Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How The Real World Tried To Kill TV, and How The Sopranos Helped Save It

The new television is upon us, and I couldn't be less excited. This makes me very sad as I have been a TV-aholic my whole life. It used to be that I couldn't wait for the new season to start, but now it just causes this feeling of dread and fear to creep over me. Fear that I might actually like a show only to see it canceled half way thru the first season. This has happened WAY too many times for shows that I actually liked, while crap that is aimed at complete morons is renewed season after pointless season. And who do I blame for setting this trend in motion (besides the idiot network executives)....MTV's REAL WORLD!

Here is my train of thought on this, follow along. The Real World is what I consider to be the first real reality based show that reached the public in a big way(back in the early 90's). The first two or three seasons were actually interesting and showed that a show like that could actually get decent ratings. Of course network TV saw this and slowly, at first, found that they could show their own reality based shows and draw even bigger ratings, thereby securing higher advertising dollars. Next thing you know, we have Survivor, Amazing Race, and other shows of the sort clogging up the network schedule. Again, decent enough in their first few seasons for what they are (I used to be a huge Survivor addict), but if you keep doing the same thing season after season and just change the cast, IT'S THE SAME DAMN SHOW! Sorry, I require something that holds my attention, something that evolves, AN ACTUAL STORY. Watching people be complete asses to each other is entertaining for a bit (at least to me), but wears thin on repeated viewings.

Meanwhile we see actual shows come and go. It used to be that a show was given a season or two to find their footing and an audience. Now we are lucky if we get half a season before the axe starts coming down on the shows we know and love. This is why I almost don't want to start watching a series until it has at least has a full completed season and has been renewed for the next. Otherwise I find myself getting involved and caught up in a story only to have it just end half way thru a season. I see a few shows in the current season I am interested in on network television, but am afraid to start watching.

So, you ask, how did The Sopranos save television? Now remember, this is just my opinion, but I see The Sopranos as the show that gave the networks the middle finger and showed them that cable channels, pay or otherwise, could produce good, compelling, story driven shows and secure the viewers needed to keep it alive. From there we got shows like Six Feet Under, Sex In The City, Deadwood, Carnivale, and Battlestar Galactica just to name a few. The current crop of cable shows push aside ANYTHING being puked out by the networks. Shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Blood, Dexter, and Weeds destroy stupid crap like the endless versions of NCIS, CSI, Law and Order, and other garbage the networks try passing off as quality entertainment. Of course there is also the cringe-worthy Glee, but my hate for that show is so extreme I shall save that rant for another day.

And let's not forget the current slate of reality shows. Dancing With The Stars was the number one show last season with American Idol following close behind (or the other way around). REALLY? What redeeming value do either of these shows bring to the table? Nada. My wife watched one episode of Dancing With The Stars and I think I have watched maybe half an episode of American Idol. I am still trying to scrub those memories from my head. My love of Survivor quickly faded when it was found to be the same show season after season. What was once fun just became...boring. The only network shows I have found myself able to tolerate are Bones and Castle, and that's just mainly because I like the cast. But replace the cast and I would probably stop watching them.

So there you have it. Network TV blows and cable puts on the good stuff. I really don't see this trend reversing itself anytime soon. It would take a network executive with balls to stand up in a board meeting and shout "WE SHOW CRAP. LOOK AT WHAT CABLE IS DOING, LET'S GO IN THAT DIRECTION. LET'S ACTUALLY MAKE SHOWS WITH SOME "! But I don't think that will happen anytime soon...

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