, etc., etc. Such lazy and unimaginative fare really isn't necessary since there is enough time, talent, money and - most importantly - viewers to support better summer programming.

Why has no one thought of creating programming JUST for summer? Sure, there's the "midseason replacement" (though I don't know what's so "midseason" about June), but those series rarely last the summer and are often such obvious throwaway "we don't care" series that they are an insult - both to viewers and the creative talents that get wasted. Most dedicated television viewers eagerly await the start of the new fall season with anticipation akin to a dog drooling over Kibbles 'N Bits. So why not create a series that only runs in the summer to appease viewers while they wait for fall? Not as an experiment; not as a "replacement"; not as a "there's nothing better, so why not this?"; but an actual Summer-Only series? There really, truly are people that really, truly watch just as much television in summer, so why not create something good, intelligent and maybe a little goofy just for them, just for the summer? And no matter how well received, never run it during any time period other than summer. If such a series gained an audience, ratings would be in the stratosphere, sponsors would be happy, networks would make money, viewers would have something better to watch than tiresome reruns or trash like Bachelorettes in Alaska and all would be well in the world of television.

Cable and satellitle networks realized the need for quality summer programming some time ago. When are the Big Three (and Fox) going to get a clue? This summer's repeats of this past season's ho-hum series simply aren't worth watching twice (they weren't even worth watching once), and I, for one, will be renting a lot of movies this summer.
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