So it appears to still be true that TV audiences find all that sight, sound and motion compelling. Especially, I guess, if they don’t understand any of it.
I suspect that a good deal of the audience for Fox News falls into this confused psychographic. Clearly, they understand little to nothing of what they are watching.
TV is cheaper than a babysitter, and at that age — like at the opposite end of the spectrum, when the audience is slumped in wheelchairs — there is little argument about which channel to watch. Nor do the nets have the problem of audiences tuning out on their cell phones during commercials (although at the double-aught end, there are a considerable number of bathroom breaks).
There is something about all this that recalls the notion of TV being “chewing gum for the eyes”— requiring no mental activity, just passive attention.
I don’t think that this bipolar spectrum crowd cares just how much Netflix and Amazon and Hulu are spending on cerebral dramas that test the upper limits of an IQ to keep up with the multilayered plot lines and subplots. Nor do they care if shows are set in period English estates, courtrooms, or castles with a monarch not far away.
I suspect that our two- and 90-year-olds qualify as binge watchers since they tend to simply regard the screen as a giant fish tank and not a place to discover new programming. Depending on the time slots, this could be the reason some shows stay on the air — counting the babies and the aged as loyal viewers, proof that ratings are not falling for every show on TV.
In these one-TV settings, I suspect there is the rare precocious two-year-old (or still-lucid nursing home resident) who can figure out how to change channels (or turn the hue a bright maze instead) and lords that power over others in the room. The fact that the volume is already up to its highest range matters not, but it might piss off someone who looks up and thinks, “Wait, what happened to Thomas the Tank Engine?” And there is still that part of the audience that hopes when the channel changes, it will be back to Lawrence Welk.
It must be hard to measure how closely one is watching TV when they could also be sticking a Lego up their nose, eating a leaf fallen from the philodendron or contemplating how satisfying is it to be able to pee in your pants whenever you are so inclined. Measuring babies must be even harder.
It is challenging to argue that these audiences might be better served by doing something more productive than recalling that they might have first seen that ad in the Super Bowl (and concluding it is still not funny on the eighth viewing). I suppose the case could be made that they could be getting a jump on preschool by playing with the letters of the alphabet. Or changing the order of the hymns in their memorial service for the 12th time.
But honestly, it must be nice to be at an age when TV is just moving wallpaper and you really don’t have to think too hard about it — unlike those in the TV business.