The Trouble With TV
The Price is Wrong
by Mad Dog
Television has been in the news a lot
lately. Its one thing to read newspaper and magazine stories about it, but
theres something unsettling about seeing the evening news run stories about itself.
Its a primeval fear to be sure, born from the dark dread that such incestuousnous
will give rise to some mutant media offspring which will bear a startling resemblance to
the banjo player in Deliverance. And it will be given its own daytime talk show opposite
Interestingly all this uproar hasnt
been about the decline of quality, the lack of morals, or the talking turd on South Park.
Its actually been about a sitcom going off the air, a dramatic series that will cost
more per episode than falls out of Bill Gates pants pocket in the wash, and how the
obesity rate in males will rise next year since there will be more commercials per
football game, giving fans yet more opportunities to wake up in their La-Z-Boy recliners
and refill the bowl of Doritos.
We might as well admit it, TV is important
to Americans. On the average we watch 4.4 hours of it every day. This is like taking a
full two months out of your year to do nothing but watch 24-hours a day of TV. And you
thought A Clockwork Orange was scary. Add this to the 8 hours of sleep most of us get
every night and it turns out that the average American is unconscious fully half of his or
her life. Except Jesse Helms, of course, who has even briefer spells of consciousness.
If youre like most people, you deny
that you watch much TV. If this is true, then how come everyone knows the first names of
the supporting characters on the Drew Carey show, gripes that Jerry Springer wore the same
suit on "Men Who Love Women But Only For Their Nose Hair" that he did on
"When Bad Shows Get Worse", and argues that Justine Bateman was better in
"Family Ties" than she was on "Men Behaving Badly"? And actually seem
to care? Oh, thats right, they saw it on that special on The Discovery Channel. Or
was it C-SPAN?
The truly scary part is that if all these
people really dont watch much TV then theres an equal number of people who
watch twice as much. At a whopping 8.8 hours a day that would be more time than they spend
sleeping, 16 times as much as they spend in the shower, and easily enough to have them
declared clinically catatonic.
So is it any wonder that when Jerry
Seinfeld announced that his modestly named show wouldnt return for another lame
season it hit the front page of the newspaper, was the lead story on the evening news, and
even made the cover of Time magazine? I guess we should be grateful that it happened too
late for Time to make him their Man of the Year, an honor which instead went to Andrew
Grove, the CEO of Intel, for helping make it possible to exchange time spent in front of
the TV screen for time in front of the computer screen. At least now we can play Myst,
chat online with 65 year-old men who claim to be 17 year-old cheerleaders named Bambi, and
sleep well in the knowledge that we own the most expensive door stops in the history of
They say Jerry Seinfeld turned down an
offer of $5 million an episode to return to NBC. This proves that money wasnt the
point, insanity was. Not Seinfelds for turning it down, but the networks for
proposing it. Once they realized that "Must See TV" was about to become
"Musty TV", the network panicked and agreed to pay a record $13 million per
episode for "ER" next year. Unlike Seinfeld, the "ER" crew had no
problem accepting this outrageous pay scale since they do, after all, try to paint a
realistic portrait of medical doctors.
No sooner had the ink dried on the
"ER" proposal than four networks agreed to pay $17.6 billion for the rights to
air the next 8 years of NFL football. Yes, thats billion. While this is more
than twice the cost of the last contract, its not so bad when you consider its
only two-thirds what it will cost to bail the Dallas Cowboys out of jail during the same
By doing this the networks may stand to
lose up to $200 million a year, in spite of increasing the number of commercials per game
to 59 while raising their rates. In the grocery business this is called a loss leader. In
the federal government its a way of life. In TV-land its called a tax
write-off. Interestingly, the only network to keep its head about them in the football
bidding war was NBC, who wont be airing any NFL games next year. It was either that
or let George Clooney go.
For all this money the networks are
throwing around we should be able to see more than higher cable bills, reruns of the
Simpsons on four channels, and an estimated 40,000 commercials per year per person. We
should get what we want. In Germany a recent poll found that 48% of TV viewers wanted to
see more pornography broadcast. Maybe theyre onto something here. At least then we
wouldnt feel like were the only ones getting the shaft.
Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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