CBS And The One-Minute Stand
So what happens if the miniseries is a hit? And draws a bigger audience than the usual 42-minute "hour-long" crap on the network? After all, it is perfectly designed for DVR capture or download, should CBS make it available online (or if not, it will find its way there anyway). What do they tell sponsors? To start producing 3-second spots? Instead of shows that cost over a million bucks each to produce, CBS can take a single show and spread it out over nine months, running just a minute a week. Perhaps its success will drive an overhaul of the entire network.
If and when they ever find a replacement for Walter Cronkite (Dan Rather was a tedious 24-year mistake), the evening news anchor will simply read headlines ending with: "if you want more, go to our Web site." With the usual 10-minute complement of infirmity commercials that promise help going to sleep, keeping your teeth in, and getting it up ("but call a doctor for an 'attaboy' if it lasts more than four hours"), the news will last 12 minutes.
NFL football games will be shown at high speed, slowing down only for touchdowns, career-ending hits, cheerleader cleavage, and coaches lip-synching unchristian thoughts at the officials. The beer commercials will last five seconds--just long enough for a reptile to say something offensive to some ethnic group, or a magnificent woman to imply she will sleep with a dork, just for a beer.
Soap operas will be cut to 30 seconds, just long enough for a couple to embrace suggestively, or someone to die at the hands of a magnificent woman whose next career move will be beer commercials. The 3-second commercials will only allow time for a housewife to smile at a clean 1) toilet, 2) kitchen floor, or 3) baby's face.
Since all the too-many-to-any-longer-keep-track-of CSI shows will run only 3 minutes, there will be no crime reenactment, just views of a battered, roasted, or otherwise mangled body--while a centerfold-turned-cop in a very tight sweater holds a criminal by the ear, saying: "You did this, didn't you?" And he/she will say, "Yes, yes, I did." There will be no audience fall-off, since all dramatic expectations will have been met.
The reality shows, now shortened to 3 minutes, will consist of a nice girl from Ohio being offered the chance to 1) eat bugs, 2) dive off a 150-foot-high cliff into a pool of motor oil, 3) marry somebody who CBS doesn't yet know is a registered sex offender or 4) cut to the chase and pose for Playboy.
The prime-time staple of every broadcast network, the comedies, will run only long enough for someone who's a member of an ethnic or racial minority to say something sexually suggestive or scatological. Or else the speaker will be a bubble-headed woman, or a teenager (who, if he was your own, would have been shipped off to military school years ago).
All of this will only encourage audiences to multitask at a more furious rate than before, so that nothing in anyone's life will last longer than a minute and a half. Pretty soon, text messaging short cuts will become part of our verbal exchanges, with couples turning over on their pillows and saying "ttlr" as they turn out the light on any final semblance of American culture.