CBS has a business model that works. Produce mindless, run of the mill, cookie cutter TV shows and dominate the ratings. The scripts are like those Mad-Lib books where you just fill in the nouns and what not.
The other sure-fire way to the heart of the American viewer is to take Has-Been, semi-celebs and make them do physical challenges, like dancing.
To inject an original idea and some quick wit is typically too much for the audience to handle. Take ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT for example. For 3 years it produced brilliant, original scripts, produced by one of the best ensemble casts in TV history. But the unorthodox documentary manner in which it was shot, along the absence of a laugh track, was too confusing for the average person. The public wasn’t ready for a show that didn’t give them a clear-cut queue when to laugh. It was too much to ask that they decipher the comedy themselves. It was doomed from the start.
However it did open the door for shows like THE OFFICE and MODERN FAMILY to succeed. THE OFFICE first, struggled for the best years of its existence, and then as the show gained popularity, it lost what made it special. The writing started to decline and they tried to make everyone happy, in turn destroying the dynamic that made the show good. Pam and Jim’s desire and sexual tension made you care about the show’s characters, but once Pam and Jim finally got together, everyone had their happy ending and there was nothing left to invest in. (Much like what happened to MOONLIGHTING after David and Maddie finally got together.) The show is now a shell of its former self, and like so many other shows just couldn’t sustain the level of comedy they had reached early on, the bar was too high. THE OFFICE has run its course, and should it get canceled now, no one can really complain.
Then MODERN FAMILY comes along with a brilliant first season, and one which thus far into season 2, has not come close to being matched. They exploded out of the gate so fast, that despite the show’s growing audience, there is already evidence pointing to a turn-around for the worse. Don’t get me wrong, MODERN FAMILY is still one of the best shows on TV, but it’s not what it was.
Lot’s of shows are allowed to run their course. 24 is one of my favorite shows, but Jack Bauer had his time, and when it ended we didn’t complain. THE SOPRANOS, which was so good the first 3 years, took a sharp downward turn in season 4, but still ran 2 more years. MACGYVER, SEINFELD, THE SHIELD, and CHEERS. All permitted to go out their own way. And while lots of good shows are allowed time to run out their stories, it’s seems like every couple of years we get an excellent show to come along, and for whatever reason, people don’t watch, and the networks don’t wait.
From FREAKS AND GEEKS to FIREFLY to TWIN PEAKS to VERONICA MARS, too often the best show on TV, is the one nobody is watching. Shows that still have stories to tell, that are still producing at a high level, and they fall victim in the ratings wars to TWO AND A HALF MEN or a reality show about Dancing or fat people or dating.
The latest show to fall victim to this is TERRIERS. In a year full of good shows popping up, TERRIERS in my opinion was the best of them, and now it’s gone. RAISING HOPE, JUSTIFIED, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, and THE WALKING DEAD. All great, all deserving of a 2nd season, none as good as TERRIERS.
TERRIERS, beaten out on its own network by repeats of TWO AND A HALF MEN, was easily the best show on FX this year. That includes season 3 of SONS OF ANARCHY, which dominated the Networks ratings coming off a 2nd season that was as good as any I’ve seen.
Thank you to the cast and crew of TERRIERS for giving us something worthwhile, it was lost on those of us who saw it.
One thought on “The American Television Viewer Makes Me Sick; CBS”
Interesting read! I agree with you on almost all counts — I do believe The Office has vacillated in quality from season to season, though, instead of being in general decline — and too think it’s criminal that a show like Two and a Half Men can outlive something like Arrested Development or Twin Peaks. Not coincidentally, AD and TP each suffered from what was basically its (respective) network’s self-fulfilling prophecy: “This show is a bit weird and may not last, so we’re not going to invest in advertising it properly or giving it a valuable timeslot.” –> “The show’s ratings drop, which ‘confirms’ the network’s fear.” –> “The show is replaced by ‘Eating with the Stars.'”