So I'm in Albuquerque right now, attending a professional orchestra audition. While here, I decided to get a taste of that Latin flava; no, not THAT Latin flava - I hit up some Mexican shops and restaurants during my downtime. Good rule of thumb; the more your plate of Mexican food looks like a bowl of semi-edible slop, the more authentic it is. By this metric, the first restaurant I chose could have been in Mexico City. There was Mexican pop music playing and a big TV tuned to Univision.
Now, I speak about 9 words of Spanish, 4 of which I can say in public. I haven't watched a lot of Spanish-language TV, so I claim ignorance here. However, it never fails to amuse me - it's the soaps. The soaps are just plain ridiculous. The one I caught this last time featured two teams of women in a Battle Royale literally over the top of the coffin of a deceased friend. The entire fight was cut to Mariachi music, including shots of the band. I nearly spit margarita all over the place. But, it got me thinking about TV in a broader sense.
We seem to be entering another phase in programming now that reality TV is finally, FINALLY in its last throes (I hope). The crime drama should be just about dead soon. Medical dramas are old news. We're pretty tired of game shows, even. Everything is turning surreal. Then there's Heroes and all of the similar shows that are cropping up in its wake. Or, all of the superhero movies we've been seeing lately. I'm very interested in these shifts in programming as they relate to periods of social change.
Movies and TV are almost always some form of escapism, but it's fascinating how they change in response to changes in society. Even in 10 years, we've seen some pretty massive changes. Rewind to the mid 90's. America is arguably at the apex of its political and economic power. Riding the tech boom, we're unstoppable. The sitcom is king - a nice little packaged nugget of entertainment that requires little intellectual investment or involvement.
Ten years later, we live in a different world. New shows seem to be offering a lot more in the way of narrative, with emphasis on the big picture. A little of this may be technological - thanks to TiVo, we can be pretty sure that the real fans will see every episode of 'their' show in order. Part of it is a rebellion against the nature of previous programming - we're just tired of shows that provide little emotional return. I think a big part of it, though, is due to the insecurity of the world we live in. This is particularly true of the recent popularity of the superhero. In times of uncertainty, we look for leadership and inspiration. Global events and economic changes have given us a reality check, and frustration with things like the Iraq conflict, Sudan, terrorism fears, and other such things make people seek a hero. Kudos to the people making these shows - I think your analysis of the audience is right on the money.