Monday, October 16, 2006

Why Can't You People Watch Better TV? Seriously

So my brother sends me an article over the weekend from that bastionof journalism, the New York Post, which says no one is watching "Studio 60" because it's too smart.

This is why I weep for the future of television. I wrote last week (or maybe the week before, I can't remember, I'm getting old) about how this could be considered a "golden age" of TV because of the quality shows currently on the air.

Yet for the most part, ratings remain same-old, same-old. Three "CSIs" are in the top 10. Only two new shows, ABC's "Ugly Betty" (No. 12) and CBS' "Shark" (No. 18) are in the top 20.

Remember when NBC used to be on top of the television world? When it had a lineup that included "Friends," "ER," "Seinfeld" and "Frasier?" Not counting the Sunday night NFL game, the Peacock only has one show - "ER" (No. 14) - in the top 20.

It isn't for lack of quality. There are positive things you can say about most of NBC's new fall slate, which includes "Heroes," "Studio 60," "Friday Night Lights" and "30 Rock," smartly written, well-produced TV. (Yes, I gave a negative review to "30 Rock" and I stand by it, but the show has a couple of good points about it - which I previously mentioned - and other people seem to like it.) But among those shows, only "Heroes" has been renewed for the rest of the season. "Kidnapped," one of NBC's best new shows, will be canceled after 13 episodes and has been shifted to the graveyard that is Saturday nights.

Of all of them, "Studio 60" seems the biggest disappointment ratings-wise. Is it because it's too smart? I'll admit, much as the writer in the Post pointed out, jokes about Moliere aren't going to connect with a lot of audience members, but as Aaron Sorkin pointed out in another of his shows, TV shouldn't be looking to reach the lowest common denominator, it should be looking to raise it.

I think a lot of people thought "Studio 60" would be a comedy because it's about a "Saturday Night Live"-styled show, so maybe they are disappointed by the drama. I think the biggest thing is that there no longer is patience among the audience anymore. Sorkin is taking his time getting into the backgrounds of his characters each week, since there are so many, and perhaps the viewers want some sort of payoff to that.

NBC isn't the only one suffering. ABC has two of the best new shows on the airwaves, "Ugly Betty" and "The Nine," but only the former seems to have the staying power to last the season. CBS has already canceled "Smith," which had a lot of potential and a good cast.

I'm not really sure there is any sort of solution. Taste is up to the individual, even if it's bad taste, and if the general population prefers "Survivor" to "Studio 60," there's really not much that can be done. I just hope the networks don't give up on smart TV.

TREEHOUSE OF HORRORS: "The Simpsons" will be airing its annual Halloween-fest in early November, and viewers have a chance to write the promo for it. Go to The winner will get a chance to go to L.A. for the show's 400th episode party, set for May of 2007.

COOL CASTING: Nathan Fillion ("Firefly," "Buffy") will appear in the Nov. 8 episode of "Lost" as someone from Kate's past. Also, Lucinda Jenney appears on "Battlestar Galactica" as Apollo's mom in a flashback episode later this season. Beginning Nov. 2, Salma Hayek, an executive producer of "Ugly Betty," appears in front of the camera in several episodes.

MONDAY'S BEST BET: For regular readers of this column, it should be obvious to both of you that Monday's best bet is always going to be "Heroes" and "Studio 60," so I'm really not going to point that out anymore.

Game 5 of the NLCS (Fox, 8 p.m.) will also take place, though heavy rain is forecasted.


Anonymous said...

Best show on Monday night is Weeds (on Showtime @ 10pm). I have never seen you make a comment on this show. If you have not seen it watch it. Best show on TV!

Phillip Ramati said...

I don't get Showtime, though I have heard a lot of good things about Weeds. Please feel free to lobby my bosses at The Telegraph for the raise I so richly deserve, and I promise to apply some of that money for Showtime, so I can check Weeds out for myself.

Zodin2008 said...

While I am not going to call "Weeds" the best show of the night, part of the reason I cut a deal with the Cable company here to add Showtime for a low monthly cost was because of how much my wife & I loved the first season of "Weeds" on DVD. But the best show on Mondays is "Heroes" until "24" returns.

Regarding Baseball, Phillip, you should pray for rain tonight. As a Braves fan, I can speak from vast experience that Tommy Glavine is not the same pitcher on 3 days rest tyhat he is on 4 days rest.

It's supposed to be Noah's Ark in St. Louis so I am hopeful for your sake that the game is washed out and then you get a fresh Glavine for Game 5. And yes, this Braves fan is happy to root for the Mets because there's a lot of Mets players I like (Glavine, Julio Franco) and Randolph is a good guy--plus, I hate Tony LaRussa, the Cards Manager, with the fire of a 1,000 suns. He maybe the biggest jerk in sports (after Bonds and T.O.).

Regarding the main part of your Blog, I am usually read to give up on the general viewing public when crap like "Dancing with the Stars" destroys "Friday Night Lights", "CSI Miami" kills "Studio 60" and "Survivor completely beats up on stuff like "The Office".

I have come to this uncomfortable reality--most people are stupid. The average reading level of all Americans combined is that of a 5th Grader. As a standard college Graduate, that makes me Einstein compared to a majority of Americans and well, I am only smart about certain subjects.

