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What's Wrong with Television Today


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Initial post: Jan 5, 2008 7:37:28 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 25, 2013 6:08:06 PM PDT
I find that I am watching less regular tv these days and more tv on dvd, simply because it's much more enjoyable. (I have the basic digital cable setup.)
I have become disappointed and aggrevated by what TV has become over the last few years. I'd like to discuss the biggest issues responsible for its poorness, and also maybe discuss some possible solutions or alternatives if anyone is up for it.

Some of my biggest peeves include:
the barrage of endless "reality" programs that show people at their worst (granted, there are one or two that are heartwarming);
a disturbingly large increase in commercials and commercial breaks over the last several years;
those distracting station promo pop-ups on the screen during programs;
and the changing audio volumes of commercials (which should all be the same volume- there oughtta be a law if there isn't one).

I also would like to mention that certain channels have gone from decent to horrible. TV Land is getting worse every single year (reality shows? 1980's movies? endless afternoons of westerns?). Sci Fi channel plays the worst direct-to-dvd movies you could want. BBC America does not play good Britcoms or dramas at all... it's basically reality shows and fluff.

Like a lot of people, I do remember TV being a thing of wonder and fun sometimes. I'm 40, and grew up on the original Star Trek reruns, Masterpiece Theater, The Merv Griffin Show and Dick Cavett (when a host could actually chat with a celebrity for more than ten minutes), Bugs Bunny, Little House on the Prairie, Roots, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and so on. I saw TV at its quirkiest (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; Twin Peaks) and at its most original and fascinating (Northern Exposure).

TV is not all bad. It's often exhilarating and engrossing, fun and innovative. But lately it just seems that it's not very good. It was probably the same thing with radio before television became a household thing.

Any others want to join the discussion?

Edit: While there's been quite a lot wrong with TV in the last few years, it is crucial to emphasize that we can't deny that there's plenty of really good programs available to enjoy, everything from broadcast sitcoms to cable dramas to premium miniseries. So I don't want to focus too much on the problems without mentioning that there is still quality storytelling and innovation to be found on TV if one looks around.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2008 1:40:58 AM PST
a says:
I completely agree with you, I grew up on 50s to 80s sitcoms and movies, and I believe the beginning of the end was the early 90s, primarily with FOX shows (Married with Children, etc), and Roseanne. I loved shows like Family Ties, and Growing Pains that always emphasized the importance of family and striving to make good moral choices.
Some of my favorites shows of all time have to be:

Leave it to Beaver, Gidget, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, I Dream of Jeanie, Mork & Mindy, Charles in Charge, Bosom Buddie's, Perfect Strangers, Moonlighting, Silver Spoons, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I believe there are some good ones out there nowadays, but very few, I like:
The Office (both American and British versions), Lost, and early 24.

Any other favorites?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2008 2:41:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2008 2:41:31 AM PST
TV isn't all bad. But the vast majority is turning to become unwatchable dreck these days. The primary reason for this? In my opinion, worship of the almighty dollar. TV producers and networks don't want 'fresh and innovative.' They want safe. A lot of times, this means they have to appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator. The more targeted your audience, the smaller the audience. The smaller the audience, the less money that is made.

If it isn't a long running series that is being run, it has to be a show with an easily repeatable premise or something low in cost to develop (i.e. reality shows, on both counts). Appealing to the greatest number of people with lowest cost inevitable results in a 'dumbing down' of results.

Sure, they could try to make risks. They could make new single season dramas that have definite beginnings and endings with a good story and good characters. I would watch it. The problem is a lot of people wouldn't. Movies and long running shows have the advantage of not needing much of an attention span. You don't have to necessarily keep track what happens in shows from week to week, or you don't have to see every episode to understand what is happening.

The internet as I see it has hastened this process to mediocrity. While it does make fanworks and independent producers more able to show their works to the world, it also allows networks to gather data more quickly, acquire other companies more quickly, and mass produce things and move in on new trends.

