Oct 8, 2004

Who Watches And Listens To Local Broadcasts Anymore?

I rarely look at my local television stations nowadays. Aside from a few shows on Fox, ABC, The WB, UPN, and NBC (yeah, I know CBS exists, but there's absolutely nothing on it worth watching), I rarely look at broadcast television anymore. Most of what I look at on television is on cable. Sunday nights belong to HBO from 9 to 11 PM (of course, and I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I'm digging ABC's Sunday lineup now) and Cartoon Network the rest of the night, Monday nights, I check out Raw on Spike TV. I look at some of the broadcast comedies on Tuesday nights, but I check out the FX dramas like The Shield and nip/tuck at 10. After Smallville goes off, I pretty much channel surf for an hour until Good Eats comes on. After Smackdown goes off on Thursdays, I channel surf again. Fridays, I check out CN, ABC, Monk on USA, and HBO throughout the night. Saturdays, well, if you don't know by know, perhaps you really don't know me nor my other site.

Broadcast television offers very little for me. Didn't used to be that way, but broadcast channels (both television and radio) have become really lazy. Part of the laziness isn't their fault (broadcast outlets are, afterall, handcuffed by the FCC, which continues to make this country one of the most puritanical societies in the world mediawise), but most of it is. If you're going to keep on duplicating the same old formulas (still anticipating the announcements of CSI: Wichita and Law and Order: Mall Security), people aren't going to be impressed. Seriously, when CBS announced plans for a second CSI spinoff (and the fourth show to have the letters CSI in the title, including Navy NCIS), what exactly was the reactions in the boardrooms? I think it went a little something like this:

Exec One: Hey, this CSI franchise is just blowing up, and we're doing just as well with Navy NCIS. We have one on almost every night of the week except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. How about we make a CSI . . . in New York?

Exec Two: Great, just what television needs . . . another cop/detective series based in New York.

Exec One: It's not cops. It's crime scene investigators.

Exec Two: Detectives. How about something original instead of the same series in three different shells?

Exec One: Well, we could put on a reality show where we put a group of slightly slutty, gold-digging girls in a mansion with a g - -

Exec Two: CSI: New York is a go!

Broadcast networks whine about cable television who "get away with more stuff." They cry that it's unfair to compete against the likes of HBO, FX, and USA because they can air shows with almost no limitations. Shows like The Sopranos, Monk, Sex in the City, The Shield, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm, nip/tuck, Rescue Me, and others aren't bound by the content standards enforced by the FCC. Unlike broadcast television and radio, cable television content has evolved tremendously. Hell, did you think you'd see something like Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network without being hacked to bits? Broadcast outlets are, more or less, still operating under the same rules established in the 1950s. Why? Because there are strong forces who still have the mentality of a McCarthyesque bureaucrat. And these forces are more vocal than the rest of us, so, more often then not, the enforcements they push for are the ones that usually become law. That's why Saturday mornings are a lost cause for broadcast television. That's why guys like Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony are bolting to satellite radio.

And that's why the rest of the world was laughing at us for fining Viacom for the Justin Timberlake situation at the Super Bowl (it's funny why one party had been persecuted while the one who actually did the act just got his street card revoked).

So, with more people watching cable television and more people slowly drifting to satellite radio, do we really need broadcast television and radio? Of course we do, but they really have to enter the 21st century to keep up with the audiences. I'm not saying that the FCC should be dismantled, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. Funny thing is that broadcast outlets are always a step behind. With the advent of the internet and local news and weather stations on cable, you could get the latest local news and weather info. For national news, you could always glance at the 24/7 stations (caution: too much cable news can cause cases of smugness, arrogance, inaccuracy, cut off mikes, and spontaneous combustion). The NBA has basically become a cable-only sports league, and MLB is slowly swerving in that direction as well. Heck, the NFL's actually thinking of putting Monday Night Football on ESPN rather than on ABC.

Let's see, local news, weather, children's entertainment, and sports are pretty much covered by cable. So, there has to be a use for broadcast right? Well, yeah, if you like a lot of reality programming and a lot of formulaic series.

There are plenty of gems out there on broadcast television, but you really have to look hard for them. And pray that the networks don't cancel them so quickly. Fox had a lot of great shows on its lineups in recent years. Wonderfalls, John Doe, Firefly (think Outlaw Star live-action), Dark Angel, and Arrested Development all received critical acclaim, but little love from the network. Heck, Arrested Development was nominated for (and won) Best Comedy Series at this year's Emmys, and yet Fox still thought about cancelling the series. It'll be back, but it was one of the lucky ones. So, there is just a slight glimmer of hope for broadcast television.

As for broadcast radio, it's a waste of time. Edited music, numerous talking heads, endless commercials, plus the same type of music on all the time, broadcast radio sucks. I dig Music Choice and I respect internet radio. Haven't heard much satellite radio, but I liked what I heard. Broadcast radio is a dinosaur that needs to evolve beyond what's there.

Of course, that's just my four half-cents.


scott said...

I have a question not related to this post. Do you ping weblogs.com when you post? I sure would like to know when you update this site.

Anonymous said...

that would explain "The Batman"

It Hurts and stings just to say that terrible terrible name.