Saving the Prime-Time Season: The American Challenge

  • by , Featured Contributor, September 24, 2009
Don Seaman TVAmerica, you're on notice. This is your Television speaking, and it's not happy.

Broadcast television -- the lifeblood of any true American household, followed closely by Life, Liberty and that other thing -- is suffering. American audiences have left their broadcast home, leaving prime-time network television alone in the dark with only an empty bowl of food and a spilled water dish for sustenance.

Sure, you promised to be home after spending all day with your cable and your sports, but we're starting to think you're insincere in your pledge to "be back later with some treats and maybe we'll go run in the park." Shame on you, viewers. Shame. You're awfully lucky that the networks are housebroken. But don't push it. They're liable to bite the hand that views them. If you're not careful, the national couch could be used as a broadcast view toy.



But are we barking up the wrong tree here? Hardly.

While this might be misconstrued as premature panic, we prefer to consider it Insightful Hysteria. So far this season, ratings are down across all the demos we bothered to look at for nearly every broadcast network. Not even the second-tier networks, like NBC, are immune to such viewer apathy. (Their "late-access" show, "The Jay Leno Show," has so far failed to bring the heat. Maybe the netlet should have considered a promotional campaign and done some PR to introduce this TV unknown.)

After two complete nights of the season in the books, we're ready to call this a defeat for broadcasting everywhere. Case in point: compared to the first two nights of broadcast programming from last season, 21% of ABC's 18-49 viewers are gone. That's over 1 million fewer humans watching a live broadcast of such televised classics as "Castle" and the cleverly named "The Forgotten." It's difficult to support calling this a "Golden Age" of television when alchemist viewers keep turning the gold back into lead.

Right now, before this thing gets out of hand, we're here to right this egregious wrong. The industry needs to take a stand against this impropriety, so we're going to suggest that Congress declare a "War on Tune-Out," hoping to replicate the runaway success of other "Wars," such as the "War on Terror," the "War on Poverty" and the "War on Employment" (patent pending).

By declaring that this situation has become so unwieldy and important that the government has to step in, perhaps some 18-24 viewers will "get the message" and turn off their text-messaging machines and start watching more TV again.

Those who fail to contribute to the Broadcast Season with an appropriate level of VPVHs will be shepherded to a number of Re-videoization Camps spread throughout many mid-tiered DMAs across the United States.

For example, Milwaukee will have the "Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!" Buddy Sitcom Center, where lapsed viewers can acquaint themselves with current shows, like "Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men."

Unfortunately, due to changing cultural requirements, this facility has been moved to a much smaller location and is only open one hour per week. Whereas the "Almost Anything Goes" Reality Experience Pavilion will be spread over most of the unused land surrounding Las Vegas, including much of the Grand Canyon and possibly Cancun, Mexico.

But it's not too late to create the change that is necessary to provide you, the dedicated, non-time-shifting viewer, with the support that you need to enjoy such quality entertainment, six nights a week. In addition to the forced-viewing camps, volunteer executives from the broadcast networks will be participating in a community reach-out program to those neighborhoods that are particularly at risk.

These inner-suburb neighborhoods of high incomes and decreased viewing will have access to the very latest in high-def, big-screen viewing, often in their own homes, with little or no government assistance.

Rumors of so-called "Unplug Panels," which will decide who gets to watch and who doesn't, are untrue. The goal of this program is to make sure all people have equal access to the entertainment, which should be the goal of the most powerful nation on Earth. We should have an entertainment system at least equal to Sweden or Canada, but so far, that's just not the case. Also, no one will be denied coverage in this new plan.

Act now, America! It's not too late to rescue this broadcast season! CBS has psychics and crime-fighters everywhere, so they'll know who you are and will track you down to make sure you're contributing to your minimum procedural viewing per week. But don't worry about getting a visit from any of NBC's Heroes anytime soon -- they've got enough problems of their own these days.

This is, after all, for the common good. Although things have been strained for us lately, we all used to be Friends here, at least in better times. It's not like this is a place where everyone knows your name, but it is How I Met Your Mother, so get ready to bring back some Good Times.

We're counting you, America. On. We're counting on you, America. Let's get watching.

Next story loading loading..