Commentary

Where Are All The Young Men Going? Think Perp Walk

The Network Police busted Zach last night. It wasn't pretty. Six guys, one from each broadcast network, forced their way into his college dorm room, rapidly making their way around the three-legged sofa, the lava lamp, and the box of bootleg DVDs. They surrounded Zach menacingly as he sat reading at his desk.

"How old are you?" asked the guy from NBC gruffly.

"Twenty. Almost twenty-one," said Zach.

"Then what the hell do you think you're doing?" asked the WB thug.

"I'm reading À la Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust."

"You gotta be kidding me. It's ten thirty at night. A guy your age is supposed to be watching television," said CBS's heavy.

"Yeah," said ABC's goon, "you're missing 'Karen Sisco.'"

"Or 'The Brotherhood of Poland, NH'" barked the CBS man.

"What are those?" asked Zach, in fearful innocence.

"What are those? What are those!?" asked the Network Policemen almost as one.

"Those are network prime time programs, my young male friend," said the man from Fox in a soft growl. "Our companies spend millions of dollars producing them and putting them on the air, and now you and all your other 18-to-34 buddies are turning your backs on us. Nielsen's five-night average numbers for young men are down almost 13 percent. And for what? What the hell are you guys doing instead?"

"Well, sir..." said Zach, in a low whisper.

"I can't hear you. Speak up!" snarled UPN's Network Policeman.

"Sir, it's just that... there's nothing for us to watch on prime time."

"Nothing? You gotta be freakin' kidding me. What's wrong with "Yes, Dear," or "Everwood," or "Judging Amy"? asked the ABC man.

"Yeah, that's right. Or how about "Wanda at Large" or "Life with Bonnie"? Are you sayin' you and your pals are too damned good for them shows?" asked the brute from CBS.

"And what about "Extreme Makeover," "What I Like About You," "Joan of Arcadia" or "Grounded for Life"? asked the WB man, raising his voice now almost to a shout. Or "The Parkers"? I mean... this is American network prime time television! You gotta be watchin' this stuff!"

"But sir," said Zach, "we're just a bunch of young guys. I mean... we're busy with a lot of stuff."

"Busy? With a lot of stuff?" asked the CBS thug. "You're kiddin' me, right? You and your friends are doing nothing less than letting down the very infrastructure of American marketing. Big American corporations are spending billions of dollars for you to see their commercials on prime time and what the hell do you do? Well? What do you do?"

"That's what I'm trying to tell you, sir," said Zach, regaining some of his courage. "We're young men 18 to 34. Sitting in front of a TV screen may be fine for watching sports, but we've got generational ADD. We've got a lot of other interests tugging at us. We play video games, we listen to Coldplay, we gamble at casinos, we go to the track, we gamble online, we have sex, we go to parties, we listen to 50 Cent, we do recreational drugs, we play sports, we go out for fast food, we listen to Dave Matthews, we drink a lot of beer, we go to the movies, we watch porn on the Web, we read Maxim and FHM, we IM each other, and after doing all that, we sleep a lot. Doesn't really leave a lot of time for television, does it? I mean, do you really expect us to watch "Gilmore Girls"?

The Network Police guys just stood there, staring at each other in silence. They looked at Zach, at each other once more, then slowly walked out the door.

"Kid's got a point," said the UPN man. "Actually, sounds like his life's a lot of fun without prime time."

"Shut up," said the NBC goon. "Let's go over to the girls' dorm. They're still watching."

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