So, as much as it may disgust some of us that a cruddy, formulaic cheesy cop show like "CSI: Miami" with the hateable presence of David Caruso, continually outpaces "Studio 60", there's nothing we can do about it unless we find out all the homes where those 1,500 Cable boxes live--and hijack them for the sake of quality Television.

It's also further proof, if you look at the success of mediocre dramas such as "Shark" and "Jericho" (which I have been watching the ladder but it's pretty sub par) that pretty much any Drama CBS puts on the air, gets ratings. Look, "Lost" is the biggest and coolest water cooler show on Television--and it's now tied with the dreary, copy of a copy of a copy crime show, "Criminal Minds"!!!

CBS can do no wrong. They now have a built in audience of Nielsen households that watch anything. The only 1 Hour show CBS has created in the last 5 years worth a damn, "Love Monkey", the audience was funny, cute, smart witty and didn't involve guns, cops, soldiers or dead bodies. Instead, "The Unit" replaced "Monkey" in March and got double the audience, even though the writing sounds like it was done by a 5th Grader and the acting is so atrociously bad, I was embarrassed watching the pilot episode. But THAT, people watched. utterly amazing.

Phillip Ramati said...

Not loving the people much, huh? I don't either, but that's my misanthropic nature.

Like I said in the posting, there's no regulating peoples' tastes. If you like the "CSIs" of the world, that's perfectly fine. I just don't understand it's appeal myself, and I hate to see some other show I like get killed in the ratings because of it.

And, BTW, I don't pray for rain. If they play, they play.

Zodin2008 said...

I just don't like stupid people who choose mindless Television. I don't GET it.

The entire "CSI" franchise is the most mind numbingly boring thing on the planet, so I completely don't get it. In fact, all of CBS's Dramas are the worst thing on Television and yet the highest rated--CBS keeps getting rewarded for boring and bad TV, which I also don't get.

I am lashing out with the same kind of frustrations you have, believe me.

(I Blog my complaints over at TV Guide but I get swarmed by the CBS fanatics and called "mean" and "nasty"--this is a safe haven to rip these types of dull shows0>

Phillip Ramati said...

People will watch what they want to watch. I don't necessarily think CSI or its ilk is horrible, I just find it rather ordinary and unchallenging. It seems to be the same premise over and over. (Of course, I don't watch it, so maybe I'm wrong.)

But hey, what are you going to do do?

Erin said...

A couple of years ago Conan O'Brien was announced Jay Leno's successor for the Tonight Show, effective in 2009. When I heard the news I thought "I don't know if Conan is right for the 11:30 demographic, *I* love him but..." and then I realized that by 2009, *I* will be the target 11:30 demographic in 2009. Right now there are two major groups of television viewers controlling the airwaves: The teenagers with nothing better to do looking for a quick thrill (how else could Fear Factor survive for so long??) and older folks with kids who take care of themselves or are out of the house and aren't really looking for anything provocative. That's how Dancing With The Stars is alive :) People who want smart television, who bemoan the lack of brains in their primetime lineup are the same people who don't have or won't give the time to a show week after week after week. We have young kids, we have papers due, we have late meetings, we have other things that are more important. Sad, but true. After all, if you're sitting in a room with Grandma and your 17 year old nephew, what are the chances that YOU get to control the remote?

I LOVE Studio 60 but it is very inside-jokey (and I'm a theater person so I get most of them). But I am sad that people are turning it off because they don't get it instead of asking "what's that?" and trying to find out.

Incidentally, I've read on other blogs about people encouraging the boycott of the show because of the Crazy Christians sketch, which as of the fourth episode hadn't even been seen by the television viewers in any shape or form. Now THAT'S comedy--comedy I wish could be explored further.

And lasty (I promise):) I find the idea of a DRAMA about the goings on of a COMEDY show much more interesting than a COMEDY about a comedy show. That's just "Noises Off" in episodic form. :)

Good blog!

Anonymous said...


Very smart comments. Happy Mets postponed. The fact is that most decent TV can be seen on BBC America. A lot of shows are bad knockoffs of British shows example The Office.

Trouble few new ideas. Best new shows includes Ugly Betty, Heroes and Studeo 60.

Phillip I agree you should get raise

Phillip Ramati said...

Thanks for the comments, Erin et. al. I hadn't heard about the call for boycotts, but if people are boycotting the show because of a name of a sketch that no one ever saw, than those people are even dumber than I gave them credit for being.

Zodin2008 said...


While I second Phillip getting a raise and appreciate that you liked my comments, I have to take issue (as I know Phillip will) at calling the American version of "The Office" (Emmy Winner, best Comedy series) a 'bad knockoff'.

"Coupling" was a bad knockoff. "The Office" (American version) is one of the two best sitcoms on the air along woith "Scrubs". Steve Carrell and that entire cast are absolutely brilliant!

Aaron Sorkin is my hero for what he did in last night's "Studio 60"--he had a Mark Burnett type reality show turned down in favor of a likely lesser rated but smarter scripted show.

I stood up & clapped when that happened.

I personally wished we lived in a world where all Reality Television crumbled and went away. But since Phillip has stated his love of "The Amazing Race" (and it has generally been considered the one quality show in this format), I would grant a pass to that and wish that all otehr reality (especially "Dancing with the Stars", "Survivor" and "American Idol") all would go away and give me back good Television instead!

Speaking of GREAT Television, last night's episode of "Heroes" was the best yet. It's officially my favorite new series on Television now.