Television industry, meet your twin the music industry. Music industry, meet your twin the television industry. These two conglomerates have the scary attribute of being nearly completely alike in their problems, their approach, what they are producing... and also both being completely inability to admit the majority of their problems were created by themselves by their unwillingness to innovate, take risks, and embrace new technology instead of shunning it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2008 5:26:13 AM PST
Roman85 says:
True, so true, I have 25 shows on DVD, mostly from the 80's & 90's, & NONE are in rerun syndication, If my kids were not addicted to the Disney channel, cable would be history for me, today's T.V. executives are idiots.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2008 9:56:58 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2008 9:57:48 AM PST
Bryce,
I completely agree on you about taking risk(s). That is so true. When you consider the real pioneers of television and what they did... Lucille Ball went against every rule there was, and she basically spearheaded the sitcom format (that everyone used for forty years). Jerry Seinfeld went down the road not taken, morphing the sitcom into something wild and unpredictable. Susan Harris wrote a show about four senior women sharing a house in Miami; on paper it sounds dull as dishwater but she created one of the funniest shows of the 1980's. Norman Lear created shows that tackled scathing issues of the time (granted, some of the spinoffs were tame in comparison).

It's a shame that tv networks and executives don't take more risks. It's always mimic, copy, and rip off what's hot. Television should maybe try to be more unusual. For example- do a sitcom based solely on improv, without scripts (something like Christopher Guest's quirky films); create a soap opera that's not just about young gorgeous hotties and big business, but interesting people and realistic problems; take a known property and twist it (maybe a dramedy based on Auntie Mame but about three men and a little girl as the observer); and so on.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2008 1:10:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2008 1:11:50 PM PST
Way too much reality dreck. Even the lowest common denominator couldn't possibly be that low. Also, I agree with the poster below that not enough writers and producers take chances and attempt to break the mold.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2008 4:02:48 PM PST
R. R. Moore says:
Someone said once that 95% of everything is crap, and TV certainly proves that. The great shows are few and far between, but they are out there: Six Feet Under, The Wire, The Sopranos, Dexter being among the best, but also take a look at Dead Like Me, Law and Order Criminal Intent Season 4, Curb Your Enthusiasm (the first 3 seasons), Will & Grace, and others.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 6:02:28 AM PST
I hate reality TV.

I remember when my family took me and my brother on vacation while we were growing up--we were entranced by the cable tv in the hotel rooms

But that was only because it had the stuff we grew up with airing on the channels. Now the stuff on cable is also going to reality.

Thank goodness for the DVD-I just pop in a DVD of my favirote series and don't have to worry. There are a couple of current shows I like, but very few and in between.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 7:21:15 AM PST
Its simple...networks are LAZY, IMPATIENT and more importantly RISK-ADVERSE. If a show doesn't turn into an immediate hit right away and start turning a profit it gets cancelled. Imagine if Seinfeld debuted tomorrow...NBC would have cancelled it because they couldn't wait 2-3 years for it to mature to a hit. So reality series and game shows get green lighted because they are low risk...they are CHEAP to make and if they flop, they don't cost a dime. And any new sit-com or drama is just a recycled version of a previous show...again, low-risk.

For goodness sake, any network that Greenlights "Cavemen" should immediately be boycotted for a period of 5 years.

