While clicking through Facebook this morning, I came across another blogger supporting the effort to bring back Harry’s Law. He blames it on the stupidity of the audience.
Aaron’s TV Saver Blog may have it wrong, though. The audiences that still have economic power are not watching mindless shows, in part because they are mindless, in greater part because they are mindless!
Although I tend to believe that stupidity of the audience is part of the problem, we cannot dismiss the stupidity of network television. Stations that were barely known–and that only for reruns and barely watchable horror movies–are buying programs with great scripts, and have been profiting from increased viewership. Why? Because they are NOT doing the reality shows. However, it’s the major networks making the stupid decisions to “go cheap” that has helped these other networks get a lot closer to becoming THE major ones.
But there is more to the major network stupidity issue than that. You may be too young to remember that automobile manufacturers promised the EPA back in the 1970s that they would have cars that ran on alternative fuels (or at least on less gas) within 10 years. They swore up and down that their assembly lines were planned out 7 years in advance, and that they also needed the lead time to design such cars. While GM and Ford and Dodge were patting themselves on the back about putting off the EPA and saving themselves some money, consumers turned to much more fuel efficient foreign cars, and started the decline of the American auto industry. It took the government to bail out the US auto industry to keep American jobs and to slightly modify the thinking of major American automobile manufacturers. Even so, only half of the major auto makers are still at all viable, and only those that have taken the latest consumer biases seriously continue to be strong–because they have taken the “intelligence” approach.
With television, networks were not clever enough to change with the technological times and move to computerized video and other means of reaching their public. Major networks are not bright enough, even now, to recognize how their cost-cutting has opened doors for alternative stations, and that a lot of the people who have a few brain cells firing and who actually continue to have some purchasing power outside of the 1% are no longer watch their network–because of the mindlessness of their shows. We older people know that the only way to help our remaining brain cells die out faster is to watch such shows. We’re turning to the alternative networks. And the children we raised are doing the same thing–simply because their brains don’t like to be “relaxing” during prime time either. Those of us who want to keep our brains as active as possible are also the ones who tend to live longer and remain viable economic entities.
The point is that industry giants tend to think they can make people watch or buy anything that is selected for prime time. Then they make sure that formerly “smart” morning talk shows hype these cheap shows as though the hosts actually watch them. What this strategy has done is push many of us away from network morning television. Personally, I may have certain shows running all morning as background noise while I work, but I pay absolutely less and less attention to what is going on. Two morning shows that I have on but do not watch are Live with Kelly and The View. Kelly tries too hard to be “cute,” without allowing her comedy to age her gracefully; and Barbara Walters seems to be going through a second childhood, and reminding me why I didn’t care for her when she first entered the exclusive personal interview scene (She may have been a pioneer for women in television, but Katy Couric displays a much greater degree of “intelligent presence”). Now she appears to be monitoring the comments and activities of the very people who have made the show such a success–namely Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar. I have Live with Kelly and The View on because they happen to air between Good Morning America and the local news, and I don’t care what’s on in between–except when an intelligent “hot topic” is being actively discussed by Whoopi and Joy as major contributors.
The point is, intelligent television is disappearing from the major networks–not just during evening prime time, but also during “morning prime time.” It is not only the young mothers who are watching these shows; recent retirees and intelligent unemployed individuals also watch these shows. These latter two groups still hold a lot of actual and potential consumer power. These groups want and need responsible intelligent programming. Many of us are turning to the previously “minor networks” for intelligent entertainment and solid information.
The major networks are too big, too ponderous, and too–well, let’s call it too unintelligent–to make solid fiscal decisions that will keep their networks viable sources of intelligent television.
So let’s start by bringing back Harry’s Law back to NBC prime time and proceed forward from there.