Not to mention, most studio executives can't recognize talent and quality if they stepped in it. They are short-sighted and have no ability to see potential in a show and to wait for its audience to build up. The exceptions to these rules are often HBO, BBC, maybe TNT or other smaller networks...they commit to a new idea or a new series and are willing to wait for an audience to grow.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 12:06:26 PM PST
MusicMan63 says:
I agree with what you are saying, but my pet peeve is more about the amount of rudeness portrayed, sex and/or sexual comments, and graphic violence that seems to innundate the airwaves nowadays. We are what we eat, er watch... Perhaps we wouldn't go out and perform these acts personally, but we are not shocked any longer by them, but rather bored by them.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 12:52:26 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2008 12:54:20 PM PST
pen name says:
I agree with Art all the way. Too much silly junk on TV with fancy effect and jumping around from one scene to another. I hate reality TV shows! I would recommend the Rawhide series and also Rifleman. I also avoid current TV as much as possible.
I have ranted about the disturbing trend in longer and longer commerical breaks for years! it used to be just a few minutes an hour of commericals. now its over 20 minutes an hour i think.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 1:07:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2008 1:40:28 PM PST
Linda,
It's so true. We see so much 'mind pollution' on television, and we get so used to it. And that's rather alarming. I'm not saying everything should be like The Waltons or Murder She Wrote where there's nothing offensive or sexual. But not much shocks us.
I get nostalgic when I think of some of the good stuff TV has offered. Earlier I mentioned the 1990's series Northern Exposure. It is one of TV's shining hours. I wish that much care and creativity went into today's programs.
I never laughed more than while watching the hysterical sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. Hilarious, and fairly consistent. One of the best series of the 1990's.
The first season of Lost was some of the best stuff I've seen in a long time (but then in subsequent seasons there were too many mysteries, not enough episodes, and too many 'Others', for my taste). At first it was true escapsim and just so interesting. It smacked of Lord of the Flies mixed with The Twilight Zone and a soap opera.
There are a few gems now on TV, but there is so much more drivel. When you consider we have a finite amount of time on this planet, it makes you wonder why you'd want to waste it watching cheesy reality shows.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 1:30:35 PM PST
MusicMan63 says:
Thank you, Art. By the way, The Waltons is my FAVORITE TV show. But, I know I am probably one of a kind. :-) I could really feel the love!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 1:51:49 PM PST
Did you know The Waltons was created by one of the writers of the Twlight Zone? It makes sense. A lot of TZ episodes are so nostalgic, wistful and sweet (Walking Distance, etc.).
I enjoyed The Waltons. And I really loved Little House on the Prairie at times. Although sometimes it seemed like it was too tragic. But I think the Oleson family has to be one of the funniest TV clans ever created for the small screen, besides Carol Burnett's Eunice and her bunch of dysfunctional loonies.
The Eunice sketches from Carol's show were uproarious stuff. And the movie spoofs were cool, too. She was so funny.
Oh, and Core Beth of The Waltons is another favorite character. She really put on airs.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 2:37:02 PM PST
MusicMan63 says:
Ha, ha, yes she did. I went to visit The Waltons Museum this past July. It is located in Schuyler, Virginia. I fell in love with the place!!! I have the first 4 seasons on DVD as well. I liked Little House on the Prairie also, but I didn't like Nellie much. I knew people like her in school. Carol Burnett is really great, and I loved the I Love Lucy show as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 2:38:39 PM PST
MusicMan63 says:
Do you remember a show that didn't last long called, "Apple's Way?"

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 5:53:30 PM PST
Foggy memories coming to me. It's hazy but was there a Van Patten in the cast? Or is that something else? Was it about a family or a school? A teacher? It had to be a 70's show, I think, yes?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 6:10:55 PM PST
I Love Lucy is the best as far as pioneer sitcoms (also wonderful were The Honeymooners, Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Andy Griffith Show). In 1951 Lucille Ball did stuff that the powers-that-be (the network jowls) said would never work: a wife as the main character, a husband that's Cuban, using more than one camera to film it, having a baby on a tv show, warming up the audience before filming... and so on. But she basically said "I'm doing it the way I want"; and she is still on the air all over the entire planet, more than fifty years later.
It is amazing when you watch her now, how few mistakes they actually made on that show. Very hard to find flubs or boo-boos. That's because they were such professionals, and rehearsed stuff until it was pitch perfect. People say she was not funny in person, but she knew what was funny, and she took a script and made it even funnier when she had gone over it and made it work.
And you have to give major props to Vivian Vance and Bill Frawley. The show wouldn't be the same without Ethel and Fred.
This is becoming a big tangent. Oh, well. I am a big Lucy admirer, as you can tell. I've always said, if something is truly funny, it always stays that way. It always will get a laugh. That's why when I see Lucy and Ethel at the candy conveyor belt, I still laugh. Even though I know what's coming. It was genuinely funny, and will always be.
I will refrain from listing favorite Lucy episodes and quotes. That's for another discussion altogether.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2008 9:09:16 PM PST
SmartguyH says:
well, I think that most people either aren't talented or are stifled or it's political suicide to offer ideas/suggestions on making things better. I see hints and tidbits of old classic hit shows that are in the new shows now but most are diluted. The soap opera kinda sitcoms are getting dumb because they move to fast. For instance 90210 was a great show b/c yeah everyone hooked up with each other but not in THE SAME SEASON. Grey's anatomy seems to be taking plays from the 90210 book, but they're having their characters sleep with everyone in a season. I think the O.C. did that too. Also, back then you always rooted for the characters and the characters didn't have to be way developed as they do now. Like now you have to find out this person's an alcohalic and this person has issues with their family and stuff. It's bogus.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2008 7:01:39 AM PST
MusicMan63 says:
I was pretty young and the name is mostly all I remember - It seems like I can remember it coming on and I could see the words, "Apple's Way" written fancily across the front of a picturesque dwelling, but that's about it. "Eight is Enough" had the Van Patten's, but this show may have also. I will do a search and see if I can find out. I am just curious. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2008 7:03:32 AM PST
MusicMan63 says:
Yes, I Love Lucy is one of the greatest. She didn't have to rely on plots of "who is sleeping with whom", or the subject of sex in any way shape or form in order to get a laugh out of people. That's what I love about the older shows.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2008 7:40:09 AM PST
And sitcoms like Lucy's didn't need a big cliffhanger at the end of the season like we're so used to now.
When I was growing up, at the end of each season sitcoms just offered a regular, funny episode and then went into summer reruns. And yet the modern television audience expects there to be a season finale that leaves you hanging, like a dramatic soap opera plot. Why is this such a staple on TV? It's not necessary. Yes, on a serial like Desperate Housewives there better be a juicy ending. But on a sitcom it's not needed.

How many of us remember when Ross Geller said "I take thee, Rachel" instead of Emily, or when Niles and Daphne drove off in a Winnebago. Call me cuckoo, but I watch a sitcom to laugh, not to get totally involved with plots or relationships, not to get manipulated. Some of the best shows (like the aforementioned Friends and Frasier, as well as Cheers and Moonlighting) relied so heavily on the endlessly teasing "Will They, Won't They?" concept that it actually made the shows, and their quality, suffer tremendously.

Personally, I didn't much care for Ross and Rachel's tedious on again, off again shenanigans on Friends. I was so much more interested in watching the guys and the girls fight over who gets the better apartment. Believe me, if a show is funny and well written/acted, I will return to watch new episodes in September. There needn't be a breakup, wedding, pregnancy, birth or engagement to keep me involved.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2008 8:57:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 8, 2008 8:58:54 AM PST
The funny thing about 90210 now--particularly the 'high school years' is how modest everybody is dressed compared to current high school dramas. You look back at an episode and are mesmerized like was that supposed to be 'edgy?'. Ditto for some of the plots during those years.

I do agree it comes from Fox. I remember when the Simpsons first aired, my elementary school had an assembly about how this series was so 'bad'---which of course made us kids just want to watch it even more =-0 But now, it's practically nothing.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2008 9:44:09 AM PST
Nagronsky says:
I guess I'd be older than most of you, but one prob I see is that A.D.D. seems to really be a problem, as well as the "Dumbing Down Of America" . Comcast in my area has suddenly filled its OnDemand menu with 3-15 minute quickies, mostly excerpts of existing programs. Don't get me started about the spelling, syntax, factual, & spelling errors on OnDemand, and Discovery Channel's various offshoots. Even PBS alienates me by repeated showing what are basically infommercials for Susy Orman, and showing the same tired crap in prime time & during pledge time(at least Riverdance seems to have sunk). Nick At Night used to be a great resource, but for some reason the programmers(who are from MTV) have eliminated classic TV from their playlists. As far as Fox goes, wouldn't it be nice to have a popup blocker on your TV? BBC America has become almost nothing but junk, not to mention the terrible commercials the cable providers subject us to. BBCA also shows programs from ITV and Channel 4, yet passes the off as BBC programming. What's a drag with The Beeb also is that with the weakening of the US dollar, I can't justify buying DVD's from the UK any more, unless it's something I simply must have.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2008 9:45:43 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 8, 2008 9:49:15 AM PST
MusicMan63 says:
Robin, this is so very true. Many of us have become so desensitized to immorality that we don't even notice it most of the time. The Simpsons, as you mentioned, contains (for one thing) very rude behavior that used to be looked down upon because children were taught to respect their elders. Nowadays, we laugh at disrespect and children are modeling this behavior even in the schools. I know some friends who are teachers who are thinking about changing careers now because kids have become so disrespectful. No, not every kid, not every situation, but there is a general sense of disrespect nowadays. Not all because of one TV show either, but there seems to be a strange correlation between the onset of the downward spiral and the airing of these new rude shows. Just a thought.
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Discussion in:  TV Series forum
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Initial post:  Jan 5, 2008
Latest post:  Mar 20, 2013

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